Alarm goes off at 7 a.m. Then after a couple of snoozes it’s time to get up, get my son dressed, make his breakfast, get his teeth brushed and toys picked out to take to school. Then out the door by 8 a.m.
After taking him to school, I do some laundry, get dinner prepared for my two guys and myself for the evening, tidy up and clean house, get ready for work, then head to the office by 1:30 p.m. I’m greeted by about 40 e-mails and three voice mails from the day before.
Work ends at 12:05 a.m. I drive home, finish laundry, try to wind down to go to bed, just to get up and start all over again!
Sure, you might call that a stressful day. But, I’m not alone. It got me to thinking, what if more of us shared the ways we all manage stress? Maybe we can help one another.
Here are some simple, yet effective things I try to do to better balance stress in my life.
- Manage time efficiently. Reorganize simple household tasks to save time, such as running errands in batches, or doing a load of laundry every day instead of leaving it all for our day(s) off. Create a weekly family calendar and write out the weeks activities ahead of time. So, if on Wednesday we see that John has a basketball game out of town and it’s a late night that we could plan on something simple for dinner or possibly make it leftovers night.
- Create support teams. Find trusted friends and family who can help with child care or household chores when we work late or travel for work.
- A healthier outlook. Eat foods high in antioxidants like blueberries or whole grain cereals to help regulate our moods. Exercise: Walk on breaks, take the stairs, park further away from building entrances. Schedule time to do something you enjoy like reading, writing, etc.
- Personalize your work space. Decorate it with family pictures and personal belongings so you feel more at home. This has been shown to increase productivity.
- Sign up for workplace programs. Participating in these events with co-workers can promote workplace unity, making the office a little less stressful.
- Take mental health days. Use personal time or vacation and take a day for yourself.
- Search for the positives. Learn to appreciate what you have instead of what you don’t.
Eliminating stress makes our lives less complicated and also improves our moods, making us easier people to be around. This will benefit our friends, family, and co-workers.
Editor’s note: How do you manage stress – especially during the holidays? Share your ideas with our community by leaving a comment.
Contrary to what many of my fellow agents think, I have not been with American Family for its entire 85 years!
I have, however, been here for more than half that time and American Family Insurance has been part of my family even longer than that.
My father, Earl, started as a Farmers Mutual agent in 1956. At that time, agents were required to have an office in their home, so I got to see how things worked up close. Needless to say, things were done differently back then. For one, sales were made and premiums collected in the customer’s home – a far cry from the billing system we have today.
In 1963, the company changed its name to American Family, and soon after that, I started as a part-time agent. I also was working as a salesman at Leed’s Shoe Store in Topeka, Kan., and I have to admit, I was a poor part-time agent.
In 1967, my National Guard unit was activated, and I was up for active duty in Vietnam. Thankfully, I never had to go, but I spent two years at Fort Carson, Colo. The last six months I spent with Project Transition and worked at a different insurance company in Colorado Springs. That agent showed me a different way of running an agency, and in June of 1969, when I was discharged from the Army, I opened my own American Family office.
I was following in my father’s footsteps; however, I wanted to do better. He had a great work ethic, but I knew there had to be easier ways to build a large business and still have fun and a strong work-life balance.
There have been countless changes through the years, and of course, that can be difficult. Around 1983, the company introduced the Wang computer system. It was supposed to solve all the problems of writing insurance and make our offices paperless. That’s when my father decided it was time to retire, as he had no desire to learn a computer system!
But technology continues to make us stronger. Here’s a personal example:
The hailstorm of 1989 hit my office hard. We had more than 1,200 losses. At that time, CAT loss forms were five copies, with carbon paper between each sheet. When filling out the form you had to press very hard to make the information go through – and it took a long time! With our current system, the customer or agent calls the claim office, and it’s all computerized. The process is so much easier for everyone.
The future of our success, as I see it, will be how we stay ahead of what customers and prospects expect. It’s about continuing to look forward – while also learning from and celebrating our great past.
Happy birthday, American Family!
Editor’s note: Read more about American Family’s 85th anniversary from this Dream Protectors blog post by Chairman and CEO Jack Salzwedel.
Many people can’t wait until retirement. They count the days until they can finally ignore their alarm clock and spend their waking hours pursuing personal passions.
It’s the rare individual who sees the traditional retirement years as an opportunity to stay employed, fulfilling their dreams on the job.
Arleen is one of these rare individuals. After 30-plus years of service to the American Family Claims Division, she only recently called it quits. She’s almost 82 years old!
As her supervisor these past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Arleen quite well and saw how work was an extension of her family.
Arleen loved the people with whom she shared her days. She added richly to their lives, and was quick with a story about her adventures up north or a recap of the latest Packers game.
She never complained about anything. In fact, a few years back she broke her leg and ankle in a fall. After taking a few months off to heal, she was back on the job, picking up right where she left off.
Arleen was also a quick study, never hesitating to learn new technology or take on increasing responsibility.
She’s a wonderful lesson to us all about the importance of staying busy at the things we enjoy, and making a positive impact on those around us.
We wish you a wonderful retirement, Arleen. You’ve earned it many times over.
Chances are you know a veteran. Maybe you even served in the military yourself.
We can thank them every day for their service, but today, it’s especially important. I know I’m going to thank my friends who’ve served, but especially my dad, who is 89 years old and defended our great country as a Navy pilot in World War II.
This time of year, we all tend to show our appreciation – not only for those who've spent time in uniform – but for the many other important folks who protect us, care for us and, in general, make life better for our families and communities.
American Family is making it easier to show our gratitude. Every day through Dec. 10, as part of our 30 Days of Thanks, our Facebook page will highlight one of the everyday heroes we too often take for granted.
You’ll find interesting information about these important people, so you can thank them personally ... with a simple "like," by posting comments or by sharing our stories with your own friends and family on Facebook.
Imagine what our dreams would look like if we didn't have support from the important people in our lives – like parents, teachers, coaches – you name it?
Let's take time to thank them.
Editor's note: Starting Nov. 11, join American Family Insurance as we devote 30 Days of Thanks to the everyday heroes in our lives. Who would be on your 30 Days of Thanks list? Visit our Facebook page today and all throughout our 30 Days of Thanks to share your gratitude.
Regrets, I've had a few.
One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t keep in touch with a college friend of mine after he joined the Navy. He was whip-smart, engaging, and one of the funniest people I've ever known. I always thought about writing to him while he was in the service. Sadly, I will never, ever have a chance to do so.
That's because he was killed in the terror attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
So I was personally moved when an American Family customer service center manager, Tom Hanson, recently spearheaded a holiday greeting card-signing drive for military personnel. Along with fellow employees and volunteers from the American Red Cross, Tom supervised card-signing stations at American Family offices in Madison, Wis.
I eagerly joined the employees and agents who dropped by to write their heartfelt wishes and words of support on the greeting cards. As a result, hundreds of American military men and women will get a special surprise in the mail during the approaching holiday season.
Tom's initiative was just one of several grassroots efforts at American Family aimed at celebrating the company's 85th anniversary through community service activities. As Tom puts it, "It makes me feel good that we did this, but I still feel it's a small gesture compared to the large commitment that these folks in the military have made and what they're going through."
It's no accident Tom and his colleagues took the time to show they care about people in the military. After all, he and his Customer Service Center colleagues demonstrate care and compassion every day when they receive claims-related customer calls. They help American Family put customers' lives back together when bad things happen. They are good examples to all of us that caring for others is in our DNA. All we have to do is act on it.
This holiday season, consider taking the time to send cards to men and women in the U.S. military – the American Red Cross "Holiday Mail for Heroes" program makes it easy to do.
I know I'm planning to sign more cards. It would've made my college friend happy.