Here are stress-relief tips for your next inservice

Three educators offer their ideas

You may not be able to devote an hour to an inservice on stress management. If that’s the case, three education managers offer some quick exercises to help relieve stress. You can add these easily before or after any regular inservice:

• Try a little yoga. Typically, a class on yoga will last an hour, with an introduction, 40 minutes of practice, and 15 minutes of mediation, says Alice Hammel, RN, MS, director of education for Kendallwood Health Care Services in St. Joseph, MO. But Hammel occasionally shows her agency’s staff some simple yoga postures that can offer quick relief.

"I had a nurse in my office the other day, and she had all kinds of back problems," she recalls. "So I showed her three postures to strengthen her back muscles."

She also has demonstrated yoga’s deep-breathing techniques, which may help people relax and become more focused and efficient in their work.

• Make up some laughter exercises. "We have to have a joyful attitude toward living," says Pat Lynch, RN, coordinator of education for The Elizabeth Hospice in Escondido, CA. "People who do not feel they have a sense of humor can actually train themselves to be humorous and increase their laughing ability." They can do this by reading funny books, memorizing funny stories, or learning jokes.

During an inservice on stress management, Lynch asks someone to tell the group a joke. Then when that person finishes, she asks someone else in the room to repeat that joke. This not only helps people to learn and practice telling jokes, but the second telling of the joke can be even funnier than the first.

Another technique she uses is to ask staff to stand and force themselves to laugh. "If you start laughing at nothing, and you laugh and laugh and laugh, then soon you’ll have everyone in the room laughing at each other."

If they need a little help in getting started with laughing, Lynch holds up a small stuffed animal that laughs each time you press a button on its hand. At the end of its long bout of laughter, the stuffed creature says, "That’s funny," which makes the staff laugh as well.

Lynch also tells employees to hold their stomachs and feel the laughter. "There’s nothing like an exhilarating feeling of a good belly laugh." When the laughter session ends, she asks how people feel and writes their responses on a board. Some responses have included "exhilarated," "tired," "refreshed," "happy," "out of breath," and "more awake and alert." The sessions usually bring people closer together, as well as help each person relieve some stress, Lynch says. "Put people who don’t know each other in a room and have them tell funny things to each other, and they become bonded."

• Play with dough. There’s a good reason why all of those goopy globs of Play-Doh sell so well. They’re fun, even for adults, and they give you an instant and harmless outlet for stress and nervousness. Just pull and stick and smack and pat, and the stuff is still there to take a little more abuse.

Homemade dough also does the trick. In fact, it works so well that Karen Newlon, RN, community education consultant for Genesis Home Care in Zanesville, OH, uses it during inservices and sometimes on an as-needed basis during the week. "I keep some in my desk, and if someone comes by and is really stressed out, I’ll give them some," she says. (See box, below, for her recipe.)

Unlike Play-Doh, the "stretchy stress reliever" will not hold its shape when molded. But the idea is that stressed-out employees can stretch it, shape it, squish it, and it bounces back to its original form. Also, it doesn’t stick to hands, although Newlon recommends keeping it in a plastic bag or container when not in use because it will leave a mess on clothing or furniture.

Newlon has bought large bottles of children’s glue and made enough egg-size stretchy stress relievers for 70 to 80 people. "I double-bag it in plastic sandwich bags, and it lasts for four weeks." She found the recipe for play dough and recipes for play clays on the Internet. (See "Internet Connect," p. 190.)


Alice Hammel, RN, MS, Director of Education, Kendallwood Health Care Services, 811 North Woodbine Ave., St. Joseph, MO 64506. Phone: (816) 279-3511.

Pat Lynch, RN, Coordinator of Education, The Elizabeth Hospice, 150 West Crest St., Escondido, CA 92026. Phone: (760) 737-2050.

Karen Newlon, RN, Community Education Consultant, Genesis Home Care, 2503 Maple Ave., Zanesville, OH 43701. Phone: (740) 452-5458. Fax: (740) 452-3987.