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Stress Busters for Auto Technicians

Whether caused by issues at work or home, stress can be more than an irritant; it can be debilitating with far-reaching consequences. It can be particularly pronounced in jobs like automotive repair, which focus on customer service. Learn how to handle stress effectively through these steps.

Step One: Get a Handle on the Cause

Many people feel under increasing pressure today. The pace of work is faster, technology is constantly changing and employers seem to want more for each dollar of pay.

Life at home can also be stressful. Bills, health problems and family relationships can quickly raise your blood pressure and anxiety levels.

If you have reached the point where you feel something has to give, the best approach is often to stop what you are doing and reflect on your situation. Take a few deep breaths. Then, ask yourself exactly what it is that is placing you under so much pressure. Chances are that you will be able to come up with a list of several items in just a few minutes.

Step Two: Reduce Stress On and Off the Job

Now that you have a list, rate your stress factors for importance. Then, rate them for the difficulty you would encounter solving them. Many people who create this list are surprised to see that the biggest issues causing stress are sometimes also the issues most easily resolved.

At home or at work, stress that is not easily eliminated can sometimes be defused by taking a simple walk around the block. Even changing your position can have a beneficial effect. If you stand most of the time, sit down for a few minutes. If you usually sit, stand up.

Step Three: Address the Causes at Work

Talk to your boss about issues that cause stress on the job. It is in the owner’s interest, as well as yours, to fix these situations.

“Shops vary incredibly,” notes Jim Kelly, who is in technical support operations for Ford Motor Company. Frequently, he says, technicians can be frustrated -- and stressed -- by their inability to quickly find the information they need.

“Shops need to be online with a high-speed connection,” Kelly says. If yours is not, ask management why. Chances are everyone will appreciate the improvement in productivity that can accompany the elimination of a stress factor such as this one.

In other cases, your frustration may come from within. If you find a particular type of troubleshooting or repair especially stressful, maybe you need more training. Ask for it.

Step Four: Be Reasonable

Recognize what you can and cannot do, then work on altering those stressful aspects of your job that are within your power to change. For example, upset customers will always be part of the business, but a disorganized toolbox need not be.

Actually, problems you cannot fix really aren’t problems at all. They are conditions around in which you, and everyone else, must work. Do not allow yourself to be stressed by conditions.

Sometimes, it takes only a change in mindset to do wonders for reducing stress. If you know a job takes five hours, even though the factory may only allow four, don’t pressure yourself to do the job in an unreasonable time period. Accept reality. You’ll feel better.

Next, be sure the boss knows the car will be ready in five hours, not four. It is always better to underpromise and overdeliver. That, too, reduces stress.

Step Five: Don’t Stay in Untenable Situations

If you find yourself in a stressful situation where you do not fit, look for another job. That could lower your stress immensely.

For example, “not all technicians can be happy in a flat-rate shop,” says Laurence Eiden, trade and industry consultant for the vocational-technical school system in Connecticut. “These people may be more effective and happier in an hourly system.”

In the same manner, you will probably never be able to change an unreasonable boss or owner. Changing your job, however, is within your power. Stress, it should be noted, is often caused not by difficult situations, but by our belief that we lack the power to deal with them.

Step Six: Use Support Systems

Many companies have employee assistance programs that can help with all sorts of problems, including stress caused by the job or a situation at home. If your employer has this service, which is often provided on a confidential basis by a third party, take advantage of it. If not, a quick search of the Yellow Pages will find many nonprofit agencies that can help with everything from job counseling to family therapy. In addition, your doctor may be able to help if you find stress debilitating.

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