Thursday, September 07, 2006

Stress Can Be Murder

by Kristine Coblitz

We’ve all experienced it…the sweaty palms, the accelerated heartbeat, the fierce headache, the knot in the stomach. They are all symptoms of job-related stress, and if taken to extreme, it can be a killer more deadly than any mystery novel villain.

I say this from experience.

I spent over seven years working as the managing editor of a technical trade journal. Upset stomach? Yep. Irritability? Yep. Panic attacks? Yeah, I had them, too. When I scored 14 out of 16 on an online stress quiz, my suspicions were confirmed. I was suffering from burn-out and needed a change. Big time. Putting my health first, I packed the few personal belongings out of my office and bolted. I'm now working from home as a freelance technical writer and editor.

According to a 2000 survey on stress in the workplace, 14% of the respondents admitted to having the urge to strike a co-worker. Scary stuff, huh? And here we writers thought motives for murder were limited to love, revenge, and greed. Not anymore. It seems we may have to add job-related stress to the list now.

As part of my recovery, I’ve studied and researched the causes, symptoms, and effects of stress, as well as the remedies for dealing with it. The Internet is loaded with articles and practical advice, but I’d like to share the “Top 5” tips that worked for me and invite you all to add to the list.

(1) Be realistic about limitations. Once I got my priorities in line, I was able to focus.
(2) Set boundaries. Know when to say “no” and don’t back down. This is important!
(3) Get enough sleep. Do you suffer from insomnia like I do? There are many excellent CDs out there to help you drift to dreamland.
(4) Eat right and exercise. Okay, I’ll be honest. Exercise hasn’t exactly made it to the top of my priority list yet, but I'm trying.
(5) Pamper yourself. Make the effort to do something special for yourself every day. A hot bath and chocolate treats do the trick for me. Oh yeah, and so does watching this.

Now it’s your turn. How do you cope with stress?


Debra Lee said...

I have a terrible time saying no. I must practice saying that word more often. No...No...No...And one of these days I will learn to put my needs at the top of the heap on occasion. I'm trying, honest I am. Just the other day I put everything on hold and rented a couple movies I've been wanting to see. The biggie here is that I didn't feel guilty for doing it. Something I usually have trouble with.

Anonymous said...

Great question, Kristine!

Here's three things that got me through my community mental health job (see yesterday's post.)

1) Humor. OK, it wasn't always nice, but it sure helped when dealing with difficult people! My boss's boss at CMH (community mental health) job couldn't figure out whether to give his staff the, "Great job, team!" speech or the, "Kick them in the butt," one, so he would alternate (sometimes so fast it would make your head spin.) I started imitating this practice, and soon my co-workers took it up. It did relieve a lot of stressful staff meetings!

2) What am I learning from this job? Is it an opportunity to set boundaries? Create priorities? Learn how to effectively stand up to someone?

3) Why am I here? Going back to my higher purpose helps me a lot in figuring out how to deal with the situation. In CMH, it was to serve the patients and get licensed. Some jobs, it's to support myself financially. Still, reminding myself of why I got here in the first place helps me sort out when I need to laugh something off, when I need to confront something, and when I need to leave the place!

Just my thoughts.

Joyce said...

Following up on Debra's comments, don't you think that women in general have a problem saying no? I think we all take too much on. We feel like we have to be all things to all people. We're expected to take care of the house, the husband, the kids, volunteer at school,etc., and still have time to work. Sooner or later something has to give.

I've found that if I take some time for myself, even if it's as minor as getting my nails done, I'm much happier--better able to deal with the stress and the fact that I'm not Superwoman.

Besides, I really don't look good in that Superwoman costume...

Anonymous said...

When I added a treadmill to the other furniture in my office, I told myself that it made the perfect place to.....well, stack my manuscript pages. But I've come to use the damn then for the purpose it was intended, and it really has made a difference. Walking on the treadmill is part of my routine now, and--much as I hate to admit it--exercise really does help lower my stress.

Great post, Kristine!

Annette said...

For me, yoga (of course) is the great stress reducer, but I'll save that for when it's my turn to post.

Really, any kind of exercise, whether it's walking on the treadmill, taking a hike or bike ride through the woods or sweating through a kick-boxing class can help shift our attention away from the sources of our stress and help free the brain of all the clutter that drains us.

And I like Tory's suggestion of humor, too. That's a huge one for me. If things have gotten so bad I can't make a stupid joke out of it, then I need some SERIOUS stress relief.

Like chocolate!

Anonymous said...

I also believe women have a particularly more difficult time saying no. It took me a long time to realize that I wasn't Superwoman, either.

I recommend reading THE HEROINE'S JOURNEY by Maureen Murdock. It's an excellent book on the subject. It sure opened my eyes to the "myth" surrounding women in today's society.

Devon Ellington said...

I do yoga and meditate. I also try to work out several times a week. Because I shift between several "lives", I have different stress triggers.

Also, just coming out of eight months of physically putting myself between thugs hired by nasty developers and senior citizens in this complex, that's a whole different type of stress.

It's amazing how long it takes to realign after something like that. How long one remains edgy and on "fight response".

A doctor of mine wishes sometimes I'd have a flight response instead of ONLY having a fight response!

Anonymous said...

I hear ya, Devon. I've suffered from the "fight response" too many times to count.

Good to see you here!