Organization for Stress Managment

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After being out of my office for a couple weeks, today was the first moment I was back in for a couple “office hours.”  Despite the fact that my to-do list is a mile long, my top priority was getting my train-wreck of an office a little more organized before I dove head first into that to-do list.  For some reason, having a sense of control over the office was better for my stress levels than knocking a few things off that list.

This reminded me of some info I heard on stress management while listening to an excellent RadioLab podcast on Stress.  One piece on stressed out rats mentioned that rats subjected to a stressor (electric shocks) had a reduced stress response if they could:

a.  bite another rat (i.e. kick the dog)

b.  gnaw on a block of wood (chewing reduced stress, interesting….)

c.  have a warning before hand (predictability and being able to brace yourself)

c. push a button that was supposed to make the shocks stop (i.e. exert some control over the situation)

Cleaning my office versus just working away is a good example of the stress reduction we experience from a sense of having control over the situation.  I put writing the to-do list in the first place in that same category as well.  Just getting organized and creating a plan of attack is helpful for reducing stress levels.  I’m glad I chose this instead of biting a co-worker.  :)

Do you experience the same response to being organized?  What organization tips do you use to keep stress at bay?

3 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Nancy Brown says:

    Robyn — Hope you were not out sick or anything that length of time, but on vacation??? I’m sure your co-workers were also glad you did not bite them (or kick the dog)! It’s easiest to take out stress on those closest to us, or just those in the vicinity. And for me, the guilt that comes later just adds to my stress.

    So I’m retiring in 3 weeks, my house is on the market, we bought a new house 600 miles away that we’re moving to in about weeks, oh, and there’s the holidays…AAAAHHHH. Just a little stress. These are all very happy events, and I’m struggling to remember that as I am making my own to-do lists that are so long it’s scarey! I’m with you on cleaning your area and getting organized. I always have to do that and make my lists to see where to start. Sometimes it’s best to start with some easy stuff to start feeling like accomplishing something! Take care.

    Nancy

  • Joe Kabukoba says:

    In a recent online survey, we found that a lot of women, seeking to lose weight after pregnancy, were very concerned with returning to pre-pregnancy figure and being able to wear their pre-pregnancy clothes. In a about 30%, the inability to lose weight was impacting their lives and relationships. So stress can be quite a vicious cycle, i.e. failing to lose weight, failing relationships, and of course more stress. The consequences can be severe. In either case, no opportunities will arise to lose pregnancy weight, improve self esteem or relationships. Focused care and support is absolutely essential.
    Joe Kabukoba, MD

  • Rachel Peterson says:

    When we see that “train-wreck” (oh, yes, I’ve been there too, Robyn!) and that long to-do list… we stress and the cortisol and adrenaline start pumping… two things happen: the pre-frontal cortex (where all the reasoning, logic, thoughts, ideas, insight are generated) fogs up, literally making it impossible for us to actually accomplish ANYTHING on the to-do list… AND, those stress hormones (the fight or flight gang) are flushed through our bodies churning up energy…

    So we find suddenly that we have this excess energy and don’t know what to do with it and we are spinning on it… so some people have a quick smoke, some go out for a walk, or meditate for a brief period, but many, intuitively self-regulate… and perhaps they will make lists (for example) or organize things… this small activity can be very useful in triggering the reward of completion….that sense of having ‘done something’, calming our brains and helping to chill out the stressors.

    It’s always helpful to remember that when we feed (in so many ways!) the stress instead of honoring it, naming it, recognizing that it is part of our human animal selves, AND helping it to dissipate… it will prevent us from using the parts of our brains that are unique to human mammals – that creative, thoughtful, logical, insightful, reasoning pre-frontal cortex.

    Oh those humans! Don’t you love them?! LoL!

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