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Stressed? Time to Evaluate Priorities!

February 22nd, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and…(as if that is not enough) the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declared stress a workplace hazard. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually!

We all know that a little stress is OK. It keeps our fight-or-flight juices working, and often helps us get the job done. How many times have you heard someone say, “I do my best work under stress.”

However, too much stress can contribute to a laundry list of health issues, including headaches, nausea, high blood pressure, chest pain, and insomnia. Not to mention how being over-stressed (and no doubt cranky!) can impair relationships, decrease productivity, and increase the risk of accidents. Having too much stress, or as we call it at Lumina Learning, being “overextended,” can even turn your positive qualities into negative ones. For example, someone who is detail-focused and analytical may exhibit “analysis paralysis” when overextended. Someone who is typically creative and social, may become impulsive and overly emotional under extreme stress. And the “people person” who brings harmony to every meeting may suddenly become stubborn and resistant. When Mr. Nice Guy turns into Attila the Hun, it’s time to get a handle on stress.

That being said, the next question is, “so how do I do it?” Start by allocating some time to sit down and review your day, your week, your life. Where and when do you notice your body crying “uncle” via a headache, mood swing, or other physical signal? Can you identify particular responsibilities, activities, people that are stress triggers for you? Is it the unexpected that gets to you, the volume of work, the work itself, or the fact that you never seem to get a break? Write your personal/professional stressors down and then select and prioritize three that you will work on to mitigate. Do you need to have a “difficult conversation” with someone to work through a stressful relationship? Do you need to request more resources to meet a looming deadline you are worried about? Ask for what you need.

And to ease your stress in general, give yourself a break, and do these 5 things:

1. Set boundaries. Establish a time after which you don’t take work phone calls or respond to work emails, texts, smoke signals, whatever. Manage expectations about your “work hours.”
2. Be willing to say “no.” When asked to do something with a clearly unreasonable deadline, or without appropriate resources, explain the impact it will have on your current work. Offer alternative dates or suggest alternative resources.
3. Stop and pause. Do a personal check-in. Adjust priorities, if necessary. Take a break.
4. Breathe. Deeply and often. Consider meditation. Take a walk in the park or along the beach.
5. Laugh. I can’t recommend this enough. Find something to laugh about every day. It’s good medicine.

Laugh when you can, apologize when you should, and let go of what you can’t change…Life’s too short to be anything but happy.” – Unknown

Till next time,


Behavioral assessments, Health, People, Stress

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Want to Get More Done? Lighten Up and Laugh a Little!

February 12th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

Laughter-2Or better yet, A LOT!

Let’s face it. Work environments are pretty stressful these days. The constant push to get more done (often with fewer resources and less time) can take a toll on your mood, your health, and your relationships. But here’s the thing. Adding a little levity to your day will not only help you get more done, it will improve your mood, your health and your relationships!

How great is that?

In a recent Fast Company article, “The Surprising Ways Humor Can Improve Your Culture,” author Harvey Deutschendorf outlined five reasons why putting some humor into your work culture “can have you laughing all the way to the bank.”

1. It lowers stress and improves motivation
2. It builds stronger relationships
3. It helps you show appreciation
4. It improves your health
5. It makes for smoother transitions

If you know me, or have been following my blogs, then you know that I’m a major advocate for infusing some fun and laughter into the workplace. In fact, I wrote about the benefits of laughter early last year. In addition to the benefits Deutschendorf describes above, research shows that laughter contributes to increased creativity, improved problem solving, and enhanced memory.

I’ve seen how this works firsthand. Back in my hi-tech corporate days, I was asked to create a strategy that would improve communication and integrate the cultures of a number of newly acquired teams located on multiple campuses. The teams included senior managers, individual performers and all levels in between. The challenge was that they were not, and were not going to be, under one roof. And there was a fair amount of cultural resistance in becoming part of the new organization. I definitely had my work cut out for me!

I put together a team, booked a conference room for several weekly meetings, and armed myself with colored markers and blank flip chart paper. And then the fun began. A few ideas. Laughter. More laughter, more ideas. At one point we were laughing so hard that someone asked us to “pipe down.” OK, so disturbing others is probably not such a good idea, nevertheless, we made it fun and got it done! The outcome was the “People Road Show” - a traveling troupe of presenters who communicated the new culture, learning and volunteer opportunities, benefits and other people-related messages in a very creative and positive way. We had music, a tag line, a logo, and plenty of opportunities for the audience to ask questions and share concerns. Each “Road Show” concluded with a company-sponsored barbecue where employees from different campuses could get to know one another and feel part of the bigger picture.

The fun we had in the development process became an integral part of the product, and helped create one cohesive team out of many.

“A wonderful thing about true laughter is that it just destroys any kind of system of dividing people.” – John Cleese

Keep laughing!

Till next time,


company culture, Health, Teams