Author Topic: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)  (Read 11025 times)

EconDiva

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Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« on: January 23, 2015, 11:42:40 AM »
So I've had this position for a year now and I didn't realize it would require so much public speaking. I know tons of people have problems with it but I get physically ill beforehand.

 I also did not know it would require international travel...which is fine...but some of the pressure is starting to take its toll on me. We're traveling next weekend for a meeting I have to present at. I started not sleeping t this week. I've been up all night stressing about the work. And started stressing about my presentation, the 16 hour flight, the fact my monthly 'visitor' is scheduled to start the day I'm speaking (sorry, TMI).

 Basically I feel a mess and I haven't even gotten on the plane yet. My heart is pounding so fast all the time I feel like I could have a heart attack by the time I land. And the trip is a week away.

 I have some Xanax but I hate to start popping those all the time as I know they can be addictive. Anyone have tips on how to handle feeling this way? I can't oh through another week of this; I'll be no good come time to leave......

Bob W

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2015, 12:00:24 PM »
Wow,  that is a lot of stress.  I think you need to resource beyond this board.  There is lots of information out there to help you.

A few general suggestions --   Walk and meditate daily (you can do both at same time),  do some breathing exercises,  cut the caffeine,  use a sleep mask.   

There is really a lot you can do to help yourself,  but IMHO you need to do a few hours research and find a good source of info that fits your situation. 

Good Luck!   I'm sure you are very bright and will do fine. 

FLBiker

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2015, 12:03:01 PM »
The single thing that most improved my sleeping (I think) is meditation.  In my experience, I started to see benefits after a few months of doing it every day for 15 minutes or so.  It also helped with anxiety in general.

Other things that help (many of which you're probably already doing) are not having screentime too close to bedtime, keeping electronics out of the bedroom, avoiding caffeine/alcohol/sugar and getting enough exercise.  I used to be a terrible sleeper, but as I've made these changes, it has gotten MUCH better.  Upcoming travel can still be an issue for me.  I always used to take Tylenol PM for a couple of days leading up to a trip, and sometimes I still do, but often I find I'm able to relax using techniques I've learned in meditation.

Good luck!

EconDiva

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2015, 12:11:40 PM »
The single thing that most improved my sleeping (I think) is meditation.  In my experience, I started to see benefits after a few months of doing it every day for 15 minutes or so.  It also helped with anxiety in general.

Other things that help (many of which you're probably already doing) are not having screentime too close to bedtime, keeping electronics out of the bedroom, avoiding caffeine/alcohol/sugar and getting enough exercise.  I used to be a terrible sleeper, but as I've made these changes, it has gotten MUCH better.  Upcoming travel can still be an issue for me.  I always used to take Tylenol PM for a couple of days leading up to a trip, and sometimes I still do, but often I find I'm able to relax using techniques I've learned in meditation.

Good luck!


Thanks...it's actually not the travel that's the problem (well, it's part of it).  But the major stressor is having to present.  I hate presenting.  I didn't realize my job would have so much public speaking.  And in front of like 50 doctors at that this time...my heart is literally racing right now and the trip is a week away.

I will definitely look into meditating.  I posted on another board but I'm a regular poster here so I was interested to see what Mustachians would recommend.  Anywho, I started having chest pain today which I've only experienced one other time in my life (last month right before giving presentations out of the country again).  I think it's social anxiety issue...but it's wrecking major havoc on my body right now.

GetItRight

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2015, 12:12:23 PM »
When I get stressed I look at mint, update spreadsheets, and crunch numbers. Only a year until I'm worthless, another two and I'm debtless, then consider options to FI. It's distracting from the stress and reminds me work is only temporary. The truly rich people at work who don't show up often and never seem to work much always seem so laid back and relaxed. Why shouldn't I be more relaxed too?

EconDiva

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2015, 12:14:44 PM »
When I get stressed I look at mint, update spreadsheets, and crunch numbers. Only a year until I'm worthless, another two and I'm debtless, then consider options to FI. It's distracting from the stress and reminds me work is only temporary. The truly rich people at work who don't show up often and never seem to work much always seem so laid back and relaxed. Why shouldn't I be more relaxed too?

Oh Lord, that's just gonna stress me out more. I'm definitely in better shape than I was before MMM, but I've got a loooooonnnnnnnnnnggggggg ways before FI!  I've got plenty of years' worth of this type of stress ahead of me at this point I'm thinking, so the 'light at the end of the tunnel' is not nearly close enough for me to employ that strategy.

But I'm happy for you though :D

Better Change

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2015, 12:27:31 PM »
I have been in this career for nearly 3 years now, and I've had to present to all sorts of people who are much further up the totem pole than lowly ole me.

I always remind myself that I'm the expert.  The people I'm talking to have no idea what I'm about to show them, so I am the authority on the subject!  It actually really helps me relax about presenting, because, really, will they really notice if I make a small mistake?  Probably not.  They'll be too busy trying to digest all of the awesome science I'm showing them, right?

I'm a horrible sleeper, and I'm sensitive to external pressures.  Stress is usually the first thing that keeps me up at night.  My mantra has become "it doesn't matter.  I've got this no matter what happens.  I am more than one shitty presentation."  Because really, what are the chances that you're going to royally blow it?  Pretty low.

You've got this, too.  :)

EconDiva

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2015, 12:30:43 PM »
I have been in this career for nearly 3 years now, and I've had to present to all sorts of people who are much further up the totem pole than lowly ole me.

I always remind myself that I'm the expert.  The people I'm talking to have no idea what I'm about to show them, so I am the authority on the subject!  It actually really helps me relax about presenting, because, really, will they really notice if I make a small mistake?  Probably not.  They'll be too busy trying to digest all of the awesome science I'm showing them, right?

I'm a horrible sleeper, and I'm sensitive to external pressures.  Stress is usually the first thing that keeps me up at night.  My mantra has become "it doesn't matter.  I've got this no matter what happens.  I am more than one shitty presentation."  Because really, what are the chances that you're going to royally blow it?  Pretty low.

You've got this, too.  :)

I'm not the expert.  I know the least about the matter I'm presenting, am the lowest on the 'totem pole' hierarchy-wise and am presenting to experts on the subject.

Better Change

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2015, 12:36:31 PM »
Then you must be really good if your supervisor puts you in a situation like that!  That's actually one of the best compliments you can get in a job (IMHO), short of being told that you're awesome and deserve a massive bonus.

But maybe I'm just playing the optimist.  I've spent too many years thinking I do crap work and getting really strong performance reviews.  It's not worth the stomach problems I'm causing myself anymore.

A lot of my co-workers see therapists and tell me it really helps with the stress.  It might be something to consider. 

Gone Fishing

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2015, 12:40:47 PM »
+1 on the no booze and no caffeine.  Tylenol PM (or just Benedryl) does help but can leave me groggy the next day.  I found if I take just one around 8pm for a 10pm bedtime it works okay. 

Ultimately you are going to have to decide if you are going to conquer this fear or move on to something else as you can not live in this state.  If you decide to go forward, you might try some sort of public speaking course just to get more comfortable in a lower pressure environment.  Some people have had good luck with Toastmasters.

EconDiva

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2015, 12:42:37 PM »
Then you must be really good if your supervisor puts you in a situation like that!  That's actually one of the best compliments you can get in a job (IMHO), short of being told that you're awesome and deserve a massive bonus.

But maybe I'm just playing the optimist.  I've spent too many years thinking I do crap work and getting really strong performance reviews.  It's not worth the stomach problems I'm causing myself anymore.

A lot of my co-workers see therapists and tell me it really helps with the stress.  It might be something to consider.

I am seeing one; I guess its the physical symptoms that are causing me the most problem right now (ie the sudden loss of sleep, chest pain/palpitations, etc.)  I mean, I just checked my heart rate downstairs and it's over 100 and I've been sitting for the past 5 hours so I know it's anxiety related...

Mazzinator

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2015, 12:53:14 PM »
Another vote for meditation...

As weird as it sounds, I actually use my hypnobabies (drug free birth) sound track. It's 30mins and gets me into a deeper state of relaxation.

Hope this helps.

lbdance

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2015, 12:59:15 PM »
As the public speaking appears to be part of what is causing the anxiety, what training have you had for this?
Getting some training, or working one on one with a professional in this field, might help you to feel more confident in this situation, and therefore reduce the anxiety.

Further to this, from your comments it sounds as though presentations which also have travel, cause more anxiety. As you are seeing a therapist, I would hope that they would be giving you tools to deal with the anxiety, and not just stress. (which one is causing the other?)

Completely understand not wanting to take pills continually, meditation or exercise may help also.

EconDiva

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2015, 01:03:06 PM »
As the public speaking appears to be part of what is causing the anxiety, what training have you had for this?
Getting some training, or working one on one with a professional in this field, might help you to feel more confident in this situation, and therefore reduce the anxiety.

Further to this, from your comments it sounds as though presentations which also have travel, cause more anxiety. As you are seeing a therapist, I would hope that they would be giving you tools to deal with the anxiety, and not just stress. (which one is causing the other?)

Completely understand not wanting to take pills continually, meditation or exercise may help also.

I've had no training in speaking.

Yeah, throwing in international travel adds to it.  A huge part of it is because I'll be presenting during a time that is essentially in the middle of the night US time.  And I need to be focused/attentive and not groggy as some medications will make me, or else I won't appear put together.  Plus the changes in time zone exacerbates the sleep problem.  The first time I did this last month and went to Paris, I had my wallet/passport stolen and ended up having to stay behind in the country a few extra days after the presentations were over.  So lots to 'worry about'....

I think my therapist isn't the best for this; I'm going to look at switching.  Which won't happen before I leave because the trip is next week so I guess I just need to employ the meditation/exercise tactics for now...

galliver

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2015, 01:51:21 PM »
Not quite in your situation, but...

I'm a graduate student. When I'm nervous before a conference/presentation, getting some extra practice in can help me feel more confident about it. I used to be very nervous about public speaking in school, but actually started enjoying it in college. I think it came from realizing that I am knowledgeable about my topic and have something to share/contribute that is valuable. Also learning to dress/present myself better generally so I wasn't self conscious about that. Now my feelings about presenting vary a little bit; I'm far more comfortable with students or peers than at big conferences, but I'm getting better. And it all goes back to my sense of whether what I"m presenting is good. Can you do a mock presentation (or few) with an audience? Boss and/or coworkers would probably be best, but friends, family would also probably help, and even your cat or mirror reflection might be good. Sometimes it just really helps to get that external reinforcement, too. On a similar note, if you're worried about travel-related things, consider whether they are legitimate and how you can prepare. Get a money belt that fits under your clothes inconspiculously to avoid the theft issue. Make copies of important documents. Stash cash in various pockets/places. Print maps. Look up/write down important phone numbers.

In the short term, I think meditation would only free up my mind for more worry, so I turn to reading before bed when I'm really stressed/anxious. Hugs also help (like, I'm pretty sure it's been shown that pressure on your midsection reduces the anxiety response). You didn't say if you had a spouse/SO but if not maybe a close friend can come hang with you?

chemgeek

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2015, 02:27:42 PM »
I second what galliver said. PRACTICE! If you go through your presentation enough times, it will start to feel like a script. It's much easier to "recite" something out of memory than to be grasping to form thoughts on the fly. Practice it out loud, over and over. It's a pain and really boring to go through it so many times, but it is helpful, especially if you get interrupted with questions. Also, remember that even though you aren't the expert, you're not presenting at an inquisition. They are not going to run you out of the room with pitchforks if you misspeak.

For your insomnia/anxiety. I don't have the personality for mediation ( or yoga or anything similar) but conscious breathing I still find helpful. This helped me on many bad days in lab in grad school ( http://thepioneerwoman.com/homeandgarden/2011/08/stress-reduction-101/). Magnesium is purported to be a natural sleep aid if you don't want to jump onto a medication. I've used this in the past if I had several nights of crummy sleep in a row. (http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Vitality-Calm-Raspberry-Lemon/dp/B00BPUY3W0/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1422047806&sr=8-8&keywords=magnesium) There's also some science on how you can prepare to jump time zones and what you can do during the flight to help your body adjust. Food for thought. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/travel/a-battle-plan-for-jet-lag.html?pagewanted=all)

caliq

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #16 on: January 23, 2015, 02:29:22 PM »
Try melatonin an hour before you want to be asleep.  Some people get better effects by taking it several hours before sleep I think.  And a typical person can take Xanax/Ambien/etc for at least a week straight without becoming dependent -- just make sure you don't take it unless you really need it (ie. only use just prior to a presentation).  It's (hopefully) not a long term solution, but there's no shame in using it as a tool while you figure out more sustainable/healthy tactics to deal with your anxiety (ie. therapy and/or meditation).  I'm sure the lack of sleep is just snowballing the anxiety at this point :/  Also, exercise can be really helpful for sleep and psychological issues.  Do some reading on sleep hygiene and see if anything there sounds like it might help.  Also, if you do end up going to therapy, try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy -- it teaches techniques on how to change your thought processes, and has clear goals/"lessons," unlike stereotypical talk therapy. 

MsPeacock

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #17 on: January 23, 2015, 02:40:52 PM »
Check out Toastmasters to get help w/ public speaking. http://www.toastmasters.org/

The key to overcoming any phobia is exposure. - So, getting some help practicing public speaking (and useful feedback) might do wonders for the stress you have related to this.

Agree w/ the many other helpful suggestions by PP>

Indio

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #18 on: January 23, 2015, 04:22:13 PM »
I agree that practicing is a great idea. It might also help to fully write out the talk track for each slide and go over it so many times that you end up memorizing it. I limit myself to 3 key points per slide/presentation and keep going over them throughout the presentation. Another tip that I learned from the Talk Like Ted book, which I highly recommend reading, is to create a script with anecdotes that the audience can relate to. I have kids so I always start out with a story about something they did and link it to the content. Try video recording yourself while you practice so you can assess your performance until you are comfortable with it. It might also help if you can have peers review the content to give feedback. It might help you to feel more comfortable with the subject matter.
If you are talking to a room of experts, you can also turn the situation into one where you collect data from them by doing polling either electronically or a show of hands. Everyone loves knowing what everyone else thinks about something.  There are a lot of tricks for handling an audience. Since English isn't first language for many Europeans, make sure you speak slowly and dont use slang or US centric examples. They love it when you can localize the content.
I also present internationally so I try to time my flights to sleep on the way to Europe so when I arrive it's morning their time but I'm rested because I slept for 7 hours. Try getting a massage in the hotel beforehand or take a long bath.
Good luck!

rpr

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #19 on: January 23, 2015, 04:46:31 PM »
Check out Toastmasters to get help w/ public speaking. http://www.toastmasters.org/

The key to overcoming any phobia is exposure. - So, getting some help practicing public speaking (and useful feedback) might do wonders for the stress you have related to this.

Agree w/ the many other helpful suggestions by PP>

+1.

I too am terrified of speaking. I recently joined Toastmasters and found that it has really helped me. I only wish I had joined 10 years ago.



MrMoogle

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #20 on: January 23, 2015, 05:44:27 PM »
Meditation is great, but for me exercise helps the most.  It'll help you reduce stress, and tire you out, so sleep is easier.  Walking is good, you can think about whatever's going on.  More stenuous stuff is good too, less thinking, like sports and weight lifting (yes even for women).

I had a phone interview recently, and the closer I got to it, the more worried I got.  So I did some push ups, and not only was there less stress, I was actually pumped up for it.

You have to find what works for you, but this works for me :)

JoJo

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #21 on: January 23, 2015, 05:50:40 PM »
+1 more for Toastmasters

11ducks

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #22 on: January 23, 2015, 08:21:03 PM »
I second practicing. I was never a great speaker, but teaching and taking on a leadership position at work (where I presented\ ad-libbed weekly to 350 teenagers/adults) has made it a breeze. I don't love it but can do it without stress.

EconDiva

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #23 on: January 23, 2015, 08:30:21 PM »
If you are on birth control pills you can prevent your Visitor from arriving at an inopportune time by starting a new pack immediately after you finish up the active pills on the old one - so if you are on a 28-day pack that has the 7 day "neutral" pills at the end, you just start the new pack after day 21.  I often use this trick to avoid having the Visitor arrive at inconvenient times.  Saves on female products, too.

Melatonin works for some but if you want to use it you might want to experiment in advance -- I personally had a VERY negative reaction to it once (felt like I was on the verge of a psychotic break) and will never take it again.  My DH has been taking it for awhile and it seemed to help at first, but doesn't anymore.

You might also want to try 5HTP.  It can help with sleeping issues for some people (boosts serotonin).

On the public speaking thing, try being light/upfront about your jetlagged state at the beginning of the talk.  It might help put yourself at ease and most audiences will be very sympathetic.  And don't overprepare.  When I was still in academia I learned that having a full paper in front of me made me a HORRIBLE public speaker.  I would feel the pressure to read through it, and it was always too long, and so I was rushing, and it was just AWFUL.  One time I actually hadn't finished the paper before the conference, so I spoke about my ideas from a pretty barebones outline, and it went great and I got all kinds of compliments.  Who would have thought!  I performed better without a paper than with one.  After that, I just used the outline strategy, even if I had written the paper already.  People always commented after on how natural and easy to engage with my presentations were after that.  Of course all of this was back in the dark ages before everyone was using powerpoint, prezi, etc.  But the same principle applies -- keep your presentation simple, focus on the core issues, and leave LOTS of time for discussion.  The most interesting parts of most presentations are actually the discussions, anyway.

I've tried skipping the placebo pills before but since I did this just 3 months ago I didn't want to do it again too soon. 

I have a total of about 200 slides and they've given me less time this time around to speak but want me to go a little slower so I'm already kindof at a disadvantage in that I'm jamming more material into less overall time. 

I am totally like you in that 'less is more'...the more I've prepared in the past, the worst I've done.  I usually excel when I practice 2-3 times and make concise talking points for only some of the slides.  I won't be able to memorize all of the material; it's too much and too complex.  Because of the audience I err on the side of being serious rather than light.....which can be dull...but I'm speaking to surgeons and they take themselves pretty seriously so...

tyd450

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #24 on: January 23, 2015, 08:43:12 PM »
Well to be blunt it sounds like you need a new job!  Weren't you thinking about interviewing for a new job pretty recently or was that someone else? 

Juslookin

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #25 on: January 24, 2015, 08:58:23 AM »
I am also going to be very blunt. It sounds to me like in your own mind you have already failed.  You are wasting life's energy worrying about what could happen instead of simply dealing with something as it happens.

Three years ago I landed a new gig. I work at home most of the time but travel for presentations as well.  My new gig gave me a promotion and a rise on the corporate totem pole but I am also presenting to those higher than me. But I am the expert now. I am because my company says so, so I say so. :)

I agree with a ton of other posters about all of their good ideas for meditation, exercise etc however the person who can fix this is you. You need to decide right now that the information you are presenting is worthwhile and they need what you have. Prepare ahead but don't over prepare. Wear a confidence inspiring outfit, ooze confidence when you meet and greet, shake hands, smile, look people directly in the eye and silently dare them to question your authority. 

I know some of this sounds aggressive but others don't see that. They simply see a strong, confident individual who is worth their time. Own what you do and you will be respected for it.

This confidence and respect will go a very long way in solving your anxiety and insomnia, I guarantee it.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2015, 08:59:57 AM by Juslookin »

Tyler

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #26 on: January 24, 2015, 10:59:00 AM »
I always hated public speaking, but was thrust into it with my job. I also had a lot of international travel as well.

My best advice is to basically do the opposite of what you seem to be doing now. Don't over-think it. Your employer pays you to do the public speaking because they believe you are good at it.  I suspect they're absolutely right. So rather than stressing constantly about the presentation material ahead of time, simply whittle down to the most important slides, study just enough to make sure you understand the topic, and then try winging the next talk. Seriously - don't think about it ahead of time. Just stroll up there and start talking.

In my experience your talk will be received even better this way, as you will be relaxed and it will not feel scripted. I learned over time that I'm a better speaker than my previously anxious self believed, and I didn't need to stress about it. With a new perspective, I now consider it a strength.

The worst case is that you fail miserably. But you did so with an amount of preparation appropriate and sustainable for you. Stick to your guns. If this is unacceptable for your employer, they'll stop asking you to present. Honestly this would be a constructive outcome as well. Either way, you will break the cycle that is harming your health.

That said, I suspect there's more to this than just the public speaking side. The travel and other issues seem to really be getting to you. I understand completely. Just be honest with yourself about what is contributing to your anxiety, and work on eliminating each issue one at a time.



« Last Edit: January 24, 2015, 11:05:59 AM by Tyler »

2ndTimer

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #27 on: January 24, 2015, 11:32:03 AM »
I listen to history books on my mp3 player while I'm going to sleep.  Turn the volume way down so I have to concentrate to hear.  Having to concentrate is crucial as that is what blocks out other thoughts.  Fortunately, my library has a large selection of audio books.

heugeneo

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #28 on: January 24, 2015, 07:38:17 PM »
Do you have Netflix??

If so, search for the "Ted talks" show. I have no idea what it is other than the ones I watched on there, but the first episode has to do with public speaking and body language. It gave some easy exercises or tricks you can do to help. I think it had some simple solutions and is something you could start doing immediately to help.

lifejoy

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #29 on: January 24, 2015, 09:57:30 PM »
I've been in your situation. Hugs and well wishes to you! I go to books when I have problems, these ones gave me some help:

"Quiet" by Susan Cain, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Carnegie, "Slideology" by I forget...

My action plan was exercise + healthy foods, yoga/meditation, practicing my presentation in front of real people (friends or family), making really great slides (if people zone out and my slides are pretty... Then great!). If people can look at a picture, they're not looking at you. That may help.

If you're making slides, definitely check out "You Suck at Powerpoint".

You'll get through this. And in life, it's important to find out what you don't want to do. And it can be very motivating.

lifejoy

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #30 on: January 24, 2015, 09:57:55 PM »

Do you have Netflix??

If so, search for the "Ted talks" show. I have no idea what it is other than the ones I watched on there, but the first episode has to do with public speaking and body language. It gave some easy exercises or tricks you can do to help. I think it had some simple solutions and is something you could start doing immediately to help.

Amy Cuddy with power postures? She's awesome!

ClaycordJCA

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #31 on: January 24, 2015, 11:26:48 PM »
Walking and meditation aka mindfulness. Focus only on my breathing when going to sleep and if I wake up in the middle of the night. UCLA has some neat online meditations to get you started.

meyla

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #32 on: January 25, 2015, 08:57:52 AM »
Sorry, I don't have any advice, but I wanted to tell you that you're not alone. I am 26 and have somehow found myself in a position where I'm traveling 25-50% of the time and presenting to new clients. I am a software engineer, not a public speaker, and I never wanted to be in this position. However, last year my boss quit and I was offered a 30% raise to take on a lot of her responsibilities.

I hate traveling. I just got back yesterday from a week of user training in Costa Rica. 4 straight days of all-day talking through an interpreter. I threw up Monday night due to nerves. I was ready and I knew what I was going to talk about but I still feel so much anxiety every single day. When I go back to the hotel afterwards, I sit in silence in the dark to try to recover. It's hard to fall asleep, and I often have nightmares about the next day's presentation. This week, I got up a little early and did yoga before leaving the hotel. I had never done yoga before, but I think it helped a little. That might be something worth attempting. I just searched for beginner yoga on Youtube.

So we are somewhat kindred spirits! Other people are nervous also - not just you.

olivia

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #33 on: January 25, 2015, 09:05:47 AM »
I would recommend taking an SSRI for anxiety while you look for a new job.  It will lower your overall level of anxiety so you won't feel the need to pop a Xanax multiple times a day.  SSRIs take a couple of weeks to kick in and you may need to increase the dose for the anxiety to decrease, so I would talk to your doctor ASAP.

Astatine

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #34 on: January 25, 2015, 03:11:36 PM »
If you are on birth control pills you can prevent your Visitor from arriving at an inopportune time by starting a new pack immediately after you finish up the active pills on the old one - so if you are on a 28-day pack that has the 7 day "neutral" pills at the end, you just start the new pack after day 21.  I often use this trick to avoid having the Visitor arrive at inconvenient times.  Saves on female products, too.

Melatonin works for some but if you want to use it you might want to experiment in advance -- I personally had a VERY negative reaction to it once (felt like I was on the verge of a psychotic break) and will never take it again.  My DH has been taking it for awhile and it seemed to help at first, but doesn't anymore.

You might also want to try 5HTP.  It can help with sleeping issues for some people (boosts serotonin).

On the public speaking thing, try being light/upfront about your jetlagged state at the beginning of the talk.  It might help put yourself at ease and most audiences will be very sympathetic.  And don't overprepare.  When I was still in academia I learned that having a full paper in front of me made me a HORRIBLE public speaker.  I would feel the pressure to read through it, and it was always too long, and so I was rushing, and it was just AWFUL.  One time I actually hadn't finished the paper before the conference, so I spoke about my ideas from a pretty barebones outline, and it went great and I got all kinds of compliments.  Who would have thought!  I performed better without a paper than with one.  After that, I just used the outline strategy, even if I had written the paper already.  People always commented after on how natural and easy to engage with my presentations were after that.  Of course all of this was back in the dark ages before everyone was using powerpoint, prezi, etc.  But the same principle applies -- keep your presentation simple, focus on the core issues, and leave LOTS of time for discussion.  The most interesting parts of most presentations are actually the discussions, anyway.

I've tried skipping the placebo pills before but since I did this just 3 months ago I didn't want to do it again too soon. 

I have a total of about 200 slides and they've given me less time this time around to speak but want me to go a little slower so I'm already kindof at a disadvantage in that I'm jamming more material into less overall time. 

I am totally like you in that 'less is more'...the more I've prepared in the past, the worst I've done.  I usually excel when I practice 2-3 times and make concise talking points for only some of the slides.  I won't be able to memorize all of the material; it's too much and too complex.  Because of the audience I err on the side of being serious rather than light.....which can be dull...but I'm speaking to surgeons and they take themselves pretty seriously so...

With the Pill, I never do the 21/7 cycle. It's not natural for me (natural cycle is every 2-3 months) and I generally have no problems doing most cycles 5 weeks of active pills, 1 week off. Sometimes I can stretch it to 8 weeks, 1 week off (I judge by breakthrough bleeding). I hate that time of the month, so reducing how often is great for my quality of life. If you're worried about doing it too often, ask your GP next time you go.

Presenting:

I LOVE presenting, it's my favourite thing to do at work and I volunteer to present/run training sessions whenever I am able to. Before you think I'm just a freak of nature, in 2007 I was SO anxious about presenting and tried to avoid it whenever I could. Even informal presentations to small teams for 5 minutes on stuff I knew backwards freaked the crap out of me and I hated it, and avoided it where possible. So there is hope for you. But it does take time (a year or two) to gradually get over the anxiety, and I had kind and gentle coaching along the way from some of the more experienced people I worked with.

By the way, I'm always nervous the day before and I go through the "oh no, I can't do this, I'll make a fool of myself, what was I thinking to volunteer for this", even though I actually love doing the presentation.

The best thing ever that helped me was an annual conference that I used to present at every year (for a previous job). Most of the people there were senior engineers or managers and much older than me. I was much younger, one of only a handful of females (I was in a very male-dominated sector) and always felt slightly inadequate about feeling nervous each time. Then one year (I don't know why!), all the guys who got up to speak did this kind of confessional that they always (ALWAYS) get nervous before presenting. I think when the convenor confessed to this at the beginning  (and he's a highly respected engineer, who MAKES HIS LIVING from presenting and running training sessions) of that conference, it suddenly made it ok for everyone to also say it. And now I feel so much better about my pre-presenting jitters. It's normal to have a moderate amount of anxiety about doing a presentation.

Concrete tips (I've spent a LOT of time thinking about how to give good presentations):

1) The general rule of thumb is 1 slide per minute (not including the time set aside for questions). So a 30 minute presentation with 5 minutes for questions should have 30 slides, including the intro/title slide and any acknowledgements at the end.

If you cannot get through all of the information that you need to, you can tell people something like "if you want more info, please seek me out in the breaks/lunch with any questions you might have - I'm happy to go into more detail on x, y, and z". Or if you have brochures or a research paper, bring copies with you to the conference and say something like "I have copies of the research paper/my company's brochures/catalogue with me if you want more info".

2) Slides shouldn't have too much text. If you have graphs or pictures, those are the best types of slides. Or a series of dot points, with a relevant picture (eg of the equipment that you're selling or something vaguely related).

3) The aim of presentations is to transmit the most important points into people's heads, not every piece of information you know on the topic. I figure if people remember 3-5 key pieces of information from my talk, I'm doing well. (and if they're interested in knowing more, they seek me out in the breaks)

4) I'm an introvert so I practise practise practise before a presentation. (my extravert colleague, on the other hand, loves to wing it. I really don't.) My DH can probably tell you how to use all of the obscure software that I've run training sessions on ;). I probably practise out loud maybe 10 or 12 times before presenting. The first couple of run-throughs are usually shit and I stumble over my words. Is there someone you can practise to? Even presenting to your pet dog or cat helps.

5) Slow deep breathing helps the anxiety. So does positive self-talk. "Even though I'm so nervous, my employer has confidence in me. I'll be fine on the day. It's normal to feel nervous. Everyone feels nervous before talking. I know my stuff better than anyone there" etc etc

Good luck! I have confidence in you. You will be fine :)
« Last Edit: January 25, 2015, 03:16:50 PM by Astatine »

Letj

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #35 on: January 25, 2015, 04:22:12 PM »
The single thing that most improved my sleeping (I think) is meditation.  In my experience, I started to see benefits after a few months of doing it every day for 15 minutes or so.  It also helped with anxiety in general.

Other things that help (many of which you're probably already doing) are not having screentime too close to bedtime, keeping electronics out of the bedroom, avoiding caffeine/alcohol/sugar and getting enough exercise.  I used to be a terrible sleeper, but as I've made these changes, it has gotten MUCH better.  Upcoming travel can still be an issue for me.  I always used to take Tylenol PM for a couple of days leading up to a trip, and sometimes I still do, but often I find I'm able to relax using techniques I've learned in meditation.

Good luck!


Thanks...it's actually not the travel that's the problem (well, it's part of it).  But the major stressor is having to present.  I hate presenting.  I didn't realize my job would have so much public speaking.  And in front of like 50 doctors at that this time...my heart is literally racing right now and the trip is a week away.

I will definitely look into meditating.  I posted on another board but I'm a regular poster here so I was interested to see what Mustachians would recommend.  Anywho, I started having chest pain today which I've only experienced one other time in my life (last month right before giving presentations out of the country again).  I think it's social anxiety issue...but it's wrecking major havoc on my body right now.

Some people have an anxious nature; I am one of those and have had anxiety about presentations sometimes weeks in advance of the presentation depending on who the audience is.  What you have is a case of anxiety; I would guess you also get anxiety at times completely unrelated to the presentation.  I found that holding still and deep breathing helps right before the presentation.  DHA can be very helpful for some people in treating anxiety; it might be worth a try. I've also read somewhere that taking Visatril  helps; it is used off label to treat anxiety so it might calm you down so you can fall asleep.  This medication has been around forever; it is an antihistamine so I imagine it's not addictive.

frugal rph

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #36 on: January 26, 2015, 10:56:35 AM »
I also have suffered from anxiety in the past and found that Buspar works very well (I'm also a pharmacist).  It is not habit forming, but does take a couple of weeks to build up in your system.  I did not want to take anything like Xanax or prescription sleep aids.  In regards to your birth control pills, there are many women who only take the placebo tablets (the last 7 days) once every 3 months, so you will be fine skipping them again if that will help you.

oldtoyota

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #37 on: January 26, 2015, 11:49:49 AM »
The editor of The Atlantic takes a cocktails of drugs/alcohol before he speaks. I would not recommend that, but the book he wrote about anxiety has some interesting parts.

A few ideas:

1. See if half a xanax would work.
2. Get a new job.
3. Find out if you can reduce the public speaking or work your way into a job without it.

I am so sorry you are going through this. Hugs.


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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #38 on: January 26, 2015, 06:36:03 PM »
Beta blockers can be helpful for the physical symptoms of performance anxiety (I know some musicians who take it) without the same side effects as xanax or other benzodiazepines. You might want to look into it.

Bob W

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Re: Tips for work related stress (not sleeping)
« Reply #39 on: January 28, 2015, 01:45:32 PM »
I saw a great TED Talk on stress.  (google it on youtube)

The lady was a psychologist who spent years telling people that stress was bad and deadly.

Additional research was done and the conclusion was drawn that stress was only bad and deadly for those that believe it to be so.  Those that did not believe it to be bad actually did as well or faired better than nonstressed folks.

Her conclusion was that "believing" that stress was bad was the 20th top cause of death with some 200K people dying from their beliefs each year.

It is a very interesting and highly thought provoking TED Talk

www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend