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Don't Let Stress Derail Your Career Success

Published:Wednesday | April 20, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Glenford Smith, Career Writer

Glenford Smith, Career Writer

Problems relating to money, love, work, relationships, and increased workloads coupled with inadequate resources, make increasingly more people prone to suffer from stress. In several conversations I've had recently, persons have told me how easily irritated they have become.

Stress describes the body's reaction to the mental, emotional and physical demands which are placed upon us. So in real life, where we all have to work, meet deadlines, pay bills and cope with setbacks and problems of one kind or another, we cannot escape some degree of stress. In fact, psychologists have coined the term 'eustress' to describe 'good stress'. This is a positive kind of stress that drives us to stretch beyond our comfort zones and perform at a higher level than before.

You may become a victim of stress, however, when the stressors - the actual events and circumstances that cause stress - begin to drain you, wear you out and pressure you. For instance, constant battles with a difficult boss or the anxiety of another looming project deadline can make you prone to negative stress.

Experiencing these challenges occasionally may be harmless, but a constant dose of these little difficulties can result in major problems relating to work performance and health. It's like water torture. One drop of water is nothing, but if single drops keep hitting you on the same spot on your head, it will begin to feel like hammer blows after a while.

Another little appreciated source of career stress is personal problems. These include marital conflicts, family misunderstandings and frustrations about money. The fact is that we cannot take off our personal problems and leave them at home before going to work, like we could a suit of clothes. Although many people put on beautiful clothes and a nice smile to match, they are inwardly struggling with anger, worry and fear about personal issues.

According to psychologist Dr Phil McGraw, this can result in inefficiency at work. Becoming short tempered, forgetting important matters, and becoming disinterested in work and people are also signs to look out for. If you've had to deal with a constant stream of setbacks, difficulties and problems, you may be at risk. In his book, Real Life, Dr McGraw warns: "The body's reaction to stress, especially if it's chronic, isn't something to be taken lightly. It can take years off your life. It can even kill you."

Stress-management strategies to apply include talking to a counsellor at work, sharing your problems with an understanding friend, or even writing in a journal. In addition, physical exercise has been found to reduce stress and promote a feeling of happiness and well-being. Spiritual disciplines including worship, prayer, meditation and reading the bible and other spiritual literature are also proven practices in reducing the adverse effects of stress.

Few people will have the time to practise all these strategies, but we all can choose a couple and start. The consequences for not managing stress can be dire; the pay-off will more than justify your efforts.