Use Humor. Research has shown that humor is a very effective mechanism for coping with acute stress. Keeping a sense of humor during difficult situations is a common recommendation from stress management experts. Laughter not only releases the tension of pent-up feelings and helps keep perspective, but it appears to have actual physical effects that reduce stress hormone levels. It is not uncommon for people to recall laughing intensely even during tragic events, such as the death of a loved one, and to remember this laughter as helping them to endure the emotional pain.
Reducing Stress on the Job
Many institutions within the current culture, while paying lip service to stress reduction, put intense pressure on individuals to behave in ways that promote tension.
Some experts argue that employers should be held responsible for taking measures to prevent stress from work overload and should provide help to deal with work-related stress. Treating stress has a number of benefits, not only for the individual but also for the employer. In one study, for example, in which a company set up a two-year stress management educational program, the savings to the company in workmen’s compensations costs were nearly $150,000, compared to the cost of the program which was only $150 per participant for a total of $6,000. A study in Japan indicated that the most popular approaches for reducing stress in the work place were educational and consultation programs for each individual worker. Stress prevention methods that only involved management were inadequate.
In general, however, few workplaces offer stress management programs, and it is usually up to the employee to find their own ways to reduce stress. Here are some suggestions:
- Seek out someone in the Human Resources department or a sympathetic manager and communicate concerns about job stress. Work with them in a non-confrontational way to improve working conditions, letting them know that productivity can be improved if some of the pressure is off.
- Establish or reinforce a network of friends at work and at home.
- Restructure priorities and eliminate unnecessary tasks.
- Learn to focus on positive outcomes.
- If the job is unendurable, plan and execute a career change. Send out resumes or work on transfers within the company.
- If this isn’t possible, be sure to schedule daily pleasant activities and physical exercise during free time.
It may be helpful to keep in mind that the bosses are also victimized by the same stressful conditions they are imposing.
Strengthen or Establish a Support Network
Studies of people who remain happy and healthy despite many life stresses conclude that most have very good networks of social support. One study indicated that support even from strangers reduced blood pressure surges in people undergoing a stressful event. Many studies suggest that having a pet helps reduce medical problems aggravated by stress, including Heart disease and high blood pressure.
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD