Coping with Stress: Advice on Handling Today's Greatest Stressors
We all have stressors. They give us headaches, stomach aches, anxiety, and sometimes they make us kick our non-deserving dog. If only the world-at-large treated us with tail wags and a wet nose, perhaps the medical bills would go away and we could actually find time to stop and smell a few roses. Instead, we have a growing list of technological nuances, tactical nuisances, and troublesome neo-neanderthals to enjoy!
Stress Enemy No. 1: The 40-Hour Work Week
Who's brainchild was this, you wonder? Contrary to popular misconception, the idea wasn't American, although it was born of capitalism. The 40 hour work week has British origins. In fact, the industrial revolutionizers of the 1800's recommended 10 hour days or more until labour unions fought back.
So if America sought to escape the tax impositions of Britain, why not this one as well. We did, and, the average work week slowly declined since before the Civil War until the 1900s. Many would be disheartened to learn that the average work week was rounding down toward 35 hours when World War II changed the American home front. Many women entered the work-force for the first time and then worked long hours to meet supply demands for America's soldiers. A nobler cause there is not, but now we're stuck with it. During one of Franklin Roosevelt's terms as president, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 "officialized" the 40 hour work week. An optimistic Richard Nixon advocated a 4 day work week where families could become a greater priority but his advisors quickly "nixed" the idea!
How to Weaken the 40-Hour Work Week Blues -
There are a number of employers who are fighting back by cutting back their average work week. A number of law offices offer 37.5 hour work weeks. Increasingly, doctor's and dentist's offices are closing at noon on Fridays or altogether. Employers are offering flexible work plans which enable a 40 hour week to be worked in four 10 hour shifts or some other variation. Government offices are closing during regular hours to allow "catch-up" time, and some are forced to reduce hours due to cutbacks associated with the economy.
If you have any tenure and can accomplish your job in less than 40 hours, ask for a reduced work week. Cut back to 30 hours so that you can maintain your benefits. At a minimum, ask for a flexible work week which enables you to get your 40 hours in without the rigidity of an 8 to 5 schedule.
Stress Enemy No. 2: Traffic
Suffice it to say that with work - comes travel. And with travel comes traffic. And with urban sprawl, comes even more travel, and more traffic.
The latest census data shows a mean average commute time of 25 minutes one-way. That essentially adds an hour to an already long day by the time you drop the kids off for school, ensure the car has gasoline; then double back for the eyeglasses or brief case you forgot to remember ...
Travel and traffic are major creators of S-T-R-E-S-S in and of themselves, especially for working parents. Enemy No. 1, the 40 hour work week, complicates the commute by putting everyone on the highways and bi-ways and storming the grocery for supper items at one time.
How to Turn Travel/Traffic Anxiety into Useful Time-
If a commute is inevitable, learn to use the time wisely. Obtain books or music and let your favorite novel or artist detoxify your day. Choose news channels that educate and broaden your knowledge base - you'll find yourself craving it! Develop an ear for bluetooth and use commute time to keep in touch with friends and family. If nothing else, leave them messages explaining your commuting and explain what else is going on in your life. It's not uncommon to communicate via voice messages these days. Use this time to create to-do lists. As I think of something that needs done, etc., I sometimes call my office and leave myself a message so that I can later add it to the master list. This prevents me from text messaging while driving. If the kids are in the car, turn this into family time. Catch up on events in their lives, police progress in class, or poll them about their latest relationships.
Stress Enemy No. 3 - Phone Menu Systems
It was tempting to place this lack of humanity at the top of the list. On the average, it takes five minutes to actually get a human being on the phone these days. Granted, now sometimes we just want to pay our bills by phone rather than deal with long-winded customer service reps and the surveys that follow. But there are those times when you need an actual human being. Waiting to hear option 7 is a large pain in the derriere' because you have to listen to options 1 through 6 just to find out pressing "7" actually gets you through to a human being, who with any luck at all, doesn't pose a language barrier.
Most enterprises now rely on menu driven customer service and have outsmarted the historical use of "0" for the operator. How clever of them? Saving them money is not saving your time or sanity.
It would be a guess, but on the average, I think most American's place at least 10-12 of these types of calls per week. Ever heard of Road Rage? I get "Phone Rage." Especially when the menu system doesn't give me an option for what I need. What then? Start the whole mess over and hope for good. In a recent call to AT&T Customer Service offices in Dallas, I dialed a direct number, spent approximately 4 minutes listening to the entire menu system before I was told to press a number for complaints. When I pressed this number, I was cut off. How convenient? Rinse-Repeat!
How to Cure Phone Rage -
Call someone who cares. There is no cure. At best, you can take notes about the menu systems and when you make the same call the second time, you can skip options 1 through 6 and go straight to 7th heaven.
Stress Enemy No. 4 - Healthcare
Have you heard the old adage, "don't get me started." The healthcare system in America is failing us barring a bonafide medical emergency, and sometimes even then. Specialists abound and internists are seemingly incapable of practicing functional medicine, that is, whole body medicine. Symptoms A and B are treated at one clinic, then you are sent to another clinic for diagnostic work. Symptom C and D are referred out for consult. All the while the prescriptions you take are designed to eliminate the symptoms, not CURE the root cause which is rarely determined.
Then the dollars don't make sense. Let's say your co-pay is $50, assuming you are lucky enough to be able to afford insurance that good. Your internist refers you to another specialist, who then has you consult with yet another specialist who has a 4 month waiting list. You just dropped $150 without blinking and MAY have gotten to the bottom of what's ailing you or you may still be waiting.
Similarly, let's say you have to make an emergency room visit. You pay your $200 co-pay, have your MRI or CT scan which was perfectly normal, get patted on the back and sent home with a prescription for pain medication and a set of instructions of some sort. Two weeks later you get an $800 bill from the emergency room physician who was "contracted" by the hospital.
Had enough? Think of the pharmaceutical industry complex. You pay $100 out-of-pocket for a non-generic prescription for reflux when the truth is, the now over-the-counter (tried and tested) drug Tagament would have worked better and saved you both the osteoporosis and C-diff caused by the non-generic proton pump inhibitor drug (R&D ongoing) to begin with.
How to Break Free from Healthcare Hostility -
First, find a good diagnostician. The best ones are disguised as your family practitioner. They see lots of patients with a myriad of conditions each day and are more adept at helping pinpoint a condition that even specialists miss. Functional or whollistic medicine physicians are on the rise around the nation and are trained to look at every part of you and your medical history when trying to diagnose a condition. They tend to use tried and tested treatment plans. This saves you money, time, and the peril of dealing with your illness long term.
Second, subscribe to health newsletters or periodicals which pertain to your health problems. Doctors aren't all-knowing despite common belief. I recently visited an endocrinologist who hadn't even read about a breakthrough drug published in her own medical journal several months before.
Third, outline the health advantages or disadvantages of foods that affect your condition(s). Look for alternatives to conventional medicine which has serious side effects. If your condition isn't life threatening, the internet is a vast source of reliable information. Try what seems prudent without a risk such as eliminating certain foods or increasing certain vitamins but do your homework. Then consult with your doctor.
Four, try to isolate and solve the cause rather than treat your symptoms. Your doctor won't. Most all medical conditions have an underlying cause that once removed has the potential to reverse your symptoms or cure you altogether.
Stress Enemy No. 5 - Creditors
Three words - LEAVE ME ALONE. Or, I CAN'T PAY. Or, WAIT TIL' PAYDAY. Do creditors really need to call me ten times a week to confirm the same words I uttered last week. They all spell G-E-T I-N L-I-N-E. Sure, verify my name and address, but unless you will accept $10 a month there is little I can do to pay this debt right now.
How to Handle Creditors -
Most creditors will negotiate a reduction on your balance IF you agree to pay a lump sum. Negotiate your highest bills first, then work your way down to the smallest bills. Pay them off with your credit card if you have to, but then be diligent in paying down the credit card.
I have had creditors reduce balances by as much as 50% using this technique. Of course, you have to be able to pay the lump sum which isn't always possible. It never hurts to ask even if they refuse, but it shows a willingness to pay and creditors will no longer hound you and you will have reduced a bill substantially. Bear in mind, a failure to pay a reduction on time, likely means a forfeiture of that reduction.
There is no magic pill like this for mortgage debt. The farther you fall behind or rents or mortgage debt, the greater the chance that you'll be visiting friends and family - for weeks. Make your mortgage or rent a first priority. Keeping your utilities cut on comes second. Everything else can wait. Despite the common threats of collectors, the things that most affect your credit are rents and utilities.