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Reduce Stress Through Daily Reflection

By Phyllis Weiss Haserot, President, Practice Development Counsel

This post originally appeared at Practice Development Counsel.

Reflection is something I do a lot of – I have for many years quite regularly in my daily or weekly goings on. At certain holiday times and other milestones every year, I reflect on my year and perspectives at that snapshot in time: my thoughts, what’s important at the time, my relation to people in my life, my work – purpose, where I want it to go and how I contribute in the larger scheme of things.

A few months ago I came upon a small article in the Wall Street Journal reporting on studies indicating that reflecting on the positive at the end of each day significantly reduces stress for workers. Well, that’s another persuasive reason for regular reflection. Stress reduction – what a gift!

Generational Definitions

Generations are defined by similar formative influences – social, cultural, political, and economic – that exist while individuals of particular birth cohorts are in their adolescent to early adult years. Given that premise, the approximate birth years for each of the four generations currently in the workplace are:

  • Traditionalists: Born between1925 and 1942
  • Baby Boomers: Born between 1943 and 1962
  • Generation X: Born between 1963 and 1978
  • Generation Y/Millennials: Born between 1979 and 1998

As far as I can tell, the time people of all ages spend on reflection has decreased and stress has increased. At least a loose connection would not be surprising. Our lives have undoubtedly become more stressful, and the popularity of yoga and meditation has not made a big dent in it overall. We are besieged by:

  • More work with less time to do it
  • Too many choices
  • Economic challenges
  • The seeming need to be connected – always on
  • Complex relationships that don’t get adequate attention
  • Rapid change
  • Technology breakdowns and glitches (my personal big stress button, second to health issues)

All of these stressors add up.

People have little time to reflect. The younger generations (to generalize) never seem to have developed the reflection habit. What they’re missing are the benefits of processing in their minds and bodies the implications of what has occurred and, as much as is in their control, to devise solutions and action plans.

Reflecting on positive achievements, even small ones every day, leads to good feelings. The reflection/stress study coauthor Theresa Glomb of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management said, “The real impact comes from writing down why those things – the good things that happened – led to good feelings.” That sounds like a positive accomplishment in itself – a stress-busting habit we need to train high school and college students to adopt.

To add one more piece of ammunition, when asked what career advice he would give to a class of graduating students, Daniel Lubetsky, chief executive of KIND Healthy Snacks, related this in an interview with Adam Bryant for his “Corner OfficeNew York Times column: “Make sure that you talk to yourself, that you think hard about what is important to you and gives you meaning. When I was nineteen and walking between classes, I didn’t have a phone, so my brain would take me in all different directions. . . . But nowadays, we’re on our iPhones all the time, and you don’t have time to talk with yourself, to analyze. . . . It’s very important for people to know what gives them meaning. But it’s hard for people to figure out if you are not connecting with yourself and taking the time to just be introspective and daydream.”

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January 8, 2016

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