Part 2: How to Identify Burnout and Manage Stress

By Denise Johnson | June 24, 2011
Managing Stress through the Three A’s

Dr. Price emphasizes awareness, attitude, and action as important ways to identify and manage stress.

Awareness is identifying where the stress is coming from and how it affects the individual.

“People can experience the same thing and have remarkably different perceptions of it. The thing about attitude is, if you think you can or you think you cannot, you’re right. It’s all about that perception. And part of learning to manage stress is the acceptance of, it’s okay for you to be different, it’s okay for you to have these feelings, it’s okay for you to not to like that,” explains Dr. Price in his analysis of attitude.

Taking action means taking control of one’s life. Since stress is a reaction to events and not the event itself, action equates to controlling behavior or situations.

The three A’s can be applied to a common occurrence in claims, the abusive caller. Awareness is identifying the abusive caller as the stressor and noting the resulting feelings which may be anger, frustration and/or sadness. Attitude is the ability to counteract the abuse with the knowledge that experiencing those feelings is okay and action is listening to the caller as a way to address the behavior and situation.

Deeply conflicted relationships that are the result of rigid perception can be managed with flexibility.

“If you tend to see things black and white, that will increase your stress…There is some strength in being flexible, in being open minded. Rather than be conflicted and going in with your armor on every time you’re around that person, maybe trying to change your perception of that person and the perception of what’s influencing that person will be of benefit to you,” says Dr. Price.

In addition, stress that is not properly managed will have a cumulative effect. An important factor in managing stress is developing healthy habits to counteract the cumulative effect.

He emphasizes the importance of breaks throughout the workday. He points out this happens frequently with individuals who skip lunch and work at their desk without taking a break, a common scenario in claims departments nationwide.

“One of the problems that leads to burnout are these people that do not take breaks, continue to work, and then eat their lunch at their desk as well. These are things that will contribute to burnout. It also negatively affects their creativity and problem solving ability,” Dr. Price explains.

Managing Stress through Exercise and Good Nutrition

Exercise is another good stress management tool because it increases the release of endorphins, more commonly known as the “runner’s high”. A simple walk taken every day may be all an individual needs to maintain a healthy outlook.

In addition, nutrition plays a role in stress. “Fat, sodium, and caffeine are stressful on the body. There are other things that you can eat that would be better for your overall health and would help you manage stress. The thing is not to be eating things that cause you to gain weight, heighten your blood pressure, or can cause anxiety.”

In fact, the effects of poor nutrition can appear similar to a well-known stress disorder.

“For some people, the caffeine in a 12 ounce soft drink, some type of cola, is enough to cause hypervigilance that we would see in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Caffeine is not necessarily a good thing if you’re in a stress management program. And if you sit in a cubicle all morning and you drink eight cups of coffee, that’s not managing your stress well. You can’t change your situation… but you can change your behavior, and that is by what you consume while you’re in that cubicle,” says Dr. Price.

Other Factors in Managing Stress

Realistic goal setting is an important factor in managing stress.

“A lot of times people don’t have realistic goals. They think they should be perfect, or they’re a bust. And that’s not true… if you set out a life plan for yourself, with manageable goals that can be reached steadily over time, it increases your self esteem as you’re successful meeting those goals,” according to Dr. Price. He adds “If you set an unrealistic goal, you’re going to have poor self esteem because you’re always going to fail. You should really devise a program that helps you achieve.”

Taking responsibility is equally important to managing stress and increasing self-esteem.

“You’re only going to get better in life if you focus on what you can control and try to get better at that,” he says.

Remember that class clown in school? Well, having a good sense of humor is a particularly important factor to managing stress. “Humor makes us feel more positive, changes our perception. And so getting some fun in life and developing a sense of humor, particularly as you look at yourself, is a very therapeutic thing to do,” says Dr. Price.

Gaining perspective may be one of the most important ways of dealing with stress. He highlights the value of relaxation and quality time spent with family and friends. Balancing family and a professional life is challenging, but not impossible.

“Not everything in your life requires the same amount of priority or the same amount of emphasis. 20 percent of the things in your life probably should take 80 percent of your attention, whether it’s at work or whether it’s at home. You can’t have a list of 100 things, all of them with equal priority,” he adds.

Dr. Price recommends being unafraid of change because it can be stimulating.

“You don’t have to travel abroad to try something new. But you can go to a different restaurant. You can take an afternoon off with your spouse and go do something new, go to another town antique shopping or go play golf, or whatever you like to do, but go do it in a different environment and with different people,” Dr. Price emphasizes.

This is part 2 of a two part article.

Dr. Price presented on the subject at the recent PLRB Conference held this year in Nashville, Tennessee.

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