Getting stress tough: How you can help yourself

Network managers and administrators hold some of the most stressful jobs in the IT industry. "People are constantly breathing down your neck, every time the phone rings you jump, and you're never truly off duty because The Pager can beep at any moment-day or night," said Andrew Garman, Director of the Center for Health Care Entrepreneurship at Rush University in Chicago, IL.

Although a certain amount of stress can be positive, continuous stress that builds over time can eventually lead to stress overload and physical or psychological breakdowns. "Over a long period of time, the stress response will begin to take a toll on your body," said john Townsend, a professional consultant working in the field of stress management in Coffs Harbour NSW, Australia (www.stresstips.com).

Garman says that stress occurs when network professionals feel they have little control over closing the gap between their ideals about how things should be versus how they are. "The control issue is enormous with IT professionals," Garman continued. "The challenge is to come up with mechanisms to gain more control over your work and to enhance your social support system."

When you feel a catastrophe coming on, here are some things you can do:

1. Keep the problem in perspective:

a. Keep track of the incidents on a piece of paper-date, time, situation, what's going on, what you are thinking and feeling ("my fault," "terrible things are going to happen," etc.)

b. Ask yourself, "What is the worst thing that could possibly happen as a result-realistically? [Your 'customer' will be disappointed, a project will be delivered late, etc.]

c. How bad would that be-realistically? [If you're honest with yourself, you won't fear getting fired because conscientious network professionals (and most are), are too valuable to an organization.]

d. Review the list and come up with some counter arguments for each consequence. [I could get fired, but it's pretty unlikely. Even if I do get fired, I could get another job pretty quickly. Etc.]

2. Don't be too hard on yourself when you make a mistake.

3. Set specific goals for taking control of the situation.

4. Talk to your supervisor to let him/her know you are experiencing a problem and suggest some solutions.

5. Avoid negative stress reducers such as smoking, drinking, overeating/not eating, illegal drugs, physical violence, or complete withdrawal from contact with others.

6. Contact the company Employee Assistance Program counselor to discuss work situations or any other situations creating stress.

"You are always free to choose how you react to a situation," Garman added. "If you stop thinking rigidly and start taking control of your situation, it's less likely that the world will come crashing in on you."

To find out how stress tough you are, complete John Townsend's:

*Stress Toughness Questionnaire at http://www.stresstips.com/toughtest.html

*Social Stress Test at http://www.stresstips.com/social_stresstest.htm

*The Stress Test at http://www.stresstips.com/stresstest.html

"How to Master Stress" at http://www.psywww.com/mtsite/smpage

"Stress" WebMD Health http://my.webmd.com/content/dmk/dmk_article_40082


This was first published in February 2001

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