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Stress for success.

WE'VE ALL HEARD that to prosper in the business world, we must dress for success. But how many of us consider stress a significant factor in achieving success in our careers? Yet think about how often it rears its ugly head during our daily interactions with both colleagues and family. Almost every decision we make invokes a certain degree of stress, which appears uninvited (like many relatives), attacks without warning (like a migraine headache), and is remarkably cunning (knowing when we're most vulnerable).

Can something as disruptive as stress be controlled and used to our advantage both professionally and personally? The late philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, who headed Sears Roebuck for many years, had a simple formula for dealing with stress: "When you have a lemon, make lemonade." Easy for him to say, right? He never had to deal with demanding physicians, exhausting regulations and proficiency testing, personnel shortages, budget cutbacks, and hiring freezes. Nevertheless, his philosophy is worth some consideration.

Let's visualize stress as a fat, sour, yellow lemon rolling up to our office door each day oozing citric acid all over the floor. Before we can combat this enemy and use it to our advantage, we must analyze its source, identify its effect on our bodies, and develop strategies to keep it in tow.

Source. Three quarters of all employee illnesses and accidents are stress related. Many of us fail to realize how detrimental stress can be until it has manifested itself in the form of a physical illness. Our ability to respond positively to stress is instilled in us as children by our parents based on cultural, personal, and gender differences. Children who are taught to manage stress positively learn leadership and self-confidence skills that carry them successfully into adult life. Those sheltered by overprotective parents are never permitted to meet the stresses of life on their own and consequently become victims of stress as adults.

Effect. Responses to stress can be physical and/or psychological. When under tension, people often release hormones that can have a detrimental effect on the body. For instance, elevated thyroid hormones speed up the body's metabolism, causing nervousness, weight loss, and burnout. The release and depletion of endorphin from the hypothalamus aggravates migraines, backaches, and arthritic-like pains.

Psychological stress responses manifest themselves in subtle ways. Who hasn't been plagued by insomnia from lying in bed at night replaying every stressful moment from a 16-hour shift? Dietary habits tend to deteriorate as we skip meals, eat on the run, supplement regular meals with junk food, and pop Rolaids like lemon drops (pun intended).

Many of us increase our consumption of alcohol, sedatives, and stimulants (can you imagine a lab without coffee)--chemicals that aggravate stress. Smoking continues to be a popular way to relax, even though it can lead to heart attacks, cancers, and stomach ulcers.

Control. To transform a lemon into lemonade, we must learn to manage it. Here are some suggestions on how to accomplish this task:

* Develop a sense of humor. Learn to laugh at yourself as well as at the craziness associated with working in our field.

* Practice eating a balanced diet that includes the four basic food groups, along with supplemental vitamins and minerals. Drinking eight glasses of water a day helps to purify the kidneys and the mind.

* When possible, learn to walk away from a tedious task causing you tension. Switch gears to another activity that involves the use of different mind and body circuits. While this temporary task may be stressful too, eliminating all stress in your life is not always the key to having a satisfying day.

* Become involved in stimulating extracurricular activities outside the lab. Hobbies such as windsurfing, painting, and jogging can do wonders for the psyche. Play the harp in the community college orchestra, join a local softball league, or better yet, write for MLO.

* Develop a strong network of family and friends who can offer support and companionship during trying times.

For success and stress to cohabit peacefully, we must take a proactive approach to managing them. Only after we have taken stress by the reins will we be able to turn that powerful lemon into lemonade.

Bonnie B. Hendrix is laboratory director, Humana Hospital Northside, St. Petersburg, Fla., and adjunct professor, University of South Florida, Tampa.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Viewpoint; stress management
Author:Hendrix, Bonnie B.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:Column
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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