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A New Year, new opportunities, and new adventures await us. Let’s start with some reminders on how to take care of ourselves and ward off stress, which causes emotional discomfort and physical illness – the last things we need when responsibilities continue to build and rest on our shoulders.

Regina Roark, a chiropractic doctor, in practice for 16 years and located in San Marcos, offers advice for managing the inevitable stress experienced from job searching and overworking.

What do you advise your patients who are looking for a job or worrying about job security these days?

My number one piece of advice is to take time to take care of yourself on a daily basis, even if it’s only 5 minutes.

That certainly sounds do-able. How would someone effectively use five minutes for self-care?

First with breathing exercises. Sit comfortably in a quiet place where there will be no interruptions. Consciously breathe in slowly through the nose, preferably, counting to 5 or 10 or 20, whichever length is most comfortable. Then breathe out through the nose at the same pace. Do this several times for a calming effect. Be sure to return to your normal breathing if you have any difficulty, such as getting light-headed.

Another technique I advocate is visualizing. Again, find that quiet place where you’ll be undisturbed. Close your eyes and think of a real or imagined place where you would go to spend time alone. Picture it clearly in your mind. Using the beach as an example, think of the color of the ocean, the foam of the waves, the sand, rocks, and clouds. After a few days of practice with thinking about what this place looks like, add another sensation to the picture like the sounds – waves crashing, wind blowing, birds singing. Then add the senses of touch and smell to the picture. Whether someone is sitting behind a computer, dropping off résumés, or managing people, this technique works wonders in clearing the mind and improving moods. And it can easily be done on a 5 or 10 minute break!

What kinds of situations are you hearing about from patients who are stressed out?

Not only are people looking for jobs, but many of my patients are overworked. They have to cover more hours at less pay or have had to get second jobs to help ends meet. With all this extra responsibility, they tend to let themselves and their self care go first.

What are some steps people could take to get back on track?

I recommend a five step process. One, be aware that, whatever situation is creating stress, it will not last forever. Change is inevitable and things will get better.

Two, delegate whenever possible. Ask friends, family, and your support system for help. Reach out to those closest to you, explain what’s happening, and seek their assistance, if only temporarily.

Three, have a sounding board, a person whom you trust and will honor confidentiality, that will listen to your complaints. It’s important to talk things out and vent your frustrations, but not just to anyone.

Four, exercise if only for 5 minutes. Take a short walk, do stretches, use your lunch hour to get fresh air and move your muscles. Find a walking buddy. That will encourage you to be more consistent.

Five, after identifying the stressor, follow this “3 A’s” system, in this order: avoid – physically remove yourself from the stressor, be it a person, place or thing. Put some distance between you and the cause of that stress. If that isn’t possible, alter – change your own thought or action about the stressor. Make the situation better in some way – learn more about it to create a deeper understanding, take a class to improve your own skills, think objectively about it and consciously respond differently than you have before. Again, if this doesn’t remove the stressor, accept. Realizing that you can only change yourself, accept the stressor for a certain time period. Give it a chance to improve, then be ready to move on if that doesn’t occur.

Using that 3 A’s system, what if the stressor is a person like a co-worker or boss?

Avoid the person in order to give yourself space and time to think about your responses and reactions to them. For instance, if your boss is the problem, take time to think through your next interaction with him or her and what the discussion may be like. Prepare your words and responses carefully, keeping in mind hot buttons that you can also avoid. This avoidance step is not running away – it’s giving yourself the gift of time to prepare. By approaching a hot topic or conversation in a different way, you are altering the scenario for the purpose of causing a different, more positive outcome. By researching an issue that causes stress or honing your skills in an area that makes your boss tense, you are taking control and mixing things up differently. After following the first 2 A’s, it’s time to accept that you’ve done what you can and realize the person may not ever change. Set a timeline for deciding on and making your next move – a new job, another department, or a heart-to-heart conversation. The 3 A’s help you gain more control of the stressful situation and level the playing field.

Any other helpful advice for our readers who may be looking for work or contemplating a career change and feeling the stress?

Get up from your computer. Every 20 minutes (set a timer), stand up and stretch. Walk to a different room or down the hall. Change positions or switch chairs. Your body needs to move and your muscles need stretching.

Notice what your body is telling you and seek professional advice. Talk to your chiropractor about your workstation which could be contributing to back, neck or wrist pain. An improper chair can lead to headaches or numbness, which in turn affects sleep and your ability to exercise or even grocery shop.

Finally, really try to look on the bright side. A lay-off or job unhappiness can be an opportunity for change to more rewarding work or the chance to follow a dream.

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