I once assumed that an ER doctor faces much more stress than my mailman, however this isn’t always necessarily true. According to the American Institute of Stress (AIS), the root causes of stress are highly subjective, citing the following factors as stress contributors:
- Personality: Different things impact people differently. You may thrive under pressure while it sends a colleague spiraling downward.
- Environment: Having strong, positive relationships with your boss and fellow employees helps to alleviate stress because they are more likely to help when you’re overwhelmed. Feeling respected and appreciated in the workplace also fortifies your social comfort level which can help stress feel more manageable.
- Low job security: Constantly feeling worried or anxious about your job security is definitely stressful.
- The magnitude of responsibility: If you’re constantly overworked or feel forced to overexert yourself to meet the demands of your job, stress is inevitable. Even people who thrive under pressure need breaks to recover before pushing it into overdrive again.
- Perceived vs. actual control: Employees who perceive that they have control over a situation, and actually have that control, will be less stressed than those who have little control. Even if you have very little control, yet perceive that you do, your stress will be alleviated more than someone who has no control at all.
- Role ambiguity: Having a clear understanding of your responsibilities is paramount to success. The alternative is ambiguity which can send the imagination soaring, along with stress levels.
What can you do to minimize any of these sources of stress? Simply put, you can apply Dale Carnegie’s effective strategies to live in the present day and focus on those things you can control. He said, “If you want to avoid worry, do what Sir William Osler did: Live in ‘day-tight compartments.’ Don’t stew about the futures. Just live each day until bedtime.”
When a specific concern continues to worry you, apply Mr. Carnegie’s techniques for overcoming worry. First, ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can possibly happen?” Next, prepare to accept the worst and lastly, try to improve on the worst. Let’s apply this technique using one of the aforementioned sources of stress, job security, so you can understand how it works. First ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can possibly happen if I lose my job?” Such a loss could be financially and emotionally devastating to you and your loved ones. List all potential impacts.
Next, by ‘preparing to accept the worst,’ you have many options. You could ask your manager about the longevity of your role in the short-term, as well as express your long-term vocational pursuits within the organization to gauge your short- and long-term value to the company—and employability therein. You might want to refresh your resume and begin job searching. Lastly, by ‘trying to improve upon the worst,’ you could begin modifying your spending in order to start, or increase the size of, a savings net.