Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria

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Learning to “Unplug” – The Benefits of Mindfulness

beach-workerAhhhhh. You finally have that relaxing moment on the beach, at the cottage, reading a good book, listening to music, or watching a movie, that feeling of relaxation, of contentedness, without a care in the world. Then you hear it, that inescapable sound, the ping: “You have mail”. And your reality comes crashing down on you: someone wants something from you that is work-related. You are instantaneously brought back to the work grind as all of prior emails you’ve written or have been sent to you hit you right between the eyes. That fleeting moment of bliss is gone.

In past blogs, we’ve talked about the ways a quality work-life balance can be achieved, but how can we really unwind when not in the office?

Newsflash: “Unplugging” (at home or in the car or on that beach), and not allowing the Pavlovian-like reaction of turning our heads towards the “pinging” of our smartphones is beneficial to our health.

Taking a break from emails, and smartphones in general, can help employees pay more attention to family and friends when they are away from the office, becoming more productive and better focused while working. A study by University of California, Irvine (UCI) and United States Army researchers revealed that when you remove email from workers’ lives, they multitask less and physically experience less stress. The study showed that participants who had email access changed screens twice as often and were in a steady “high alert” state, with more constant heart rates, while those participants who were disconnected from email for five days experienced more natural, variable heart rates. According to the study, the latter group reported feeling better able to stay on task.

Not being distracted by smartphones and email allows us to be more involved in the present, whether we are at work or on vacation. When we can practice mindfulness,(self-regulating our attention to the experience we are having at the moment), we can reduce our overall stress. Bringing awareness to our current experiences – the moment – promotes a feeling of relaxation, and more and more businesses are offering training programs to their employees in mindfulness. The findings of the aforementioned study provide fodder for employers to help their employees control email log-in times, batch messages, and create new strategies to reduce their email stress.

Two more thoughts for the day: a recent study has shown that teenagers who take their smartphones to bed get a poorer quality of sleep than those that turn their phones off. The generation of people (kids, teenagers, and adults) who have grown up with smartphones are losing the ability to have focused and meaningful conversations with their loved ones because they are distracted by their smartphones while simultaneously having the conversation.

Do you agree? What ideas do you have that could manage our email stress? Do you think mindfulness training would benefit your workplace? I invite your comments and suggestions below.


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Handling Change – Tips from an EAP Expert

change2September, although not technically the end of the calendar year, marks the end of summer family vacations, a new season, the start of the new school year, Jewish New Year, hockey season, fall TV programming, new EAP services, and the final quarter for business results.  It seems that psychologically, September is the true new beginning and with it comes a lot of change.

When we discuss dealing with change, the conversation inevitably turns to conversations about stress.  Did you know there is good and bad stress? Eustress (pronounced You-Stress) is a term coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye and literally means “good stress”.

It is important to have eustress in your life. Eustress motivates and energizes you to work on a task that may require some effort and even prove challenging but results in huge satisfaction.

Everyone needs a little bit of stress in their life in order to continue to be happy, motivated, challenged and productive. Potential indicators of eustress may include responding to a stressor with a sense of meaning, hope, or vigor. Eustress has also been positively correlated with life satisfaction and well-being. It is when this stress is no longer tolerable and/or manageable that distress comes in.

Bad stress, or distress, is when the good stress becomes too much to bear or cope with. Tension builds, and there is no longer any fun in the challenge, and often no relief or end in sight. This is the kind of stress most of us are familiar with and this is the kind of stress that leads to poor decision-making.

One way to cope with change is not to expect that you can eliminate it; but rather, to manage the symptoms of stress. I’d like to share with you a few good tips to help you manage your stress and become more stress-resistant.  These tips take time and commitment; so keep trying to integrate them into your life for a more balanced, healthy lifestyle.

  1. Stress is perception.  What is stressful for you may not be stressful for me.  It is how we perceive our situation that causes our stress.  Change your perception slightly, and your level of stress lessens.
  2. Be decisive. Make your own path. There really are no right or wrongs.
  3. Avoid being a perfectionist. Accept that we all make mistakes and these often serve as the best lessons in life.
  4. Set priorities for yourself. If you can gain control over your situation, that often can help reduce stress, so decide what really has to get done and what is not a life and death situation. See what happens to your stress when you simply let things slide (Phew!).
  5. Praise yourself. We often forget to look at ourselves and the things we’ve accomplished. Don’t forget to take a look at yourself and appreciate what you’ve been able to do.

How do you handle change? Have you felt eustress before and if so, do you think you would be as successful without it? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.