Stress and Job Performance Essay

This essay has a total of 3507 words and 15 pages.


Stress and Job Performance





Stress and Stress Management

Who of you worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very
little thing, why do you worry about the rest? -Luke 12:25-26



Whether you are talking to a college professor, a nuclear physicist, a doctor or the
fifteen year-old flipping burgers at your neighborhood McDonald's, a common factor that
ties all of their very different jobs together is job-related stress. Stress comes in
many forms and it affects people in many ways. Some people have mastered the art of
targeting and reducing it at its root, and at the other extreme, some may die as a result
of it. Whatever the case, stress is a force to be reckoned with both at work and
elsewhere.

Stress is not a new issue, nor is it always a bad one. As a matter of fact, we need it
for survival. According to Richard Stein, author of Personal Strategies for Living With
Stress, "In the functioning of our biological systems, normal stress is necessary and
vital: Through variations on the themes of fight or flight, stress reactions mobilize us
to adapt to changing stimuli. (1983, p. 1)" This type of stress is referred to as
"eustress" (Stress Management: Ten Self-Care Techniques 1986). In other words, to be
able to adapt and react to change, stress is a vital factor. Another example of the
healthy side of stress would be what Stein calls a "controlled exposure to stress." An
example of that would be watching a horror movie. The stress that we experience from that
is not only "controlled" as Stein would call it, but also a bit pleasurable (1983, p. 2).

More obviously, stress can be quite harmful. Stress occurs when the pressures upon us
exceed our resources to cope with the pressures (Stein, 1983, p. 3). This type of stress
is called "distress" (Stress Management: Ten Self-Care Techniques 1986). Too much of it
can actually be deadly. One of the main reasons that stress can be labeled as a killer is
that its effects can be delayed and it can accrue. More or less, stress is a time bomb.
Stein states that:

It is now known that the most malign effects of stress can be deferred and can accumulate
until excessive levels are reached. Compounded stress can contribute to sudden death - as
it does each year for thousands of victims of heart attack and stroke; or it can
contribute slowly and insidiously - as it does for millions - to a vast assortment of
other equally devastating physical and mental disorders. (1983, p. 2)



This is not to mention that stress is not cheap for anyone by any means. According to one
study, stress costs US industry $19.4 billion dollars every year because of premature
employee death due to stress. Another $150 million per year is lost in the US alone
because of stress-related absenteeism. Annually, $700 million dollars is being spent to
recruit replacements for executives with heart disease, chronic pain, hypertension and
headaches, three stress related disorders, that make up fifty-four percent of job
absenteeism. Not to mention that workers' compensation awards for job stress are usually
four times the amount of awards for regular claims (Stress Management 2000: High Cost of
Stress 2000).

John McEwan, stress, grief and trauma consultant, says that learning how to manage stress
is the key to a healthy and more fulfilling life. "Think of surfing a huge powerful wave,"
explains McEwan. "Stress used correctly will enable you to go with the flow, riding the
right side of the wave. If you fight against stress, battling wave after wave, then it's
only a matter of time before you will be sucked under."(Seligman, 2000, p. 38)

McEwan's point is very valid. Stress has a major impact on daily life whether people are
painfully aware of it or it is an underlying problem they have yet to face. Due to the
overwhelming number of people who are afflicted with stress related illnesses and trauma,
especially related to the workplace, there have been countless books and publications
published on ways to reduce and cope with stress.

According to Melanie Seligman, author of "Stress Success" one of the most effective ways
to help yourself cope with pressured job and family commitments is to boost your immune
system. She explains that recurring colds or flu, allergies and feeling tired after a long
night's rest are signs that your immune system is not operating properly. Seligman
describes the immune system as a person's "interface with the environment." "Your immune
system is the first line of defense when infection strikes the body. Like the nervous
system, the immune system is capable of learning" (Seligman, 2000, p. 38). Essentially,
Seligman is indicating that emotional states like depression and grief can weaken
immunity, whereas loving can enhance it and make it stronger. She also suggests that peole
should avoid the temptation to use antibiotics too often as that will harm white blood
cells and in the end weaken the immune system (Seligman, 2000, p. 38).

Along the same vein of thinking is another study which shows that along with a healthy
diet and a strong immune system, you should not neglect the power of exercise. Over 1000
studies have indicated that exercise has been shown to reduce stress. For the optimal
effect, the results show that you should try aerobic exercise that increases your heart
rate for 20 minutes or more. One of the reasons that exercise helps reduce stress is
because it distracts you from whatever it is that is causing stress. It also helps
eliminate excess energy, which can stem from and contribute to stress (Sress Reduction
Techniques 2000).

Exercise has a calming effect and can lead to decreased emotional distress and better
concentration. And it makes you feel more capable of handling chanllenges, such as
tackling the cause of your stress. Exercise also helps counter possible diseases that are
exacerbated by chronic stress, such as coronary artery disease (Stress Reduction
Techniques 2000).


In addition, you should become what Linda Cruse calls an "office athlete" (Cruse, 1999, p.
65) This entails monitoring your stress level when it starts to produce physical
symptoms. She suggests that you should move and stretch as much and as often as you can
during the course of the day. This monitoring should be for two particular places: your
shoulders and your jaw. "They are often repositories of stress and can lead to pinched
nerves and TMJ, a debilitating disorder that causes pain and loss of mobility in the jaw,"
Cruse states (1999, p. 65).

Also, the sheer power of yoga and meditation has been a huge hit in recent years.
Research has demonstrated consistent, powerful results using these techniques. Stress
researcher, Hans Selye, writes, "These practices should not be underestimated merely
because science cannot explain them; they have worked for so long and in so many forms
that we must respect them" (Stress Reduction Techniques 2000).

People that have mastered meditation are capable of reducing blood pressure, oxygen
consumption and even reduce their heart rate whenever they want (Stress Reduction
Techniques 2000). Over time, almost anyone can achieve these desireable results.
According to Herbert Benson, a Harvard University physician, everyday you should plan to
spend some time at rest (not asleep). Breathing should be your main focus at this point
and it should occur in the diaphram, the muscle between your abdomen and your chest
(Stress Tips & Strategies 1999). He states that you should make it regular and
continuously repeat one word. The word itself should be simple or it could even be a word
that does not make you think, like the ever popular "om." He goes on to emphasize that
this form of relaxation "is a skill that requires regular practice. It is not helpful to
try it for the first time when under enormous stress" (Stress Reduction Techniques 2000).

Doing visualizations is another tactic used with both mediation and yoga. Imagining a
pleasant place is a good way to mentally remove yourself from a stressful situation. In
doing this you must allow any thoughts you have to pass through your mind without actually
"thinking" about them. In doing all of this, your breathing pattern should be slow and
deliberate until you feel completely at ease. It is a good idea to imagine a place that
makes you feel good and relaxed. Most often, this is a place in nature or a specific
place where you may have spent restful vacations. You should be focusing on all of your
senses in order to get the full effect. The visualization should last from five to ten
minutes and the return to reality should be slow and progressive (Stress Reduction
Techniques 2000).

Another author, on the other hand, suggests that you should "giggle while you work." "Fun
and humor help individuals through crisis and change," (2000, p. 214) writes Dave Hemsath
and Leslie Yerkes, co-authors of 301 Ways to Have Fun at Work. "Because they facilitate
the release of tension, fun and humor increase employees' ability to cope with stress on
the job and to remain flexible, creative and innovative under pressure--central features
of a strong, resilient corporate culture," say the authors (2000, p. 214). In other
words, although it may have once been seen as big faux pas to joke around at the office,
today it is of tremendous value to let your guard down, if only for the sake of your
sanity and health, and tell a few jokes.

It seems as though this is a very popular contention. Many authors seem to share Clarke's
views on laughter and fun in the workplace. One such author, John Weinstein, suggests
that there are many ways to use "humor to cope" (2000, p. 5). One way is basically to
spend more time with your funniest friends and colleagues. By doing this you are
surrounding yourself with humor and you are determining the nature of your sense of humor.
Make time for pleasure. Schedule fun dates and activities in advance. Give yourself
permission to goof off and relax. Find humor in everyday life. You have to learn to
laugh at your own mistakes and find humor in the midst of stress (Weinstein, 2000, p. 5).

Weinstein goes on to add that "to successfully incorporate humor into the workplace,
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