“Urgency addiction” plagues workers

Set aside time for mini-retreat: career coaches

Derek Sankey, For the Calgary Herald

Published: Saturday, October 25, 2008

If employees weren’t already stressed out enough, the current economic uncertainty is only making it worse.

But two career coaches say they’ve found a way to combat ‘urgency addiction’ — the feeling of being overwhelmed by a mountainous, urgent workload — and it doesn’t have to involve a long, expensive vacation.

“Because of the economic downturn and cutbacks, people have to do more work with less,” says Alan Caplan, co-founder of Inner Odyssey Retreats with his wife, Sharon Bronstein.

Alan Caplan and Sharon Bronstein, founders of Inner Odyssey Retreats, say workers should take time out of their busy day to rest and relax, eliminating the inherent stress of an all-work-and-no-play mindset.

“A lot of people will actually pass up on their vacation time because the stress when they come back is just not worth it.”

While the couple is in the business of providing executive retreats of up to five days from their base in Salt Spring Island, they recently pitched a much simpler — and less costly — alternative to longer retreats at a health, work and wellness conference last week.

“If they have mini-odysseys at the office and come back feeling recharged and more centred in their work, they’re going to want to have more of them,” explains Caplan.

Anybody can tap into the power of these “mini-retreats” at the office, he says. It’s just a matter of doing a few simple things in your day to help you step back from the chaos and to reduce stress levels.

“I think there is a tremendous need for this in the world, especially with the economic downturn and the instability of the economy,” says Bronstein.

To take a mini-retreat at work, you first have to set aside a certain amount of time — it could be 15 minutes or 45 minutes — and develop a routine. That could include taking off your watch or shoes, shutting off the computer, closing the office door and dimming the lights. Make it intentional.

Then you have to learn to tap into that sense of “timelessness” by mentally removing yourself from the workplace. It could be anything that makes you feel relaxed. Caplan, for example, would stare at a picture of one of his favourite locations near Banff when he was a college instructor.

Use any or all of your senses to enhance the relaxation experience and focus on yourself. “The self-inquiry process can take them deep into understanding themselves and re-connecting with themselves in a very deep way that they can then bring back into their lives,” Bronstein says.

The physical and financial costs to being stressed out are well known and documented, yet people don’t seem to take action to break their “urgency addictions,” she says.

Stress can also be very deceptive, since it builds over time and rarely do people notice it gradually building. “It’s like a house of cards. All of a sudden a small wind comes along and it blows the whole thing down,” says Bronstein.

By starting Inner Odyssey Retreats, the couple is trying to smash the notion that “all work and no play makes a valued employee,” as one cartoon aptly noted.

Many managers even thrive on the sense of urgency to everything, getting an adrenaline rush from feeling as though they’re constantly fighting some “crisis,” which is usually fiction more than reality.

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