Five Ways to End Job Stress

“Be happy you have a job!” That’s the phrase I love to hate. It’s also the mantra corporate America uses during this ongoing recession to work their employees into a frenzy.

Lately, I have heard increasing complaints of job stress from my clients. While those of us who have jobs are certainly grateful to be able to put food on the table, sometimes the cost is irrevocably high. We are expected to manage unreasonably large volumes of work that cause us to question our competency, stress tolerance, career choices, and priorities in life. While we strive to do quality work, we are being forced into mediocrity just to satisfy management’s bottom line. It’s no longer about quality, but quantity. The human toll is illustrated by low morale, physical illness, and emotional distress. Frequently, I see highly talented, intelligent people who are distraught, disillusioned, and questioning. Long gone are the days of appreciation and recognition for a job well done (not to mention the thank you of a gold watch at retirement).

How can we cope with this gnawing stressor and achieve a more satisfying work-life balance? Here are some alternatives to consider:

1. Talk to the boss. Yes, you heard me. Sometimes they are more receptive than you think. Chances are they are feeling just as stressed as you are due to pressure from upper management, so they can (and will) empathize. Who knows? They may be amenable to getting you help or altering your work hours.

2. Be resourceful and explore other job opportunities, but DO look before you leap. Don’t be rash and quit on impulse until you’ve secured another position. (And, yes, it can happen. More people are quitting their jobs, which means the economy is improving.)

3. Reinvent yourself. Maybe it’s time to change career objectives. Investigate starting your own business. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do that you could begin doing on the side in preparation for an eventual full-time move? Even if you’re over 50, it is possible to discover (and love) a new career.

4. Would you be happier working for a non-profit? Non-profits generally pay less, but maybe the personal satisfaction of promoting a cause instead of a corporate bottom line is worth it. Check out Idealist.org, the premiere online job search website for non-profit organizations.

5. If you work at home, be sure to take the same breaks you would be entitled to if you worked at the corporate office. Get out for lunch, take a walk, or go to the gym on your lunch hour. Socialization, even gossip, is good for you. Since you can’t walk to the next cubicle to chat, take a break and call a friend.

If you find none of the above appealing, try retraining your brain and resetting your priorities. Do the best you can to maintain quality work, but keep things in perspective. In the long run, it’s just a job. It’s not worth sacrificing your family or your physical and emotional health. Make time for things that bring you pleasure, such as spending time with friends and family, exercising, gardening, listening to music, or watching a movie. These things may seem frivolous, but if you don’t slow down and take time for yourself you may pay the price in the end. April is National Stress Awareness Month, so what better time than the present to implement a stress reduction strategy? Go forth and chill out.

Bitty (a.k.a. Linda Sussman-Swiller) is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. You may view her credentials or contact her by clicking here…