Handling temporary stress


April 07, 1991|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

She swore she'd never become one of those ulcer-ridden, pressured, eternally harried and harassed types who forfeit their health, personal life, happiness and peace of mind for power and success.

She's beginning to feel ulcer-ridden, pressured, eternally harried and harassed anyway -- without the success and power.

She's suffering from temporary job-related stress -- the kind that happens to most of us and, so long as it's temporary, isn't even necessarily bad for us, say the experts.

What's important when we're experiencing temporary job-related stress is that the stress is specific (we know exactly what's causing it), that we feel we have some control over it, and that we take good care of ourselves while it's going on.

This means devoting more time to ourselves when we're at home, providing ourselves with both physical outlets for the extra adrenalin we're manufacturing at work and emotional outlets for the feelings (exhaustion, excitement, frustration, worry, tension, anxiety, etc.) that this kind of stress almost always produces.

It's important to put some time aside at least three days a week to walk, jog, swim at the Y, play tennis, ride a bicycle, bowl, take an aerobics class -- whatever feels best to you, so long as you don't let your body store the tension you're feeling, say the experts.

Don't grin and bear it, either; talk to your spouse or a friend about what's going on. Ask for extra understanding and consideration for a while, if you need it.

It's important to find people away from work who'll lend a sympathetic ear and offer lots of encouragement, positive input and hugs -- hugs are important.

If you don't have people in your personal life who will fill the bill, women's groups, professional clubs and organizations, and groups formed by area mental health centers can be extremely helpful.

It helps to keep a handle on why you're under so much stress, too. Is the situation to blame, or are your doubts about your ability to handle the situation getting in your way? If so, is your self-doubt valid, or just a way to keep yourself frightened?

If you don't feel capable of handling the current circumstances at work, you might want to find out why someone else believed you were capable -- and someone did, or you wouldn't have been given this responsibility in the first place.

"I was so sure I was going to mess up a project my boss had assigned to me, I literally couldn't sleep at night," said a recent seminar participant, "until I finally asked her why she'd chosen me to do it. Much to my surprise and relief, she pointed out in no uncertain terms how truly qualified I was to handle it, and I relaxed and started sleeping again."

If we can dispense with our self-doubt and provide ourselves with outlets for both our emotional and physical tension, our temporary, job-related stress need not cause us sleeplessness in the first place.

Questions and comments for Niki Scott should be addressed Working Woman, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.

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