May 15, 2018
Times flies when you are leading into tomorrow! This meeting was the final meeting of the season and also the Annual General Meeting, during which we discussed the season’s milestones, participation, audited finances, and closed our Board nominations. We then heard from Dr. David Posen, a best-selling author and expert on stress management. He talked to us about energy management, stress reduction, and taking control of our lives.
Annual General Meeting Shannon Quinn
Shannon Quinn, the President of the PMCQ, opened the meeting by covering the business of the Annual General Meeting:
Shannon then covered a few points of business:
Live It: Merck’s State-of-the-Art Employee Wellness Program Violette Berberian
Shannon then introduced Violette Berberian, the Employee Wellness Lead at Merck, who presented Merck’s state-of-the-art employee wellness program called “Live it”. Violette spearheaded the strategy and rolled out the program nationally, both at the office and in the field, three years ago. Since then, the program has positioned Merck Canada as a benchmark country for wellness within the Merck affiliates around the globe.
The program itself is evidence-based (they did a lot of research on best practices) and in turn has generated real-world evidence for how making time to do physical activity, eat well, manage stress and take preventative action against potential diseases can make employees happier.
What is remarkable about the program is that 94% of the employees are participating. Merck has succeeded in creating a whole company culture around this program, which has lead to the company receiving an award for exemplifying the best employer for healthy lifestyles, as well as being recognized as one of the top Montreal employers.
Running on Empty: Manage Your Energy, Manage Your Stress Dr. David Posen
Violette then introduced Dr. David Posen, who was a family physician for 17 years before specializing in stress and lifestyle counselling. He is the author of several best-selling books. His talk consisted of two themes: 1) stress management as energy management; 2) how the best solutions are often right in front of our noses and we are not paying attention.
According to Dr. Posen, a lot of patients come to doctors complaining of fatigue. It is one of the most common complaints. Fatigue is a common symptom of stress. Most of our best stress reducers are actually energy-producers (i.e. exercise, meditation, leisure and relaxation, laughter and play). Dr. Posen said you have to control the things that you can control, because there are a lot of things in life that you can’t control. You control the way you think and behave, and the lifestyle choices you make.
How to monitor your stress and pace yourself:
The stress reaction is built into us and we actually need it for survival, but when stress goes on too long, the effects of cortisol can lead to cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance (which predisposes to Type 2 Diabetes), suppression of the immune system (causing susceptibility to infection), etc. A certain amount of stress serves us well, in that it gives us the energy to perform at our best. (Think of players in professional sports, right before the game starts.) After a certain point, our performance diminishes, however, and we lose our insight and our judgment—then we get exhausted, which can lead to sickness or depression or stress symptoms (headache, muscle pain, etc.). The tragedy of burnout is that it is years in the making and all of the warning signs are there, but they are missed along the way.
Most of the stress we experience today isn’t physical, it is psychological. Productivity is not a function of time multiplied by effort; it is time multiplied by efficiency. We need to take a “timely time-out” when we are losing our concentration at work. We all need recovery time. Every single organism goes through cycles of activity and rest. That’s how health is sustained. A healthy stress cycle looks like intermittent periods of stress dispersed by periods of rest and relaxation. For so many people, their stress levels may fluctuate, but they never have a chance to completely calm down, and so they never fully recover their energy.
“Timely time-outs,” as Dr. Posen calls them, have three timeframes:
The benefits of taking a time-out include:
Getting enough sleep
Think of the number of hours of sleep you need to function at your best and feel your best. The truth is that we know what to do and we’re just not doing it.
The symptoms of sleep deprivation are the same symptoms of stress:
Sleep deprivation raises cortisol levels, the hormone involved in stress; therefore, sleep deprivation in and off itself is a form of stress. Three ways to get more sleep include:
Furthermore, you should not look at any screens in the hour before bedtime and stop checking emails.
Caffeine is such a socially acceptable substance that we forget that it’s a drug. It’s actually a strong stimulant of adrenaline and cortisol and blocks a natural relaxant in the brain called adenosine. The net result is a stress reaction in your body. Caffeine stays in your system a long time (6-10 hours, and longer the older you get). The paradox about caffeine is that as a stimulant, it gives us energy, but too much caffeine drains you of energy.
Dr. Posen said he makes all of his new patients quit caffeine for a few weeks to see what it does to them. Most feel better without the caffeine and claim they feel more calm and relaxed and have better energy because they sleep better. There are two explanations for this reaction:
The one caveat about decreasing your caffeine intake is that you have to do it gradually.
Introverts versus extroverts
Dr. Posen’s final comments were about the differences between introverts and extroverts. Contrary to popular belief, introversion is not a measure of how outgoing a person is, it is about how that person rejuvenates his/her energy. Introverts need more recovery time than extroverts. There is something called the “state of optimal arousal”. Introverts and extroverts have a different level of baseline cortical stimulation. If there is too much external stimulation, introverts get tired and overwhelmed due to their naturally higher level of baseline cortical stimulation. Extroverts have a lower baseline cortical stimulation and rely on outside stimuli to bring their levels up to the state of optimal arousal.
Manage your energy and you will manage your stress. How can you do this?