Monday, May 19, 2014

Stress in the Workplace: Are We Missing Something?

Last week I had the privilege of speaking to fellow Latinas about ways to stay healthy at work. As part of a panel, I was asked to address the spiritual aspects of health in the workplace. It's been wonderful to hear from so many women after the event, whether at the hotel or later on via email and social media. Clearly, the session met a need, one that often goes unmet because it's not talked about enough!

Most of us spend 40-50+ hours each week at work or dealing with work-related issues. We're often told to "leave our problems at the door," a piece of advice that, though practical, is impossible to achieve perfectly. The reality is that we are not neatly compartmentalized like cars. The mind, soul, and spirit affect the body and vice versa, and we simply can't leave a part of us at the door when we arrive at work.

Furthermore, I'm convinced that we are spiritual beings who have a body rather than human bodies with a spirit. As such, the human spirit is critical; it must not be neglected. Think about it. Is it the physical body or is it the human spirit that has the potential to endure and outlast this world?

Regardless of our existential or religious beliefs, it is evident that our bodies won't last. It is also well known that our emotions impact our physical health in significant ways. As human beings with body, mind, soul, and spirit, our spiritual and emotional health must be addressed, at work and elsewhere.

Part of being spiritually and emotionally healthy involves our relationships with other people and with God. Studies show that people with healthy relationships do better physically. Studies also show that people who pray and for whom a relationship with God is important are often healthier in every way -- down to the cellular level! In fact, hundreds of scientific studies have addressed the many positive outcomes that can be directly tied to various spiritual beliefs and practices, including prayer. For some of the latest research, browse Duke University's research library here.

Ignoring the spiritual side of human lives is a formula for disaster, and it is time for those of us in healthcare to recognize this and become more intentional in addressing it. Issues like unforgiveness, resentment, anger, bitterness, unresolved grief, and hopelessness are often tied to depression, anxiety, and a lack of contentment. They also drain us of energy and vitality, making us less productive and less effective at what we do.

Although this seems obvious when stated in this way, we sometimes don't realize that we carry these areas of "unfinished business" into the workplace (no pun intended!). No, we don't check these 'at the door.' Such emotions and attitudes affect us deeply, and they must not be ignored. The soul that is neglected becomes stagnant and stops growing. When we talk about stress in the workplace, we must consider our whole being.

So, ladies, if you heard me speak at last week's event, know that I've enjoyed hearing from you. Remember to walk, move, and eat as healthy as possible while at work. Pack healthy snacks with lots of protein to keep your sugar levels steady for longer periods. Bring some carrots with hummus (my favorite work snack!) or a healthy drink. High-fat snacks will drain your energy; avoid them at all costs!

Remember to get enough sleep at night so the body's chemicals and hormones remain within a healthy balance. Drink enough water while avoiding soda's empty calories and too much caffeine.

And do not neglect your relationships, or your heart, soul, and spirit. Feed your soul while at work, and get some fresh air every chance you get! As we all incorporate healthier behaviors into our daily routines, we will find that vacations become an extension of all the good things we're already doing.

Finally, I encourage you to get to know your coworkers. You spend hours with them each week. Why not get to know them better? During breaks, resist the temptation to get on your smartphone and talk to your colleagues instead. Human interactions are so much richer, and funnier, too!

My last piece of advice? Be thankful, and laugh, for laughter is good medicine!

Be well!
Dr Mari

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22

For more inspiration, read Today, I Am Thankful - Again!

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