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03/09/2010

Entrepreneurial Tip Corner: Managing Stress on the Job


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Stress-related disorders are fast becoming the most prevalent reason for employee disability. Job stress and related problems cost U.S. companies an estimated $200 billion annually through absenteeism, turnover, accidents, etc. The World Health Organization calls job stress a “worldwide epidemic.” In today’s uncertain economic environment—with announcements of downsizing, layoffs and bankruptcies occurring daily, directly affecting millions of employees—everyone feels the stress involved.

The workers directly affected experience the stress of having to update their resume and look for a new job. However, many more workers are also affected by these layoffs. Many are shifted to perform unfamiliar tasks within their organization and while they are learning such new tasks, they are fearful and concerned with their own job security. Workers at every level are experiencing increased tension and uncertainty about their jobs. The loss of a job can be devastating, placing the unemployed individual at risk for physical illness, anxiety, depression and marital strain. Job loss can affect every part of life and until a successful transition is made to a new position, stress is a constant issue.

A feeling of powerlessness is a universal effect of job stress. When you feel powerless, you’re susceptible to depression’s traveling companions, helplessness and hopelessness. You don’t try to alter or avoid the situation because you feel nothing can be done.

Performing a job that you don’t like or aren’t good at is another cause of stress. A seemingly quick and easy solution is to get a job you enjoy or one that better matches your skills, abilities, and interests. But in this marketplace, many workers have to settle for their second, third or even fourth choice. Many people don’t know what their ideal job is nor do they know how to go about getting it.

Sometimes your work setting creates physical stress because of noise, lack of privacy, poor lighting, poor ventilation, poor temperature control, or inadequate sanitary facilities. Settings where there is a crisis-centered managerial style or organizational confusion are all stressful.

Can we eliminate the stresses of modern work life? Of course not. But we can learn to manage the stress instead of being overwhelmed by it. Here are some suggestions on ways to manage stress:

  1. Take a breathing break. Frequent short breaks during the day allow you to breathe deeply and relax your mind, preventing stress build-up.
  2. Try to identify the source of your stress. Is it your job, your home life, your relationships? Without knowing the root of the problem, you are unlikely to be able to resolve it.
  3. Begin an exercise program. Exercise helps release endorphins, which relieves stress.
  4. Recognize the difference between the things you can control and the things you cannot. Make a pact with yourself to stop stressing about the things in your job you have no control over.
  5. Set short-terms goals and allow yourself the satisfaction in achieving them. Give yourself credit for all the good work you do.
  6. Try not to personalize any criticism you receive. Look at negative comments as constructive criticism that will allow you to improve your performance.
  7. Delegate the work whenever possible. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are the only person who can do the job right.
  8. Strive for balance in your life. Make time for family, friends, hobbies and, most importantly, fun.


--Michael Herz, CPA, MBA 

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