What's the worst thing about your job?
And don't answer, "Everything." Be specific.
Stress comes from every direction. It comes from above when your manager responds to your best ideas by putting a finger down his throat and pretending to gag. It comes from the side when the co-workers who used to call you names behind your back start calling you names right to your face. It even comes from below, when your entire support team of IT and HR professionals decide they'd rather support Pablo Escobar than give you the help you so obviously need.
While we never know where stress will come from we do know what stress will do. It will cause you to stop eating (if you're thin. If you're fat, it will make you eat more.)
Stress can also interrupt your sleep cycle, producing the kind of insomnia that makes it difficult to sleep peacefully at your desk throughout the afternoon. Stress can even poison your relationship, making your home life almost as bad as your work life.
In a nutshell, a little stress definitely can screw up your chi.
As someone with so little self-awareness you never know whether you're stressed or not, you'll be happy to learn that you can read all about the subject in "How to Alleviate Your Stress And Ask For Help Without Appearing Weak," a Kathy Caprino contribution to Forbes.
If you haven't been worried about stress before, Caprino's article gives you plenty of good reasons to start.
"Workplace stress kills thousands of Americans each year," she writes, "and contributes up to $190 billion in healthcare expenses annually." Whether that number includes the cost of daily stress-relieving potions at The Kit Kat Klub, I don't know. But do keep track of your bar tab; it could be deductable as a medical expense.
Stressful jobs usually involve "excessive demands and pressures that are not matched to workers' knowledge and abilities."
One key, then, to reducing stress is to make sure the assignments you take on do match your knowledge and abilities. For example, if your manager wants you to design a dynamic marketing strategy to monotonically correct synergistic sales declines in the Eurasia markets, demand a task that better suits you. One suggestion — your manager throws a stick down the hallway and you have to fetch it.
(Since another stress-buster is getting support from supervisors, be sure your manager says "good job!" when — and if — you return the stick.)
At this point in the article, Caprino must have been feeling stress herself, since she asks for help from Dr. Andrea Goeglein, a "positive psychologist" out of Las Vegas.
According to Goeglein, one of the best ways to combat workplace stress is to ask for help. On the surface, this seems easy to do, but there's a trick to it. "Asking for help should happen long before you need it," the good doctor says. In other words, you have to be nice to the stupid idiots you work with when you don't need them, so they will be nice to you when you do.
This is not going to be easy.
Fortunately, there are many ways to practice "intentional relationship building." You could offer to return all the Hummels you have pilfered from your co-workers' cubes. You could confess to coating their office chair with super glue. You can even offer to wax their cars, or their legs.
The bigger roadblock in asking for help is our "natural vulnerability and insecurity." To many emotionally immature people, asking for help denotes weakness, and you certainly don't want to be perceived as weak, especially when you are.
You may also feel that you have a deficit in the help department, since you've asked for help in so many previous mega-stress occasions, like the time you lost a quarter in the snack machine and suffered a complete mental melt-down until someone ponied up and you got your Abba-Zaba bar.
What's done is done, of course, so you may have to go it alone in the future, but be careful not to go past your "knowledge stress point." You can "stretch yourself past that point," Kathy Caprino says, "but never to the breaking point"
Having reached your breaking point on the first day on the job, this could limit your ability to ask or receive help. But you can always try.
In the meantime, keep chasing those sticks.
It's one thing you do really, really well.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at creators.com.