“I am a Stress Manager”

Hello Summer!  I am glad you are here and I missed you.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a Pennsylvania guy who loves snow, colorful trees and a crisp morning with frost.  I like the seasons, but I missed summer for a different reason:  Summer means I get more time to disengage.

Webster’s Dictionary defines “disengage” as “to separate or release from something to which they are attached or connected”.  The Chris Hardie definition is “you are working really hard, you need to step away and take a break”.

The average working American clocks 2,080 hours a year at the workplace.  That’s a lot.  And depending on the nature of your work, it’s important to step back, re-focus and dive back in.  Being able to disengage could save an assignment, could save you a boat load of stress or could ultimately save your job.  There is power in that disengagement.

A female runner in our cross country program averages 25-35 miles per week for ten weeks in the summer and fifteen weeks “in season”.  A male runner averages 40-50 miles a week for that twenty-five week period.  The math indicates that a runner in our program logs between 625 and 1,250 miles from June to mid-November.  That’s a small jaunt on foot from Pittsburgh to Wichita, Kansas.  During a run to Wichita, you would think it would be appropriate to take a few hours off your feet to relax, grab a bite to eat and catch up on a few shows on Netflix.  That sounds appropriate, right?

That analogy above is a bit extreme, but hopefully you get my point. As coaches, we know the importance of taking a day off every once in a while.  Our athletes need some time to “mix things up” and do something that breaks the monotony of running.

In a professional setting, we need some time to step away to think about something other than the task at hand.  Science is actually on my side on this one too.  Rather than cite some sources, let me give you a brief list of benefits of disengagement.

  • Reduction in stress
  • Re-vitalization when you return to the task – productivity increases when you return
  • Better sleep patterns
  • It’s beneficial to your heart
  • You strengthen relationships

While sitting in a workshop yesterday, the facilitator asked the room to think about what they “really” do on a daily basis.  I answered truthfully, and I think I surprised a few people when I said that I have begun to look at my job working with students as a “Stress Manager”.  At times we want to increase stress, to place pressure on the student to become a better person and to strengthen character.  But at other times we need to find ways to reduce stress in our student’s lives so that they can manage their day and stay focused on their goals.  (I can actually see this as the topic of a future blog.)

Being able to disengage is vital in that management of stress.  I urge you to look at “disengagement” as a positive term, and something that you take advantage of.  It could help you get to the next level in your professional career or your athletic career.

I guess the next step is figuring out where you want to go and disengage.  A beach, cruise ship or a big castle with some mouse ears are my recommendations.


Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University. You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

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