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Deepak:Well being is something we all desire. But staying healthy and feeling good can be quite a challenge, especially with the stresses that pervade every aspect of our lives today.
Everyone's aware that regular exercise and eating healthfully are two essential steps to well being. In this series, you'll learn about a third step. Relaxation. Not just sitting around but some specific activities that trigger your body's relaxation response. You'll learn about the importance of deep relaxation for reducing the harmful effects of stress along with a series of easy to do relaxation skills. And through our weekly questionnaire, you'll gain an awareness of how stress may be affecting you.
So get a paper and pencil ready and join us as we take the next step to well being.
In today's competitive society, the struggle to earn a living and get ahead places a lot of pressure on all of us. Whether we work raising a family or jetting from boardroom to boardroom.
In this program, you're going to find out how work related stress impacts your effectiveness and productivity on the job as well as your health. We'll actually go through a questionnaire to help you recognize signs of stress from work and find out what you can do about it.
Eli Bay, Director of the Relaxation Response Institute in Toronto is a pioneer in the teaching of relaxation skills for stress management.
Eli: Although many of you sometimes feel over-stressed, very few of you really appreciate how seriously stress is affecting you. Even if you work you might deny it because you might think of it as a sign of weakness or an inability to cope. But in this confidence-demanding society, we've learned not to admit anything that might be construed as weakness. We feel we can't afford to make such a confession because it might mean career death. But this really is a potentially dangerous assumption. Not being aware of the excess of stress in our lives and taking the proper steps to manage it could mean literal death.
For some people, the only symptom they'll acknowledge is their last breath. Now of course, stress won't always kill us immediately. But it will affect our health in some way as well as our effectiveness at work, our relationships, the overall quality and enjoyment of our lives. Even if we can't admit our stress to others, we have to learn to recognize it and admit it to ourselves and learn how to manage it. Proper stress management and relaxation techniques have helped thousands of workers on the job and in the rest of their lives.
Deepak: So far in the series, we've seen that we need some stress to keep us motivated but that too much can make us ill. But what do we mean by the right amount and how can we tell?
Dr. Jensen: I think of stress like blood pressure. You would never run into a room saying, I have blood pressure, I have blood pressure. Let's hope you have blood pressure. If it's too high or too low, you've got a problem. And there's a range within which stress is ideal. It motivates us, it pushes us, it strives us. One of the things that many older people miss in their lives and really need are some sort of stressful events that challenge them, that they have to prepare for, that keeps the mind active. Now, when stress gets too high it leads to all sorts of detrimental behaviors, feelings, emotions and all kinds of things that dramatically interfere with our performance.
Dr. Posen: There's two things that you want to watch for in the workplace. And I think it's as important for the manager or the boss as it is for the employee. And that is you want to watch your performance level and your energy level. And if you're performing at a good level and if you're energy is good, then carry on. But when people cross the line and start to feel distressed when their performance is falling off a bit or they're starting to feel tired, the worst thing to do is for them to push themselves harder or for their boss to be pushing them harder.
And it's a very subtle thing about managing, to know when people will respond to a push and when a push simply makes things worse. And if you have an employee who's not concentrating well and maybe making some mistakes in their work, it would be sometimes far more helpful to say look, why don't you take an hour off and go and relax than it would be to dress them down and say now, you work harder. Because that added stress at that particular time will almost always make things worse.
Dr. Bird: In a work situation, people respond differently to stress. For example, personality is an aspect of stress. And many people have heard about Type A, Type B. And we think of the Type A person at work who is constantly feeling that they are under pressure and that there are time deadlines and that the work must be completed and they tend to perhaps skip their lunch or skip their work break and they always feel that they can never succeed at completing all the work that is sitting on their desk. And so, the person with these feelings of time urgency are characteristic of the people we say are Type A and they have a greater tendency to respond to stress. Even though the work situation may be the same, a Type B person will not feel that stress pressure that a Type A person would feel.
Linda: I think by nature, I'm a fairly high tension person if you want to categorize it the typical Type A.
Paul: I tend to be very obsessive, very competitive, very impatient.
Linda: So I think most of the stress or a lot of the stress that I experience is probably self- induced. There is certainly a certain amount of it in the work place.
Paul: I understood that it was related to overwork too much pressure at work but I didn't really know what to do about it or if there was anything you could do about it other than just making it through that period of time that was a problem.
Linda: I've experienced chronic headaches and migraines for probably close to 20 years.
Paul: It was a situation that was I created purely on my own.
Linda: And there's lots of different parts of your body that you can be tense in without even being aware of it. And I didn't realize that until some of that started to go away.
Paul: I never felt like I was going to fall apart in any way because of the stress. I felt like I would have just continued on the way I had been until I had the proverbial heart attack.
Dr. Jensen: I think one of the things we have to learn in the 90's, one of the really important inner skills we have to acquire is the ability to be aware. There are numerous ways of becoming aware and one of the best is going through a check list. And just seeing where you are at now. Sometimes it takes somebody else to shine the light for us to see it because we're not used to looking in certain places.
Deepak: Eli, we're going to go through a self test in a few moments. Can you tell us what it's about? And what it will do for us?
Eli: Well, first of all, just appreciate that stress is part of life. You can't avoid stress in the work place. Stress is you're going to have changes, you're going to deal with time demands and job pressures. That's just part of work. But there are certain personality characteristics that we have that have been trained into us from the time we are children. We learn from our parents, our school teachers. It's rewarded by our employers. And these characteristics and attitudes add to our overall stress levels.
Deepak: You mean it's something we are doing to ourselves that contributes to the level of stress that we're working under?
Eli: Yes. They've been able to determine that there are certain personality characteristics that we have that add to our stress levels. It's interesting how this was discovered. A couple of cardiologist, Friedman and Rosenman, back in the 1960s had their office reupholstered. And the upholsterer came in and just made a chance comment that most of the chairs were worn out towards the front. And they found that this was unusual. Where most chairs in most waiting rooms were worn out towards the rear of the chair.
And apparently what had happened was they were noticing all these people were sitting towards the edge of their chair, tight, and it was just an insight that the doctors said well, maybe the people who had suffered coronary heart disease were unable to sit back comfortably and it was that insight that led them to do a whole exploration that recognized that there is a stress prone personality that tends to get heart disease but not only heart disease. These people get 90% of all heart attacks. It just raises one's overall stress levels and contributes to stress related illnesses.
Deepak: Can you tell us more about these characteristics?
Eli: Yes. And I think the best way to do it is through a questionnaire.
Deepak: So it's time for paper and pencil.
Eli: Yes. And don't worry if you don't have paper and pencil handy. Just follow along with us and I think you'll gain real insight. <<1>>How Competitive are you?
On one sideyou're not competitive. On the other side, you're highly competitive. You have the numbers 1 to 7 between. If you're absolutely not competitive, if you go out of your way to avoid competitive situations, you're probably a 1 or a 2. If you're extremely competitive, so competitive when you play games with your children or grand children, you have to win all the time you're a 7. Most of us fall somewhere between the 2 extremes.
So just take a moment and see where you rate yourself and just put the number down you think best applies to where you fit.
<<2>>You don't mind leaving things temporarily unfinished on one side. On the other, you must get things finished once you've started. So if you're comfortable operating on a number of different projects that aren't finished that you have 5 or 6 books around the house that you are reading at the same time, you're probably a 1 or a 2. If you're the kind of person that has to finish something once you've started you'll stay late Friday night at the office to finish your assignment that's due on Tuesday, even though you have time on Monday, just because you just want to get it started.
You say you'll sleep better if you've finished it. If you're one of those kinds of people, you're probably a 6 or a 7. So take a moment and put down the number that you think best represents where you fall between the two extremes.
<<3>>You're calm and unhurried about appointments on one side. On the other side, you're never late for appointments.
So, for example, if you're the kind of person that leaves early and plans ahead and makes sure you take account for all the traffic problems that may occur and you generally arrive early at your appointments, you're probably a 1 or a 2. And if you're never late for appointments, time weighs heavily on you, if you're, a 7 would be the kind of person that would leave a car stuck in traffic as you walk the last 200 meters to get to your appointment so you're not late. Then you're a 7. Next question.
<<4>>You listen well, you let other finish speaking on one side. And on the other side, you anticipate others in conversation. You nod, you interrupt you finish sentences for the other person.
Deepak: Excuse me Eli, sorry for interrupting but I have a problem with this one because I would rate highly on both ends because I do let others finish speaking and I think I listen well but on the other hand, I nod and do all those other things too. Should I write myself in the middle?
Eli: Well, it's a subjective decision of course. Perhaps though you may want to take another position. How would your spouse rate you on this?
Deepak: Hmm, does not listen well.
Eli: Then you've got your answer. Next question.
<<5>>You're never in a hurry even when pressured on one side. And on the other side, you're always in a hurry. So, if you're a 1 or a 2, you're a cool person, you're never in a rush, you'd make a good bomb disposal expert. On the other side, you're always on the go, you're at war with time. Type As tend to be at war with time.
So just rate yourself on the scale of 1 to 7 and write down the number that you think best represents where you fall. Next question.
<<6>>You are able to wait calmly on one side and you're uneasy when waiting on the other side. If slow lineups in the bank drive you to distraction, you're probably a 6 or a 7. Next question.
<<7>>You take things easy on one side. And you're always going full speed ahead on the other side. Now, for example, after you finish a task, you decide to reward yourself and take a little bit of time off, you're probably a 1 or a 2. If on the other side, you're always going full speed ahead, you finish one project and even before you finish it, you're already thinking about the next project, you're probably a 6 or a 7.
<<8>> You take one thing at a time on one side and you're always doing more than one thing at a time on the other extreme. High achievers tend to always want to do more and more in less and less time. High achievers are the ones that read while they eat, that are talking on their cellular phones as they drive to work. So if you do more than one thing at a time, rate yourself probably you're a 6 or a 7. Next question.
<<9>>You are slow and deliberate in speech at the other extreme, you are vigorous and forceful in speech. Use a lot of gestures, you speak loudly you tend to dominate. Where do you think you fall on that continuum? Next question.
<<10>>You're concerned with satisfying yourself, not others The other end of the extreme, you want recognition by others for a job well done.
So if you're inner directed and you take your cues for success from how you feel inside, you're probably down a 1 or a 2. If you take your cues for success from what others say, then you're probably a 6 or a 7. Next question.
<<11>>You do things slowlyand the other extreme, you do things fast. High achievers tend to walk fast, read fast, sleep fast, work fast.Everything is done quickly. Next question.
<<12>>You're easy going,you're hard driving. That speaks for itself. Just rate yourself where you think you fall between these two extremes. Next question.
<<13>>You express feelings openlyand the other extreme, you hold feelings in.
So if you can cry in a movie, you're probably down towards 1 or 2. And on the other extreme, you're the kind of person that no one knows how you feel. You've just been passed over for your promotion and no one knows how upset you are. In fact, in all likelihood, you probably don't know how upset you are too. Because high achievers on the whole don't have a lot of insight into themselves. Next question.
<<14>>You have a large number of interests on one side. And on the other you have few interests outside of your work. So you're probably a 6 or a 7 if your life is your work. If you think how could I possibly waste time going to cultural events or taking courses when I could really be out there, racking up achievements. Next question.
<<15>>You're satisfied with your job on one sideand the other extreme, you're ambitious, you want quick advancement on your job.
Deepak: Hmmm. Eli, I've got a problem with this one in that, I'm satisfied with the job I have now and yet I'm ambitious too. I'd like to get ahead and do new things. Where do you think I should rate myself?
Eli: That's a subjective rating. You're satisfied with your work and you're ambitious. So maybe this is one that you might want to put down as a 4.
Deepak: Sounds right. okay.
Eli: Next question.
<<16>>You never set down deadlines. And the other extreme,you always set your own deadlines. So on one side, you feel things will get done when they get done maybe you're a 1 or a 2. The other extreme, you set deadlines for yourself all the time. You need deadlines to motivate you. Next question.
<<17>>If you feel limited responsibility you feel you can take a day off work and you don't worry about it, things will just get doneis one side. On the other side,you feel totally responsible. If you don't do it, it's just not gonna get done. Next question.
<<18>>You never judge things in terms of numbers and on the other extreme,you always judge your performance in terms of numbers. So on one side, you're more concerned with quality rather than quantity high achievers on the whole tend to be concerned with accomplishing lots of things. The more you do, the better it is. More concerned with quantity rather than quality. Next question.
<<19>>You are casual about work on one side.On the other side, you take your work very seriously. So, if your attitude is I'll do it tomorrow, you may be down as a 1 or a 2. On the other side, you take your work very seriously. You work weekends, you take your work home in the evenings, you work late. Just rate yourself between these two extremes. And the final question.
<<20>>You're not very precise and on the other side, you're extremely precise. In fact, a 7 is probably a perfectionist.
Deepak: Should I add up my score now?
Eli: No. I would suggest do it later when you have more time. What I would rather do right now is look at the implications of the scores. If you scored over 80 on this test, you would be classified as a Type A personality. That's a stress creating, stress prone personality. Tends to be characterized by having a high need to achieve. Type As tend to be competitive, aggressive at war with time, experience economic insecurity.
And as a result of these characteristics your stress levels are higher than they should be. If you're over 110, you would be considered a Type A1. That's an extreme Type A personality and Type A1s have been described as walking time bombs. If you scored between 60 and 79, that's the mid point. That's a pretty balanced state. It's called a Type AB and if you scored under 60 you are what is called a Type B personality Type Bs are very rare and if you scored under 60, stand up and give yourself a bow.
Deepak: While you were talking I added up my scores.
Eli: Type A?
Deepak: Yep. I got 109. Another point and I would have been an A1. Is this test accurate?
Eli: It's a subjective test. It's self-scoring. I can't call it an accurate test but it's an indicator test. To really determine whether you're a Type A1 or a Type A2 you should be interviewed by an experienced interviewer who could tell by the way you move and the way you talk where you fall in the classification, on this continuum. But it's really the points of Type A personality I think you should take note of. The extremes, the hard driving. That sort of thing. Those are indicators for you to be aware of those characteristics in yourself.
Deepak: The characteristics of a Type A personality are those that allow me to get ahead. They're the ones that pay my bills.
Eli: Well, it's interesting. Many people think that these characteristics are absolutely necessary for their work, for them to be successful. And yet, a number of interesting studies have been done that illustrate that Type As aren't as effective as they like to think they are. In fact, they find that Type As spin their wheels a great deal. They may work hard, they may hard drive themselves, they may be very ambitious but they spin their wheels a great deal and the rubber doesn't meet the road as often as most Type As like to believe.
In fact, that's one of the interesting explanations for why the presidents of large corporations often tend to be Type Bs. The Type Bs seem to work smarter, not harder. But the fact is, Type A personalities get 90% of all heart attacks. So we do have to take note. We do have to become aware of these characteristics. Our stress hormones are chronically elevated when we are Type A personality.
Deepak: So I'm doomed to have a heart attack?
Eli: No. But you should be aware that these characteristics the Type A characteristics really raise your percentage of getting a heart attack. But what I want to do is offer you a tool, an approach that will enable you to break out of the Type A personality for long enough to rest and recuperate.
Deepak: Quick, quick! [laughter]
Eli: Every body needs to rest. And that's the missing ingredient in the lives of Type As. In this culture, we're very achievement oriented. It's go, go, go. Most of us never really rest properly or efficiently. What the relaxation response is all about is it enables you to break out of the cycle of stress, to rest and restore and replenish yourself and it adds the balance in the life the Type As really require for well being.
Deepak: All this is making me quite anxious because in the last few minutes, you've told me that I'm likely to suffer a heart attack, that I spin my wheels and that I'll never be president of an organization. What else can go wrong?
Eli: Well, you just reminded me that one of the other characteristics of the Type A personality is that they come from insecurity. So let me just ask you, just sit back comfortably in your chair and I'll teach you a simple exercise to help you break out of the stress. And for those of you at home, you get much more out of this program by actually doing the exercise with us rather than just watching.
So follow along with us.
This exercise is done best with the eyes closed so I advise you please to close your eyes and people at home, close your eyes, get comfortable in your chairs and just breathe normally. Just be aware. Let your shoulders relax, let your jaw relax and just allow your breath to happen naturally. Breathing in and out through your nostrils. Just normal breaths. Just get in touch with the rhythm of breathing. And just watch the air coming in your nostrils. Notice the air cool as it comes in and warm as it goes out. Keep your focus at your nostrils. Noticing the air, cool as it comes in warm as it goes out. If your mind starts to wander away, catch it and bring it back to the awareness of the air coming in and going out of your nostrils.
Just focus on that very simple exercise. Very profound in its implications. Just observe. Watch the air cool and warm. And just see if you can notice which nostril you're breathing in and out of. Most people don't realize that they only breathe through one nostril at a time. And every hour and a half or so, the nostrils shift. So just be aware. Feel the air coming in, going out. See if you can notice which nostril you're breathing in and out of. Just observe. If your mind wanders off, bring it back. Stay focused.
That's what this exercise is all about is just focusing the concentration on one thing. In this case, watching the air coming in and going out, noticing which nostril you're breathing in and out of Stay with it See if you can notice where the breath changes direction. See if you can notice where the inhalation turns and starts to become an exhalation and where the exhalation turns and starts to become an inhalation. Just stay focused and watch your breath. [music] Noticing where the breath changes direction Stay focused. You can do this at a desk. You can do this lying in bed. Now take a deep breath hold it exhale [music] and very very slowly, little bit by little bit, slowly open your eyes. [music] Welcome back.
Deepak: Yeah I feel good. Not nearly so nervous about a heart attack.
Eli: Again, this exercise can best be done in a quiet space where you're not going to be interrupted. Where you can sit down maybe for 5 minutes at first and then build to 8 minutes and build to 10 minutes Eventually 15, 20 minutes. Just helps you to stay focused and one of the best approaches to turning on your body's relaxation response is to focus your mind on one thing.
Deepak: But it's so simple.
Eli: Who said it had to be difficult? You have to do it. The bottom line is taking the time out of your busy day to use any of these techniques from each program. We're introducing you to very simple techniques. The important thing is to take the time and do it.
Deepak: And this is going to make me feel better?
Eli: You bet.
Deepak: And it's all I need?
Eli: Well, it's one technique. I would advise if you can work with some of the longer relaxation exercises that we have in the home study package that are 20, 25 minute audio cassettes that guide you through a range of exercises that will help you to develop a body awareness, a body knowledge of relaxation and with that awareness, with that skill that you develop, you'll be able to access the relaxation response quite quickly with simple short techniques like the one you've just learned.
Deepak: Well, you've convinced me, Eli.
Eli: Experiment with it. If this exercise doesn't work for you then try another exercise. It's just really important to realize that we all need to learn to manage stress.
Deepak: Thanks very much, Eli.
Eli: A pleasure.
[Credits}         
Program Length: 26:50 min
About the Program:
Program 3 Working Better, looks at stress on the job, including how to deal with learned personality traits that may work against your own health, productivity and career effectiveness.