You're wise to try to de-stress if you're swamped at work with more work than you can handle. Nowadays, overwork
sucks many employees into a vicious downward cycle. Exercise is one of your best defenses, hut it won't solve
the problems of too much work and ton little time. Add to that job insecurity and, apparently, short-sighted
management, and you've got a pressure cooker ready to blow.
You can blame it on life at the turn of the millennium - corporate consolidations and downsizing, constantly
improved computers, cell phones and pagers. The machines we use to make work easier can actually increase our
stress, says Victor Scarano, MD, director of occupational and forensic psychiatry services at Baylor College of
Medicine in Houston. "Human beings are not designed to handle situations that require a constant high level of
attention," he explains. "Everyone needs to be able to get away from the demands of work."
OUT OF CONTROL?
You aren't there yet, but Scarano offers a list of signs that someone's stress is getting out of control.
»Increased irritability and anxiety
»Frequent illness-related absences
» Changes in sleep patterns
» Changes in eating patterns
» Social isolation
Scarano notes: 'An unhappy, angry employee is usually left alone, which can make matters worse. Everyone has an
occasional bad day. But when pent-up stress strips away any semblance of workplace civility and affects relationships
and health, it's time to get help."
FIVE DE-STRESSING STRATEGIES
He offers practical advice for defusing stress before it gets out of control:
Remember the big picture
. Although important, work is only part of life. Don't let it overshadow time needed for
family, hobbies and other pleasures that replenish your energy and sense of self-worth. A desk photo of loved ones can
help you keep priorities straight.
Strive to preserve positive relationships with family members, friends and co-workers
. A happy home life can
generally counteract workplace stress.
Exercise, eat healthy, stay hydrated and get enough sleep
. Physical activity reduces mental stress.
Don't be afraid to talk to your supervisor
. He or she is in the best position to understand your workload, offer
guidance and help you set priorities. Also, ask for feedback. You might find that you've been holding yourself to
unnecessarily high and unattainable standards.
Take advantage of company-sponsored counseling services
and stress-relief programs like yoga and exercise classes.
Back to your exercise problem, which might not he so hard to solve after all, Of course, we love our 60-90-minute
workouts, but when you can't do that, you don't need to feel guilty or inadequate. Just take 10: 10 minutes for a quick
jog early in the morning, 10 minutes mid-morning for some light exercises and stretching (perhaps you can stash some
dumbbells at work for this). Come lunch time, get outdoors into natural light for a vigorous but relaxing walk. Get
away mentally and physically for at least 10 minutes. Once you start moving again, you'll find your exercise breaks
make you more productive.
Take 10 again in the evening for some resistance work, done to music, A simple pair of adjustable dumbbells will let
you do dozens of bodybuilding exercises at home.
If your job still seems like a killer after you try Scarano's advice, perhaps you should be looking for another one.
"When stress is internalized too long, it can affect physical and mental health and trigger self-destructive behaviors,"
he states. You don't really want a job that's to die for, do you?