Fast Food and Workplace Stress

Hearing your national debate about the growth of fast food outlets in UAE, I can once again tell you that we’ve been through it all in the UK.

Poor diet can be a major factor in the symptoms of stress and depression and I have to admit that it is the one I have had the most trouble resolving with my stress counselling clients.

When it comes to sensible sleeping habits, my advice is usually heeded. And I have had plenty of success in encouraging clients to take regular exercise. But trying to instil good eating habits in people, is the most frustrating of all and the increase in fast food consumption could a key factor.

I once worked closely with the HR department on stress counselling issues with a prestigious aircraft design group who were having to relocate, and I accompanied the directors when they visited their choice of two new office buildings. One of them had no exercise facilities, but the other was equipped with an award-winning executive gym.

I noted with satisfaction that the new office accommodation also had a good staff canteen, with a dietician who took the trouble to organise healthy, low-cost menus. Yet the employees just seemed to prefer drifting off to the takeaways.

The explanation for this is not easy to ascertain, but is probably to do with the instant taste gratification of fats and sugar.

Time Management

It reminded me of watching London school-children hanging around outside takeaway outlets every day after lessons. With bad habits setting-up so early in life, no wonder they could end up suffering obesity and poor health later. And it is truly annoying to hear people identify takeaway fast-food as of benefit for those on low or fixed incomes. In terms of nutrition per dirham, it is probably the opposite.

I believe that bad time management together with unrealistic work schedules may be partly to blame for the link between fast-food and stress.

Towards the middle of a busy working day, a certain ‘urgency momentum’ has built up, and it becomes difficult to change your work rhythm to take a relaxed hour for a proper sit-down lunch. Your mind is still on that screen, with its urgent emails and the jobs you have still to complete before the day is finished. Your stomach may need food but your mind is still on duty!

In this atmosphere, lunch becomes just another item on the agenda, to be completed as quickly as possible.

So the fast-food habit may stem from one kind of stressor  –  bad time management. But it goes on to cause another of the classic symptoms of stress. The headaches and lack of energy, particularly in the afternoon that can result from poor nutrition, and the failure to relax and recharge. We need to realise that proper mealtimes are important breaks, both mentally and physically, and they should not be ignored or misused. They should not be hurried out of the way, like some regrettable intrusion.

However, fast-food consumption in the Emirates is still at a fairly low level compared with Europe or the US. It may or may not stay that way.

Like with everything else in life, a little of what we like is OK and the same goes for eating fast food. 

Key points about fast food

  • Poor nutrition is the most difficult everyday stressor to resolve
  • Fast food outlets are a tempting way to skip proper meals
  • It is important to make time for yourself in the middle of the day

Do you regularly settle for a takeaway lunch?  Tell us whether it gives you proper nourishment and a satisfying midday break.

[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

Book Keynote Motivational Speaker, BBC guest-broadcaster and best-selling Author, Carole Spiers in person for your next conference for charismatic, high-impact workplace stress management presentations and organisational change strategies.  See Carole live http://bit.ly/TUWbX

Or check-out our latest ideas about stress help, instant acces to stress reduction products http://bit.ly/FjL5L and stress management services aimed to reduce stress and delivered to blue-chip clients from IBM to Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in UK, Dubai, UAE and worldwide at www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk

Contact Carole  for a FREE stress management strategies consultation – Tel:   +44 (0) 20 8954 1593  or email info@carolespiersgroup.co.uk.    She is dedicated to supporting your long-term growth through talent retention rooted in effective stress management.

 

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Stress and Anxiety on our Roads

Many foreigners might be surprised to hear that the roads of the Middle East are officially the world’s most dangerous, apart from those in Africa.  Thinking of the largely crime-free UAE in particular, they would visualise these modern well-built highways, mostly across wide-open desert with good visibility, equipped with new speed-cameras, and they would wonder why this might be.

Perhaps they should view a video that was circulated in Dubai last week, showing a saloon car and a pick-up truck performing two-wheel driving stunts at breakneck speed on the famously busy Sheikh Zayed Road at the height of the daytime traffic.

It stirred up quite a correspondence in the press, and as always, I checked-out the Readers’ Comments, believing them to be a revealing source of spontaneous and sincerely-felt opinion.

There was a fierce debate between those who thought it was the fault of young daredevils showing off and those who thought it was people driving too slowly and holding up those wanting to overtake  –  especially buses and trucks, which have to stay in the slow lane.

One contributor actually claimed that stunt-driving was part of UAE culture  –  apparently justifying it. Whether or not he was just trying to shock, he got a detailed answer from a local doctor, who theorised that the countries with the lowest crime seem to ‘let off steam’ with dangerous driving (as though this was not a crime). He was suggesting that UAE had become over-civilised, and that among all these air-conditioned comforts, young men have no outlet for demonstrating their natural machismo. It wouldn’t have happened two or three generations ago, when daily life was simpler and harsher, he said. And as a specialist in stress counselling, I detected that he was recognising stunt-driving as a form of stress relief.

Mistrusting

I remember the first time that I drove in UAE, I suffered stress and anxiety, and this was certainly nothing to do with being a frustrated young man. I know that we in the UK are sometimes ridiculed for driving too slowly and safely, but the culture shock here was formidable.

Almost as soon as I got on to a fast road, I found people flashing me from behind, and driving dangerously close. To cope with this, I realised I would have to turn myself into a different sort of driver altogether  –  more on my guard, more mistrusting. It was not a comfortable feeling.

Like two of those readers (significantly both foreigners, one American, one Australian), I reacted by checking my blind spot every time I changed lanes. Not just in the mirror, but actually turning my head. And like them, I think this could have saved my life more than once.

My conclusion as an expert in stress reduction is that the stress-effects afflict those on the receiving end of this behaviour. The offenders I witnessed did not seem to me to be suffering symptoms of stress, just young men taking liberties. In fact, I shudder to recall some of their excesses  –  pretending to lie back and sleep, talking on their mobiles, turning round to chat to back-seat passengers, sometimes actually eating while at the wheel.

And the flashing? That’s not stress. That’s just macho behaviour that says. “Let me through. I’m an important person in a hurry!”

Key points about dangerous roads

  • Middle East roads are among the world’s most unsafe highways
  • Some claim this is cultural, to do with natural machismo
  • Experience shows it is a dangerous disregard for self and others

Now what about your own Comments?

What’s your explanation for UAE traffic casualties. Carry on the debate here, now.

[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

Book Keynote Motivational Speaker, BBC guest-broadcaster and best-selling Author, Carole Spiers in person for your next conference for charismatic, high-impact workplace stress management presentations and organisational change strategies.  See Carole live http://bit.ly/TUWbX

Or check-out our latest ideas about stress help, instant acces to stress reduction products http://bit.ly/FjL5L and stress management services aimed to reduce stress and delivered to blue-chip clients from IBM to Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in UK, Dubai, UAE and worldwide at www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk

Contact Carole  for a FREE stress management strategies consultation – Tel:  +44 (0) 20 8954 1593  or email info@carolespiersgroup.co.uk.    She is dedicated to supporting your long-term growth through talent retention rooted in effective stress management.

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Is Social Media Stress Adding to Your Workplace Stress?

 “The number of users of the social network site Facebook in the UAE was 840,OOO in August last year, while the number of users of Twitter was 5,778, which represent 40 per cent of total users in the MENA” (ECCO International)

As a keen enthusiast for Social Media, I did not immediately see the potential stress effects of this great digital innovation of published, user-generated content, which has been called, by some, the biggest leap forward since printing.

But it wasn’t long before my stress consultancy was dealing with work-related stress from office workers who found that it was too much to cope with. And I realized that not only the sheer scale of Social Media, but its particular growth characteristics, would set up new challenges for HR departments, with a need for new stress management techniques.

After logging-on to a social networking site, you are immediately invited to connect to other associated links. Without thinking about it, you agree to receive a weekly newsletter, which in turn exposes you to further blogs and their embedded hyperlinks. Entering into this seductive world of intimate sharing of information, you have probably already revealed your email address, picture and other personal details of your self and your circle of friends and family to millions of people all over the world.  And that means you will certainly be facing a great deal of information overload in the days and weeks ahead.

The other side of the problem is the internal pressure, the addictiveness, of logging-on during the day, either in the office or at home, to check what your friends are doing.

One long-serving manager had come across an old database from twenty years ago, with thousands of names on it, many of them familiar to him. Out of interest, he decided to try to track them down through the networking sites. For about three weeks, he just couldn’t concentrate on anything else. It was as though he’d found a new toy. One by one, he would enter these names into the slot, to see where they were now. Running a fish-restaurant in Portugal… Manufacturing children’s telescopes in Ohio… And one of them had been making ornamental wrought-iron just down the road for the last six years without him knowing!

Be Selective

Elsewhere, there was a young woman who had been trained in the jewellery business and had got hooked on a Question-and-Answer website, where she kept winning prizes for answering jewellery questions. The prizes themselves were actually quite trivial, but the buzz of winning had got her addicted.

In a great many cases, people tend to lose track of time, and find that their work is suffering, as a consequence. Sometimes with unfortunate results. I know of at least one manager and two office workers who have all lost their jobs as a result of unauthorised web surfing on social media sites. So be warned!

My advice is to try to get over the ‘new toy’ stage, and use Social Media in a controlled manner. Yes, it’s miraculous what you can do and see, and learn at the touch of a button. But self-control is a necessity particularly when your employer is paying for your services to be full-time during office hours.

Here are three good habits I like to encourage:

First, be selective about your networking groups. New ones are arriving every few weeks, and it will pay you to research them. Equally, sign-off from the ones you aren’t using. This is useful selection that will eliminate much unwanted correspondence.

Second, note the information overload factor in respect of people who you’re addressing via the Social Media. Don’t automatically share all information for the sake of it. Realize that there’s going to be an increasing respect for clarity and concision in all forms of communication.

Third, don’t pressurise. You don’t need to add to the cacophony of ‘Hurry hurry’ messages, which add further to workplace stress. Adopt a more subtle and diplomatic attitude, and your message will stand out from the others. Remember that the Social Media are not just social, however casual and conversational they look. They are also commercial media, which carry an important purpose in promoting the products, services, and the corporate values of your organisation.

Key Points About Social Media

• Social Media are the biggest data revolution since printing

• They can become addictive both as business and entertainment

• You need to apply formal rules to regulate time spent online

Have you met any Social Media addicts? 

Tell us about them now. Make an important difference to a big new debate.

[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

Book Keynote Motivational Speaker, BBC guest-broadcaster and best-selling Author, Carole Spiers in person for your next conference for charismatic, high-impact workplace stress management presentations and organisational change strategies.  See Carole live http://bit.ly/TUWbX

Or check-out our latest ideas about stress help, instant accesas to stress reduction products http://bit.ly/FjL5L and stress management services aimed to reduce stress and delivered to blue-chip clients from IBM to Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in UK, Dubai, UAE and worldwide at www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk

Contact Carole  for a FREE stress management strategies consultation – Tel: +44 (0) 20 8954 1593  or email info@carolespiersgroup.co.uk.    She is dedicated to supporting your long-term growth through talent retention rooted in effective stress management.

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