Most of us in the business world have heard how we should “Dress for Success”. A great number of people in the work force today, however, seem to “Stress for Success.” Dressing for success is a good thing but when we come to the point of stressing for success it is not a good thing. The medical community has identified a number of stressors that can occur on the job that can run employees ragged and manifest themselves through a variety of real illnesses. Too much bad stress has been linked to a number of illnesses like tension headaches and migraines, to stomach disorders, as well as hypertension, panic attacks, heart disease and emotional distress. When employees feel like a rat in a maze and feel like they have no control over their work situation they are often placed under a huge amount of stress which can be debilitating to them personally and effect their performance on the job thereby lessening their productivity and creativity.
The Center for disease control and prevention along with other health entities have identified a number of high stress career’s; The air traffic controller, the big city school teacher, police officer and the miners all encounter a tremendous amount of stress on the job. They are not the only ones of course; I would imagine there are stressors peculiar to a lot of jobs that most of us don’t think about; such as the sales person, customer service representatives, middle management personnel, airport security personnel, and even the corporate public relations person. Each of these jobs, plus a host of others, can be filled with stress and have a debilitating effect on a person’s performance and future career. Couple these normal stressors with job uncertainties, cut backs, lay-off’s, and downsizing fears we can understand that there are many of our fellow workers out there who stress over their success.
A number of surveys , including documents from Insurance companies, Princeton, University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the CDC indicate that more than half of all American workers feel and experience job-related stress. Many of those surveyed say that their job is THE MOST stressful thing in their lives. As a radio talk-show host I can attest to the fact that there are a lot more demands than their used to be in broadcasting. In a four-hour radio shift of constant talking and interaction with callers on a variety of subjects the energy level that must be maintained is extremely high and exhaustion usually is the end of it all. A four-hour shift on talk radio has been likened to doing an eight hour shift on an assembly line. You have to be attentive, you have to listen, you have to respond immediately, and you have to make rational and logical commentary in an instant. There seems to be a constant rush of adrenalin when doing all of the above which never lets up. You are constantly on guard, rapidly thinking, trying to assimilate the information coming through your ears so that you can disseminate information from your mouth that somehow must make sense to the listening audience. Trust me; it can be very stressful at times.
Jobs where a worker receives little praise, constant scrutiny and evaluation, and that require a high state of attention and vigilance and responsibility with little or no control can stress those workers to the breaking point. The emphasis here is not on short periods of stress but on prolonged periods of stress. The body seems to react well to short stress periods but long term is another story. The medical community tells us that long periods of stress where the brain and body are constantly active produce a higher heart rate, faster breathing, and heightened senses. Over longer periods of time the previous can cause heart problems, gastrointestinal distress, along with neck and back pain and severe headaches. All of the previous mentioned products of continuous stress can even cause high blood pressure and/or extensive hypertension. When we attempt to succeed on the job and in the work place by allowing these stressors to dominate our minds, bodies, and emotions we are headed for disaster with regard to our health.
The work environment of today, in many instances, is more stressful than it has ever been in the past. Whenever you have to work long hours and have to endure periods of prolonged stress and unhealthy working conditions you are on the road to stressing for success. There are ways, however, to lower your stress levels at work and in life. A lot of the responsibility to control stressors is up to the individual worker. One way is to quit your high stress job. I don’t recommend that. There are ways you can make a huge personal effort to reduce your work environment stress. Let’s look at some stress relieving options that could produce a major benefit.
Hopefully, the management where you work recognizes the need to reduce worker stress. The manger is probably stressed at work too. The manager has as many stressors as the worker does in addition to the responsibility to manage the corporate work place. If the manager recognizes the challenges his workers face then he can establish some work place rules to help reduce the stress on everyone. Often a break room, where people can talk with each other and discuss problems, difficulties, and work related situations is helpful. Encouraging workers to get to know each other and bond as a team is a good start. A suggestion box in the break room is a wonderful way to not only get good suggestions on how to improve the work-place, but also to allow workers to vent in a constructive way without fear of reprisal.
There might be a possibility to delegate some of your work, if you feel particularly burdened, to other workers who can help you get over the hump on a very busy project. Good communication between workers, co-workers, and management is essential to discuss difficulties and problems related to work. Sometimes sharing ideas and discussing workable solutions with others pays big dividends and it spreads out the stress so that workers don’t feel isolated and alone on the job. When you do have a break try to use this time to engage in stress reducing activities. If you can’t leave your desk try to do some stretching exercises. When you go to the restroom do some bending and stretching and try to clear your mind before you go back to your desk. In a close knit group you might give each other a two minute neck rub. That is one of the things I do at my office to help ease the tension and stress of what I do. Just make sure it is a therapeutic rub. When you get home get into an exercise regimen. Walking is good. Tai Chi is good and can be done in a quiet place in your home or in the back yard. Make some time to engage in a hobby or something else you enjoy that frees your mind to relax. Learn some deep breathing exercises which helps to eliminate heavy stress and can be done at home or in your office or in your car. Use your days off and your vacation time to truly relax. Another good way to ease the stress on your body and mind is to try to maintain a healthy diet. Choose one that fits your lifestyle and needs. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not suggest that you learn to laugh more and see the funny side of things and life. A good belly laugh and frequent laughing is the best stress reliever you can find. Reduce your stress anyway and everyway you can and try not to Stress for your Success!