Say “Yes” To Less Stress

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Lisa Milliken

Lisa Milliken
Education Specialist, Select Rehabilitation
Guide, 2019 Pioneering a New Culture of Aging Conference

Healthcare team members spend extensive amounts of time on their jobs caring for others. Then following the 40-50 hours of the work week, they focus on their additional to-do lists. Such commitments may include caregiving for their own family members, taking classes for another degree or certification or volunteering in their community. Caring for others is a noble and purposeful use of one’s time. However, there’s a significant downside to overbooking every waking moment. The irony is that the healthcare team member, who may be quite knowledgeable about the physiological health and well-being of others, often don’t see their own health needs.

The team member who cares for elders may be aware of the risks such as exhaustion and burn-out. We may have seen the effects of such scenarios with colleagues, and we have most likely experienced such stresses to some degree ourselves. But let’s look beyond those obvious points. There are the physiological results of the stress factors from fast-paced schedules, a heavy workload and the resulting ongoing anxieties. And for healthcare team members, add to this factors such as their own emotional pain over interacting with elders who are ill and suffering and the result can be an unhealthy amount of stress.

Consider this. The human body is equipped with complex mechanisms to fight predators. Exposure to such threats results in an action known as the Conserved Transcriptional Response to Adversity (CTRA). In other words, the central nervous system (CNS) is in charge of the “fight or flight” response. So when danger lurks, the CNS response system can send out signals which can dramatically increase a person’s ability to fight or to run away. What triggers this increased ability and what must also happen to the other body functions that are not needed? First, the hypothalamus tells the adrenal glands to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase the heartbeat and send blood rushing to the areas that need it most in an emergency, such as the muscles, heart, and other important organs. Several other body functions are triggered to change or decrease during this time, to allow the focus to be directed to fighting the danger. This could include a temporary shut-down of other functions that are not needed in that moment, since the time period of danger should only be a short, before everything can return back to normal.

Stresses such as fear, anxiety, worrying, over scheduling and multiple other overwhelming negative thoughts can trigger the same response in humans as an actual predator with a weapon. Both real and perceived threats trigger the CTRA, the fight or flight response is triggered. And if not recognized and addressed, over time the results of ongoing stressors can result in decreased immunity, chronic disease, depression, disability and early death.

With these thoughts in mind, realize how wellness in our workplaces can be so significant. There is no downside to decreasing the risk of disease and improving our health. In addition to such worthy goals, workplace wellness can also lead to increased job satisfaction and employee retention.

Here are a few simple tricks that can be incorporated into most people’s work day.

  • TAKE A BREATHER: Deep breathing can help improve your overall health and give you piece of mind. Performing breathing exercises can help slow a fast heart rate and even lower blood pressure. Try this on for size: Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and breathe in through your nose while counting to five. When you reach five, exhale through your mouth. Repeat the process three or four times.


  • GET UP AND STRETCH: Exercise releases endorphins and positive energy; and sitting for hours can be harmful and add to sluggishness. Get up and make a loop around the community. Come back and stretch your arms, neck and legs before sitting back down. It’s even more fun if you find a team member to do it with you. This will also help you stay accountable.


  • DRINK WATER: Staying hydrated is essential in life. Often “hunger” that leads to needless snacking is simple dehydration. Keep a full 8 oz. glass of water close to you and refill it throughout the day.


  • WALK PAST THE VENDING MACHINE: Outfit your locker or desk with a basket of fruit or heart healthy nuts, like almonds. You may even encourage team members to indulge in healthier options. Pack your own lunch, too. This will help curb the temptation to grab fast food.


  • LAUGH! There’s got to be some truth to the saying “laughter’s the best medicine” since we’ve all been saying it for so long! Keep a folder or memory of things that make you laugh, when you need a quick chuckle. Maybe it’s a picture of your child covered in cake on their birthday or a funny cat picture. Whatever works for you!


And finally, the following ideas may help to increase physical activity, which is one aspect of wellness, through a Worksite Wellness Program.

  • Encourage team members to walk and log individual miles for incentives
  • Participate in community walks
  • Map out and measure walking trails accessible to team members of all abilities
  • Promote a stairwell climbing competition
  • Suggest that team members stretch for one minute before work each day
  • Encourage physical activity breaks during long meetings
  • Negotiate corporate discounts for health club memberships
  • Purchase fitness CDs and DVDs that team members may borrow.
  • Promote a bike helmet fitting day
  • Provide bicycle racks or a fenced-in area for bicyclists


Given the multiple reasons for preventing our health’s decline, it is worth every effort to take steps to decrease the daily threats of stress. Choose a few of the noted options or think of your own. Encourage team members at work, as well as friends and family members. You now have a reason to say Yes! to less stress.

CREDIT: Lisa Milliken, MA, CCC-SLP, FNAP, CDP is a seasoned national speaker, with over 30 years of experience in interprofessional patient advocacy, to include specialties in person-centered dementia care practices and successful aging.  She is currently an Education Specialist for Select Rehabilitation, a premier provider of contract rehabilitation services.

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