Stress. Pressure. Anxiety. Tension. Whatever you call it, there is no shortage of it in today's fast-paced, technologically advanced workplace. Consider these statistics:
- Stress-related disorders are fast becoming the most prevalent reason for worker disability, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
- Job stress and related problems cost American companies an estimated $200 billion or more annually through absenteeism, turnover, accidents, etc.
- The World Health Organization calls job stress a "worldwide epidemic."
Obviously, stress has a powerful impact on us. Can we eliminate the stressors of modern work life? No -- and it's a good thing we can't. We need a certain degree of stress in our lives to spur us to action, challenge our perception of what we are capable of and help us reach new levels of performance. The trick is learning how to manage the stress rather than be overwhelmed by it.
Bill Delano, founder of Job Stress Help, an Internet service that provides confidential, individualized advice via email to those experiencing job stress, offers these suggestions:
In with the Good Air, Out with the Bad
Take a breathing break. Frequent short breaks during the day allow you to breathe deeply and relax your mind, preventing stress build-up.
Know the Enemy
What, exactly, is stressing you out? Is it your job? Your home life? Your relationships? Without knowing the root of the problem, you are unlikely to resolve it. If you are having difficulty identifying the source of your stress, seek professional help from your Employee Assistance Program or a mental-health professional.
Move It or Lose It
Begin an exercise program. Exercise helps release endorphins, which relieves stress.
Recognize the difference between the things you can control and the things you cannot. Make a list of these two categories. Starting today, make a pact with yourself to stop stressing about the things in your job you have no control over.
Beware of the To-Do List
Take note of all the good work you do and give yourself credit for it. Set short-term goals and allow yourself to take satisfaction in achieving them.
Develop a Tough Skin
Try not to personalize any criticism you receive. Look at negative comments as constructive criticism that allows you to improve your work. If, however, the criticism is verbally abusive -- your boss yells at you or uses vulgar language, for example -- discuss this problem with your manager or human resources department.
Share the Load
Delegate or share work whenever possible. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you are the only person who can do the job right. Your coworkers and boss might start to buy into that concept as well.
Don't Make Work a 4-Letter Word
Job stress builds when our minds are constantly focused on work. Strive for balance in your life. Make time for family, friends, hobbies and, most importantly, fun.
Know Your Rights
Read the Guide to Workplace Law by the American Bar Association. It's important to know your rights as an employee or employer.
Although learning to manage a stressful job is important, sometimes it makes more sense to leave it. How can you determine when it's time to give your job the heave-ho? You know it's time to quit when:
- You've tried all the appropriate channels and methods for resolving your situation, to no avail (or the appropriate channels are not made available).
- Your boss is intimidating, disrespectful or demeaning to you.
- You are so bored on the job that you are exhausted by the end of the day. If you don't have an upwardly mobile career path that challenges you to grow professionally, it's time to look for a more interesting position.
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