Commentary

June 14, 2013

Changing times add extra stress

Capt. JENNIFER PREYER
56th Medical Support Squadron

We can all agree that 2013 has been a challenging year. Budget uncertainty, looming sequestration and potential furloughs have forced change to normal operations. Interrupting the way we do business requires us to operate in an environment of uncertainty.

This uncertainty only compounds normal stress brought on by change. These changes affect our lives, increasing or decreasing working hours and removing temporary duty assignments or training opportunities typically afforded us. Having a toolbox to deal with change and the stress that comes with living is important.

Key points I’ve learned in my career and keep in my toolbox include:

Adjust your mindset and view the change as an opportunity versus a problem. A positive outlook enables you to cope better with stress. I have to admit, in some instances, this is easier said than done with obligations and responsibilities to meet. But in every situation there is a positive, a silver lining, no matter how small it may be. In my position, challenges with a new contract are causing an immense disruption to normal operations for my team. The silver lining here is that even though every day is full of challenges, they rise to meet them. I witness them doing everything in their power to help our customers, and I am motivated to work harder. This time has become an opportunity to step up and shine. So, like me, you may need to reframe the situation to see the silver lining.

Think realistically about the change. Ask yourself what can I control? What can I influence? Focusing energies in those directions versus areas that you cannot affect is a smart approach. It does no good to spend hours fretting over things you cannot control. With our new contract there is little control at our level, so our team has identified ways to make things work for our customers. While we can’t fix everything, we have done everything we can to positively impact what we can control. Take inventory of your situation. Identify what you can do, and do it.

Find your center. Your center is what guides you, builds your character and brings you back to a place of peace. Being able to access this center helps in everything we do: leading, following, making difficult decisions. A center is unique to each individual. A friend of mine looks to our Air Force core values of integrity, service and excellence. Another meditates. Yours may be religious or spiritual beliefs or quality time spent with your spouse, kids or hobbies. Identify what your center is; what brings you back to reality; back to what really matters.

Use your social network. Friends, peers and family play an important role in helping manage stress levels. Talking about the changes, chatting about the latest movie, visiting church or your book club can reduce stress and build relationships. Talk with coworkers who are going through the same change.
Having a laugh about the situation often helps. I enjoy talking things through with my friends. Their perspective is different and opens my eyes.

Understanding that change is not going away should motivate you to action. Build your toolbox to deal with the changes life brings. You’ll be happier for it.




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