Piling on findings about stress: more control over your workload lessens stress

Several points struck me from an article in Wired, Aug. 2010 at 132, about occupational stress. The most striking is that the higher your position, the less damage stress does to you. The reason for this seeming paradox is that the higher you rise the relatively more control you have over your pace, pressure, and priorities. For that reason, a general counsel has to make tough calls under time pressure and never with enough information, but that general counsel has some say over what’s on the desk and how to handle it. The mid-level lawyer in a department has less control and therefore more stress.

The article also points out some possible misunderstandings about stress reduction. One is that “blood alcohol levels above 0.1 percent – most states consider 0.08 the legal limit for driving – trigger a large release of stress hormones.” Several stiff ones at night exacerbate the angst. Also, exercise can help alleviate feeling stressed out, but not if you don’t want to exercise in the first place. Meditation, studies show, can dramatically reduce levels of stress and anxiety. Finally, learn to walk away from provocations; we actually have more control than we think over what sets us off (See my post of May 18, 2007: stress and pressure with 7 references; and June 11, 2008: stress with 18 references.).

I lashed myself unsparingly to update my posts on stress and now feel deeply relieved that I have done so (See my post of Nov. 17, 2008: procrastination increases stress; Dec. 7, 2008: dogs at work reduce stress; Jan. 30, 2009: cortisol, released under stress, harms memory; Feb. 22, 2009: vacations relieve the grind; Dec. 10, 2009: leave more time between meetings; Dec. 10, 2009: vexations of air travel; March 11, 2010: pressure levels between big and little legal departments; June 17, 2010: bureaucracy can reduce stress; and July 19, 2010: decision-making under time constraints.).

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