Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


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Exam Season: 3 Tips to Lower Your Body’s Stress Level

k-67-dsc045553442545-fon_1-id-68958-jpegAs I’m sure you’re all aware, exam season has commenced. I know from experience that in times of high stress and when exam dates loom, it’s tempting to forgo sleep and easy to forget to eat or hydrate. These are very unhealthy means of studying, and they only add to your stress.

To avoid high stress levels or illness this exam season, I would like to provide you with three tips to take care of your body and reduce your stress level when preparing for exams:

  1. Eat and Drink
    It’s one thing to eat and drink healthily on a regular basis, but during exam season, some students remain so focused on their studies that they forget to eat or drink something at all! Understandably, your focus is your studies, but I implore you to stay hydrated and fed.

    During periods of high stress, I sometimes set hourly alarms on my phone to remind myself to drink water. This may seem silly, but it’s easy to get lost in your head, especially while studying, and ignore what your body needs.

    As for what you eat, it may seem like you don’t have time to cook. You probably don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on take out over the next couple weeks, but you need to eat something. Before exam season is in full swing, pick up a few key items at the grocery store for simple meals, like cereal, salad, and sandwiches. Be sure you are incorporating some nutritious foods such as vegetables and protein. And always keep snacks in your bag, like apples or granola bars, in case you accidently skip a meal.

  2. Exercise
    I’m sure you’ve heard that exercise releases delightful hormones called endorphins, which trigger positive feelings to reduce stress and pain. Luckily, a simple 10-minute walk could be enough to produce several hours of stress relief.

    If you’re an extrovert and hours of secluded studying is worsening your stress, attend a group exercise lesson at your campus or preferred gym. Not only will you be getting exercise, but you’ll also benefit from the additional aspect of socialization, giving you a much-needed break between study sessions.

  3. Rest
    This might be the most difficult tip to follow, since it’s sort of a catch-22. Six to eight hours for a good night’s rest is a lot of time, but the longer you go without sleep in order to study the less you are likely to retain the information. Research shows that recalling information from one day to the next is easier after a night of sleep. However difficult it may be to rationalize, it is important to find a balance between study time and sleep time. You don’t want all of your efforts to be wasted by falling asleep during an exam.

It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this; all of your fellow students are going through the exact same crazy time. Reach out to your friends and help each other stay sane and healthy during this and future exam seasons. If you require more structured support, reach out to a school counsellor or your Student Assistance Program to assist you with a study plan or exam accommodations. Good luck!

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Are You Stressed?

stressedWhen the leaves start falling, fourth quarter results are coming due, and the holiday season is around the corner, many people start experiencing stress at work and if these can be identified early, action can be taken before the pressure builds and becomes a problem.  The average direct cost of absenteeism to the Canadian employer is $3,550 per employee per year (Watson Wyatt).  The annual cost to Canadian companies due to stress-related disorders is $12 billion; In Canada, absenteeism due to stress has increased by over 300% since 1995.

How do you know if you or your employees are stressed and if action should be taken? As stress can show itself in many different ways, managers need to keep their eyes open for changes in the way people behave that could be linked with excessive pressures.

Signs of stress in individuals

I have outlined below a few symptoms to watch out for in your employees who may be suffering from or feeling the effects of stress. If you observe that work or aspects of your employee’s work brings on or make these symptoms worse, make sure you address it with the employee. It may be that some action taken at an early stage will ease the stress and reduce or stop the symptoms.  Deal with the issue before it becomes a bigger problem.

Emotional symptoms

  • Negative or depressive feeling
  • Disappointment with yourself
  • Increased emotional reactions – more tearful or sensitive or aggressive
  • Loneliness, withdrawn
  • Loss of motivation commitment and confidence
  • Mood swings (not behavioural)

Mental

  • Confusion, indecision
  • Can’t concentrate
  • Poor memory
  • On-the-job ‘absenteeism’

Changes from normal behaviour

  • Changes in eating habits
  • Increased smoking, drinking or drug taking ‘to cope’
  • Mood swings effecting behaviour
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Twitchy, nervous behaviour
  • Changes in attendance such as arriving later or taking more time off.

It is not up to you as a manager to diagnose stress, leave that to the professionals, but if you observe that something is not quite right with your employee, you should take prompt action by meeting with your employee, and focusing on his or her job performance by pointing out that there has been a change in the performance.  Identify what you have observed, and ask the employee what has changed to affect performance.  The employee will usually be forthcoming about the circumstances that have affected the work performance and created the stress.  Provide support to the employee by offering the employee the opportunity to address the issue with for example, a professional counsellor.  Do not focus on the personal problem but on the effect of the problem on the employee’s performance.   You and your employee can mutually agree on a period of time where you will meet again and revisit the work performance.  Your employee will see that by attending to his or her personal issue will lessen the experienced stress and eventually increase productivity.

How About You?
Do you think your employees are experiencing symptoms of stress? If so, whom do they normally reach out to? I look forward to hearing your feedback in the comments below.