1. You’re Not Alone—Look at the Statistics

We all experience stress some of the time, and these days, more and more people experience stress all of the time, particularly at work. The effects aren’t just individualized, either. According to the American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, New York:

“Nearly half of all American workers suffer from symptoms of burnout.”

• An estimated 1 million people in the work force are absent on an average workday because of stress-related complaints.

• Nearly half of all American workers suffer from symptoms of burnout, or severe job-related stress that impairs or impedes functioning.

• Job stress costs U.S. industry $300 billion every year in absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover, and direct medical, legal, and insurance fees.

• Between 60 percent and 80 percent of industrial accidents are probably due to stress.

• Workers’ compensation awards for job stress, once rare, have become common. In California alone, employers paid almost $1 billion for medical and legal fees related to workers’ compensation awards.

• Nine out of ten job stress suits are successful, with an average payout of more than four times the payout for injury claims.

2. Why Does Work Cause Stress?

For a few lucky people, jobs are sources of rejuvenation and personal satisfaction. For many others, even though work is sometimes or often rewarding, it is also a major source of stress. The more people work and the longer the workday becomes, the more we dream of being able to retire early.

Actually, research that has followed up on the life satisfaction of lottery winners reveals that very few were happier and that many were less happy after quitting their jobs (winning the lottery brings about its own kind of stress). Although any job can be stressful and sometimes monotonous, our work lives often bring us more than a paycheck.

3. Decide If It’s Time for a Change

Is a job change in order for you? Examine the following list. How many items apply to you?

• I dread going to work on most days.

• I come home from work too exhausted to do anything but watch television or go to bed.

• I am not treated with respect at my job.

• I’m not paid what I’m worth.

• I’m embarrassed to tell people what I do for a living.

• I don’t feel good about my job.

• My job doesn’t allow me to fulfill my potential.

• My job is far from being my dream job.

• I would quit in a second if I could afford it.

• My job is keeping me from enjoying my life.

If two or more items on this list apply to you, you might want to consider a job change. If you aren’t qualified to do what you want to do, you need a plan. Find out what would be involved in getting trained in a field that holds more interest for you, or work on saving up some money so that you can start your own business.

4. Get Job Stress Under Control

Think about each of the following areas of your work life and write a few lines about how you feel when you think about these aspects of your job. Writing about each area may help you to understand more clearly where your stress lies.

1. This is how I feel about the people I work with:

2. This is how I feel about my supervisor:

3. This is how I feel about the environment in which I work:

4. This is how I feel about the values and purpose behind my place of employment:

5. This is how I feel about the actual, day-to-day work I do:

6. This is how I feel about the importance of the work I do:

7. My favorite thing about work is:

8. My least favorite thing about work is:

9. My work utilizes my skills in the following areas:

10. My work fails to utilize my skills in the following areas:

11. My needs unmet by work are or aren’t being met elsewhere (explain):

12. I wish my job could change in these ways:

After examining your answers, it may become clearer where your dissatisfactions with your job lie, and where things are fine. Now, make a list of the things about your job that cause you stress. After each item, write an O if you think you can live with this stressor, and an X if you think you can’t live with this stressor. Then look at the items for which you wrote an X. These are the areas you need to manage.

5. Manage Job Stressors

Of course, how you manage the stressors at your job depends on what those stressors are. You can take a few different approaches:

• Avoid the stressor (such as a stressful coworker).

• Eliminate the stressor (delegate or share a hated chore).

• Confront the stressor (talk to your supervisor if he or she is doing something that makes your job more difficult).

• Manage the stressor (add something enjoyable to the task, give yourself a reward after completion).

• Balance the stressor (put up with the stress but practice stress-relieving techniques to balance out the effects).

If you can do something to avoid, eliminate, confront, manage, or balance the stress that comes from your work life, your entire life will be more balanced and less stressful.

6. Don’t Seek to Eliminate All Work Stress

Remember that this articles is about managing and reducing stress, not eliminating it, because eliminating all stress is impossible. As you’ve already read, some stress is actually good for you. It can get you charged up just when you need a boost. It makes life more fun, more interesting, and more exciting, especially at work. You would probably get bored without the challenge of a new client, the possibility of a future promotion, or even the potential for turnover within your workplace. The spark generated by periodic change is important in life, as long as we manage our reactions to it.

7. Make Changes Instead of Excuses

If you’re always ten minutes late in the morning, you’re probably experiencing significant stress due to rushing on your way to work each day. You might be inclined to blame the traffic on your commute, or to complain that your coffee maker is on the fritz again, causing you to leave the house later than you should. These are just excuses. Chances are that there is always traffic to deal with, and that your coffee pot didn’t just go on the fritz yesterday. The point is, you’re obviously not allowing enough time in the morning before you leave for work. If you woke up just ten minutes earlier, you’d probably leave the house ten minutes earlier, which would help you arrive to the office on time.

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