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Release the Stress: Simple Strategies for Overloaded Workers

business-1302849_1280I recently stepped up my workload and position at work. One of my co-workers went into labor a month early and is now out on maternity leave which doubled the workload for another member of my team, and I. I have spoken previously in posts about not handling stress well, it is a known flaw that I am working on day-by-day. My post this week I thought I could give you a list of what I do to help keep myself level both on the job and off. My hope is that if you find yourself struggling to manage your stress, you can implement these strategies and find yourself more calm, cool, and collected when problems arise.

Intention. I stole this from yoga – at the beginning of each class they ask you to set an intention for your practice. It is the same idea each morning I start my day by setting an intention. The intention or mantra can be a word or phrase, something you hope to accomplish or cultivate throughout your day. Throughout your day repeat this word or phrase to yourself, and it will help you to bring your focus to the present time and place. Recently, my intention for the day has been to breathe.

Breathe. One thing that does help calm me down is taking a deep breath in and then slowly exhaling. Just taking a few seconds doing that can help to uncloud your mind and focus on the task at hand. I wrote on a piece of paper, ” In life, all we have to do is keep breathing” and I taped it to my desk at work to help me remember throughout my day to take a few moments and breathe deeply.

Hydrate. It may seem odd that drinking water is on my list to relieve stress; however, a lot of issues can arise if you are dehydrated. I am a frequent culprit of not drinking enough water throughout the day. I either fill up my water bottle and then forget to drink it. Or, during times when work is crazy, I purposively don’t drink water, so I don’t have to go to the bathroom and stop what I’m doing. But, when I am dehydrated it causes irritability, sleepiness, and my productivity goes way done. So take some time to drink water throughout the day and as you drink, complete the first two tips simultaneously to get a full trifecta for stress relief.

Move. Even if you are just taking a short walk around the office or going to the bathroom, get up and move. Walking around allows you not only to take a break from what you’re doing but gives you some exercise to get the blood flowing which helps you think better. I will take a walk around the outside of our building to de-stress, and it helps to be out in the fresh air. I also will do some light stretches too which relieves the stiffness in my neck and shoulders from sitting at a desk all day.

Take a few minutes out of your day to try these tips and strategies to help you de-stress; doing so, could help with your physical and mental health.


Have a good week!

Abigail R.C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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Our Inner Conflict: Managing the Impact of Traumatic Events

trauma photo 1Sometimes we don’t realize the impact of a tragic event until after the day of the actual occurrence. Whether this is death, theft, or a loss of a job, emotions often do not surface until days, weeks, months or even years after the event. For me, several tragic events have led to hidden inner conflict within myself. I would like to share two examples of how these events impacted me and provided some strategies that have I have used to try to handle my circumstances in an effective manner.

The first traumatic event was watching my mother die in my home. I witnessed her passing out, the air go out of her lungs, her veins bulge, and her eyes roll up to the ceiling. She died from what is known as sepsis as a result of pneumonia. The experience was not only traumatic, but it was life changing, for, at that moment that I saw my mother die, I felt like I failed. This event triggered for me an internal conflict about my role and primary responsibility as a daughter. Since I was a child until my mother’s death, I held the role of caregiver for my mother who struggled with mental illness. It was my job and mission to save my mother from herself, and I could not.  The impact of this traumatic event stays with me today as I struggle with my self-deprecating thoughts and my emotions about my role and our relationship.

The second traumatic event is a recent theft that occurred to me back in April. A young lady, known for her drug abuse, stole my cell phone, credit cards, driver’s license and other important items such as my husband’s credit and debit cards as I was sitting in a restaurant. She immediately used our money to purchase food, tobacco, and other items at local stores. This life-shattering event violated my privacy, compromised my identity and that of my family’s identity. I am a very private person, and this theft was a violation on so many levels. Upon going to court, this young lady, who has since offended three more times since my theft, had a very casual, no-care attitude. She took no responsibility and even stated she didn’t secure a lawyer due to her “laziness.” This attitude only triggered me further and tapped into my internal conflict from prior traumatic events.  I now have difficulty trusting others even my friends, and I am fearful of this happening again. As a result of these two specific experiences, I knew I needed to do something to manage my internal turmoil and conflict. These recommendations come as a result of my experiences and may work for you too.

1) Seek professional guidance or counseling. Often people wait or do not seek help in any way after they have experienced a traumatic event. This form of assistance can come from a trusted friend, a religious leader, a counselor or therapist who specializes in grief or trauma, or even a specialized coach. The key is not to get stuck, and to talk about the internal struggle with someone.

2) Keep a journal. Get into the habit of writing daily to express your thoughts and feelings. There is no right or wrong way of doing this. This journal is something just for your eyes only. It is your process for dealing with the impact and consequences of the event.

3) Be patient with yourself. Remember that this journey to healing is not a race to the finish line. The impact from traumatic events can have long-lasting consequences which needaddressed. It is a process of forgiveness, healing and everyone experiences this process differently. It is highly individualized.

4) Take daily time away from everyone. It is important you give yourself alone time even if it is 10 minutes in the bathroom to decompress. This private time can be hard to do  if you have children or other caregiver responsibilities, but make this a priority to give yourself this quiet space to reflect.

It is my hope that my experiences with traumatic events and my suggestions are helpful for those who are experiencing the effects of trauma. To learn more about dealing with traumatic conflict, listen to our podcast “Handling Stress After a Traumatic Event” with Denise Thompson, LCSW with Crisis Response Consulting. For professional tips on how to handle trauma, visit the Better Health Channel of the Victoria State Government in Australia’s website, and read their article entitled:  Trauma-Reaction and Recovery.

Best Wishes.

Ann Margaret Zelenka

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore

Negotiations and Conflict Management M.S. Program



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Handling Stress After a Traumatic Event


Sometime in our lives we will unfortunately witness or be impacted by a traumatic event. We hear about these situations in the media all of the time…a very disgruntled employee who kills their boss and then commits suicide; witnessing the terrorist attacks of the World Trade Center towers; a bank teller who is robbed at gun point; a bus accident involving the death of children; or a natural disaster like that of the recent earthquakes and tsunami that hit Japan. All of these situations create what is called critical incident stress.

We bring the topics of stress management and emotion management as part of National Stress Awareness month. And tonight, we focus on Handling Stress after a Traumatic Event. We will talk with Denise Thompson with Crisis Response Consulting, about how you can identify the signs and signals of this kind of traumatic stress; and mechanisms for coping during these difficult times.            [display_podcast]  Read, Listen, Share »

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The Gifts that Keep on Giving – Forgiveness, Communication and Peace. Holiday Gift Giving that doesn’t cost a dime!

December has now become a month full of stress and anxiety over picking the best gift. There is no disputing that Christmas has become a commercialized holiday where the whole point appears to be finding and giving the best gift to your loved ones. I created a holiday gift list in a previous post, presenting my picks for presents to give this season to the peace-lover in your life. I also compiled a gift list this week for those who find themselves in conflict with a loved one; that wouldn’t cost you anything.

Forgiveness. The ability to forgive someone can be difficult, especially when a lot of damage and heartache has occurred. Holding on to grudges and anger can be detrimental to your health and can destroy your relationships. The holiday season is the perfect time to let go and forgive. How can you forgive?

  1. Look inward and analyze. Acknowledge your feelings and take a moment to think about what and why you are feeling the way you do.
  2. Invite a face-to-face dialogue. Invite the person to have a conversation. Then, speak to the person directly, expressing your honest feelings letting them know you want to forgive and move forward.
  3. Write a letter. I lost a family member suddenly a couple of months ago, and before their passing, I had felt a lot of anger and hurt towards him. I lost the ability to express my feelings to him verbally, so I wrote him a letter and found that filling the pages was very therapeutic and allowed me to let go of my anger and hurt. You can write a letter to someone who is still here as well; you could seal and give it to them or not, that choice would be up to you!

Communication. The gift of communication to a loved one you are in conflict could change the course of your relationship. Effective communication allows you to build rapport and trust. Defensive communication causes confusion, anger, and blame, etc. The holidays provide a wonderful opportunity to communicate with your loved ones and resolve conflicts. How can you communicate effectively?

  1. Actively listen. The point here is to speak less and listen more.
  2. Clarify. Miscommunication arises when you don’t clarify what a person says, which then causes false assumptions and confusion. An example: Aunt Mary told Aunt Penny she needed to bring another dessert for Christmas dinner. Aunt Penny agreed to bring a dessert but didn’t clarify what kind of dessert Aunt Mary already had. Christmas day arrives, and Aunt Penny arrives with homemade gingerbread cookies only to find that Aunt Mary had already made that same family recipe. An abundance of gingerbread cookies is not a huge conflict, but if Aunt Mary was hoping for variety, she might be annoyed.
  3. Practice. Good communication requires practice, so listen often, ask curious questions to show you care. This is the ultimate gift.

Peace. Merriam-Webster defines peace as, ” a state in which there is no war or fighting; an agreement to end a war; a period when there is no war or fighting.” Achieving world peace in time for Christmas seems a bit unattainable, but peace with your loved ones is something that can be achievable. How can you achieve peace this holiday season?

  1. Apologize. Say, “I’m sorry” genuinely for whatever wrongdoing you might have done.
  2. Take a time out. If two weeks is not enough time to work through a conflict and an apology just won’t be enough, speak with your opposer and suggest putting the conflict aside for the holidays.
  3. Be empathetic. Try placing yourself in the other’s shoes. A favorite quote of mine by Ian Maclaren proposes, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” During the holiday season, the battle could be financial, emotional, physical, or mental, so be kind because you never know what someone might be experiencing.

The gifts given during the holiday season do not need an expensive price tag. A simple act of forgiveness, communication, or extending an olive branch for peace could bring more cheer to a loved one you are in conflict with than any store- bought gift you find.

Happy Holidays,

Abigail R. C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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Unnecessary Conflict – How Daily Hassles Contribute to Stress Reactions

What are your daily hasslesIn our daily lives, we often encounter stress and do not recognize it for what it actually is or give ourselves the space to manage it effectively. Stress can be triggered by overwhelming work and life responsibilities. When left un-managed, stress can affect the interactions between family members and friends creating unnecessary tensions and conflict. For example, have you found yourself lashing out at a loved one, and not sure why? Or come home from work, school, or even a shopping trip in a foul mood? You may be experiencing stress or anxiety. Stress can produce psychological reactions like nervousness, worrying, frustration, and other negative emotions such as anger, sadness, and loneliness.

I recently started an argument with a family member, not because it was warranted, but because I let the stress of the day get to me. One evening after working and attending evening classes I received a call from my cousin who was excited to discuss travel arrangements for an upcoming trip. When I answered the phone, I was short and barely listened to her. Sensing this, she asked what was wrong. At the time I was not aware why I was behaving that way. In fact, I was actually excited about the upcoming trip, but my psychological reaction to the stressors I had experienced that day overrode the excitement

Stresses that are regularly occurring in our day-to-day lives are called daily hassles. Professor and researcher, Richard S. Lazarus grouped the daily hassles as follows:
• Household hassles: cooking, cleaning, household upkeep, and shopping
• Health hassles: illness, concerns regarding health care and medicine
• Time-pressure hassles: not enough time in the day to get all responsibilities done
• Inner-core hassles: loneliness
• Environmental hassles: crime, traffic, living arrangements
• Financial responsibility hassles: money concerns
• Work hassles: conflict with co-workers and job dissatisfaction
• Future security hassles: concerns regarding retirement, taxes, and the economy

In reflection, I had experienced environmental hassles from the daily commute from work to school and time-pressure hassles. During the day I was concerned about making it to class on time, I was worried about the work I left at the office, and struggled to find time to eat dinner. So when I arrived home all I wanted to do was relax, get something to eat, and then go to sleep. Instead of recognizing the daily hassles I had experienced that day, I unconsciously projected my frustrations on to my cousin.

Next time you have a negative reaction to a family member, friend or co-worker ask yourself: How many daily hassles have I experienced today? Are these hassles temporary or permanent? You may also listen to the podcast on the Texas Conflict Coach® by Brady Mikusko called Stress Reduction Using EFT – At Work or Home to learn tools to handle stress and reduce negative emotions to prevent future and unnecessary conflicts.

By Tracy Culbreath
Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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Holiday Travel Mayhem – Reducing Stress and Conflict

Preparing for TSA during the holiday season

Preparing for TSA during the holiday season

Many of us are not strangers to conflict that occurs during the holiday season. This is especially true for those of us who travel by plane to visit our family and friends out of town. If you cannot manage your stress and anxiety or take steps to prevent conflict, your holiday travel plans are sure to be negatively affected.  The conflict that appears is not solely based on airport security, delayed or cancelled flights. Your behavior, attitude and approach will influence how the conflict transpires.

Let’s look at an example. Its December 22nd, you and your 2 children arrive at the airport. You will depart from Texas to visit your mother and father in your Maryland hometown. You are going through the checkpoint with the wrapped gifts as the carry-on items. Included in one of the wrapped gifts are 3 bottles of perfume for your mother. In addition, your favorite cranberry sauce and holiday juice are in the bag as well. Security prompts you to stand aside because your liquid items exceed the 3-1-1 policies for carry-ons. You have also been asked to unwrap your gifts. The liquids are not allowed through checkpoint. Therefore, you must get back in line and place them in a check bag or dispose of the items. You are upset and begin to shout and point at security personnel. TSA (Transportation Security Administration) officials ask you to step to the side because your behavior has become inappropriate.

Your reaction to a situation might be a key factor in why the conflict manifested. Did you fail to think before you reacted? Yes! Don’t beat yourself up about it, I am guilty of this as well! Especially during the holiday season, you want everything to flow perfectly. Therefore, one mistake or uncontrollable situation such as a delayed or canceled flight could change your entire mood. It’s okay. Understand that unexpected things happen. The way to lessen the stress and anxiety is to learn how to manage conflict constructively. Think about the things you can control…such as carry-ons and checked luggage to prevent further conflict…here are some tips.

Strategies to reduce stress and prevent conflict from escalating include:

  1.  Step back and think before you react! Your goal is to remain calm and choose how you will respond to the TSA agent’s request so that you can move through the   checkpoint quickly and onto your gate.
  2. Be aware and prepare. Visit the TSA or airport’s website before you begin to pack for a flight as there could be changes in procedures for holiday gifts and food.
  3. Ship Gifts Early. Consider the option to ship the gifts ahead of time. The fewer carry-on items mean that there is less to worry about at the checkpoint or for that matter to worry about having your carry-on not fit in the overhead bins and being forced to check it in at the gate
  4. Arrive early. Give yourself enough time at the airport to deal with  larger crowds,  last minute changes such as he switch of items from carry-on to your checked bag  or flight delays or cancellations due to weather.
  5. Check out TSA’s Blog on their 2013 Holiday Travel Tips Refer to TSA’s website to see which types of foods are allowed through checkpoint.

To learn more strategies for holiday traveling, please visit Helpful Hints for Holiday Travelers and Traveling with Food or Gifts.

Listen to our recent podcast Surviving Holiday Travel .

By Tierra Henry

Graduate Student, University of Baltimore Dispute Resolution Program

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Stress Reduction Using EFT – At Work or Home


 Negative emotions arise all too frequently in our daily lives, feelings such as anger, irritation, fear, confusion and worry, to name a few. These emotions trigger stress and simultaneously block our ability to feel grounded and centered. They also negatively impact our health. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a powerful, fast, portable and easy to use tool to handle stress and to reduce the hold such negative emotions have on our well-being. Once learned, you will be able to use it whenever the need arises. In this interview, Brady Mikusko will teach a simple version of EFT to all listeners on the show.


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Making Difficult People Disappear

We all have at least one person we wish we could make disappear…without getting in trouble! It’s not magic. It’s proven methods to communicate, mediate, and resolve stressful misunderstandings, happily ever after, and so no one gets fired or mired in continuous conflict. This show, based on the recent book release, will dig deeper than personalities, include the impact of stress, and remind you of the power of your habits, and perceptions, while sharing tips to succeed with even the most “challenging breed” of co-workers.


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When Silence Can Be the Key to Listening Deeply

In today’s world, when are we not stressed out by things that happen in our everyday life? Do you find yourself feeling anxious reflecting on the important conversations you need to have but can’t because of the stress? Are there times when your stress levels prevent you from concentrating and listening to others? For many of us, the bad economy has positioned us to be on full-time stress alert taking our attention away from the things that matter most…our families, relationships, and our own health. Right now, people need to feel heard and understood; and yet, the overwhelming stress can prevent us from being effective listeners.
When you are not an effective listener there are things that you miss out on. Sometimes those things can be as significant as missing the time schedule to pick up your kids up from school to your work deadline for a special project. Either way becoming an effective listener can be difficult and takes lots of work especially in times of stress.
I know this from personal experience. My child’s father and I found it real difficult to listen to each other when it came to discussing matters about our daughter. There were times I felt he would hear the first ten minutes of the conversation and block out the last twenty minutes. This would cause us to bump heads on every decision that was needed to be made for our daughter. As time progressed, we both realized it wasn’t the fact that we could not talk to each other, but the fact that we were not listening to each other.

We all participate in selective hearing, and it can cause us to miss out on important things. If you would like to know more about learning different techniques to become an effective listener, listen to The New Trend in Listening: How to Improve Your Communication Skills and Enrich Relationships with Susan Young, President of Get In Front Communications.

Authored by Andrea Williams
Graduate Student Intern

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The Brain Science Behind Conflict Resolution

Advances in brain research has given us a window into understanding the nature of conflict and effective remedies. When we understand how our brain works and how it processes conflict, we are better equipped to manage conflict and establish effective remedies. Join us as we explore the fascinating workings of our brain and how we can use neuroscience to increase our insight and improve our ability to manage conflict.


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