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Stress management.

High turnover! Excessive delinquency! Negative cash flow! Poor employee retention! Bad safety record! Lawsuits! Terrible owner relations ! If these were some of the words you heard at your last performance review, your first reaction was probably: an audible moan, increased heart and breathing rates, elevated skin temperature, dry mouth, and dilated pupils. You were experiencing stress. If you just smiled benignly, you do not need to read any further.

What is stress? Stress is the result of people's reaction to the difference between their expectations and the real world. Stress is defined as a physical, chemical, or emotional reaction that can cause bodily or mental tensions and may contribute to disease. Originally stress was seen as a physical phenomenon-the fight or flight syndrome. However, today researchers recognize that stress has physical, psychological, and emotional components.

Stress occurs when a person is forced to exert strenuous effort to maintain essential functions at a required level.

Stress threatens, prods, scares, thrills, and worries us. The manifestations of stress may take many forms, from increased irritability and minor depression to substance abuse, mental breakdowns and coronary disease. In the long run, recognizing the causes of stress and learning to cope with them will help each of us be better, more productive, and happier workers and human beings.

Causes of stress

Every type of business has its share of stress, but the tasks specific to property management sometimes seem designed to multiply stress in even the calmest among us. The demands on the property manager are incessant. Tenants expect to have questions answered and repairs made when they want them, not just during office hours.

Feelings of being unable to control a situation are also a major contributor to anxiety. Being unable to get an answer from the central office, getting different directions from the owner and the asset manager, or similar situations where the individual thinks he or she is unable to act greatly increases stress levels.

The high degree of responsibility that the property manager and the site manager bear also contributes to stress. This elevated level of responsibility is combined with a lack of finite control. Ultimately, the decisions on managing a property must be made by the owner, but the manager is charged with carrying them out. Conflicts between the manager's and owner's opinions on how a property should be run add to stress levels. If decisions are unpopular with tenants, it is also the manager who bears the brunt of their dissatisfaction.

The stresses on the property manager are also intensified because they often hear from tenants only when there is a problem. Few people call to compliment the manager on a clean lobby. Likewise the difficulties inherent in satisfying a variety of clients with different needs creates tension.

Competition among management firms also contributes to the property manager's stress level. Fee management firms must continually satisfy clients, or they may lose them. This situation, in turn, produces concerns over job security and economic stability.

In some cases, stress may become so severe that the individual experiences burnout. Symptoms of burnout include exhaustion, inability to concentrate, low productivity, and even personality changes. Victims of such extreme stress may need professional help. However, the best way to cure burnout is to lower stress before burnout occurs.

Taking the stress quiz (Figure 1) gives an indication of whether or not you are experiencing unhealthy stress levels.

At the same time, keep in mind that a certain level of stress is probably essential. Research has found that people in very low-pressure jobs suffer from many of the same symptoms as those facing burnout.

Reducing stress

Stress may manifest itself in many ways. Yet, stress reduction is vital if the property manager is going to achieve the high productivity needed to excel in our competitive field.

In fact, the formula for reducing stress is remarkably easy, providing you follow it. First and foremost, quit taking yourself and others quite so seriously. At the same time, give credit to yourself for jobs well done, even if no one else does.

Finally, use your time more effectively. Learn to say "no" to needless interruptions. If this seems impossible, consider a course in time management.

At the same time, avoid people that make up a negative support group. If you feel there are problems in your life, try to address them. Do not constantly dwell on them with others.

Conversely, a positive support group made up of peers may offer reassurance in solving problems. A weekly meeting of managers in your company, probably led by a facilitator with some training in psychology as well as property management, may help. But remember, this is a problem-solving support group, not a gripe session.

Physical activity and stress-reducing exercises are also beneficial in reducing tension. Moderate exercise may produce endorphins in the blood, lowering tension. A healthy diet may also contribute to reduced stress.

In addition, becoming aware of and counteracting physical symptoms of tension may also lower stress. Controlling physical arousal through breathing and relaxation exercises may also alleviate some stress. Train yourself to relax your mind during short waiting periods, at a red light, while on hold, and so forth. Rather than fuming, let your mind go blank or focus on a pleasant setting or happy incident. Even a few seconds of relaxation will lower stress.

Biofeedback monitoring systems are another way to alert yourself to stress. Self-hypnosis tapes or yoga may also help lower anxiety levels for some people. Keep trying various techniques until you find the right one for you.

Finally, controlling stress-inducing thoughts will assist in reducing tensions. Rather than worry incessantly about a problem, establish clearcut steps for solving it and then quit worrying.

One process to follow in problem-solving is:

* Prepare background data on the problem.

* Evaluate alternative solutions.

* Imagine their implementation and results.

* Choose the best answer.

* Implement your decision in a timely manner.

* Monitor the results.

* Reassess the situation and select another solution, if necessary.

Even if these activities do not completely eliminate stress, they will help. The process of reducing stress may take time, but by recognizing stress and taking positive steps, tensions may be decreased.

At the same time do not try to reduce remaining stress with false remedies such as liquor, drugs, or negative escapism. These seeming "solutions" will only create new problems.

Many people feel that stress is just a part of life-something you have to live with. However, by recognizing the symptoms of stress and taking steps to eliminate its causes, the manager may be able to lower stress to an acceptable level. Lower stress will benefit the manager, the property, and the person.
Figure 1 Stress Quiz
Answer each question based on your own experience in
the post 12 months by piecing a chock in the appropriate
column. To find your score, look below.
 1 Have you lived or worked in a noisy area?
 2 Have you changed your living conditions or moved?
 3 Have you had trouble with in-laws?
 4 Have you taken out a large loan or mortgage?
 5 Have you tended to fall behind with the things you
should do?
 6 Have you found it difficult to concentrate at times?
 7 Have your frequently had trouble going to sleep?
 8 Have you found that you tend to eat, drink, or smoke more
 than you really should?
 9 Have you watched more than three hours of television daily
 for weeks at a time?
10 Have you or your spouse changed jobs or work
11 Have you been dissatisfied or unhappy with your work or
felt excessive work responsibilities?
12 Has a close friend died.?
13 Have you been dissatisfied with your sex life?
14 Have you been pregnant?
15 Have you had an addition to the family?
16 Have you worried about making ends meet?
17 Has one of the family had bad health?
18 Have you taken tranquilizers from time to time?
19 Have you frequently found yourself becoming easily
irritated when things don't go well?
20 Have you often experienced bungled human relations-even
 with those you love most?
21 Have you found that you are often impatient or edgy
with your children or other family members.?
22 Have you tended to feel restless or nervous much of the
23 Have you had frequent headaches or digestive upsets?
24 Have you experienced anxiety or worry for days at a time?
25 Have you often been so preoccupied that you have
forgotten where you put things or forgotten whether you have
turned off machinery.?
26 Have you been married or reconciled with your spouse?
27 Have you had a serious accident, illness, or surgery?
28 Has anyone in your immediate family died?
29 Have you divorced or separated?
Scoring Key
For each yes?' answer to... Questions 1 to 9: 3 points
 Questions 10 to 22: 4 points
 Questions 23 to 27: 5 points
 Question 28: 6 points
 Question 29: 7 points

Interpreting Your Score

to 15 points: This range represents a low level of all kinds of stress. If you score in this range, you are probably handling whatever stress you have well.

16 to 40 points: You are experiencing mild to moderate stress. Becoming aware of how much stress you are under may help in relieving some of your built-up anxiety You may want to watch any future events which might add to your level of stress and delay them if possible.

41 to 117 points: If you scored here, you probably already know you are under stress. You may find it useful to analyze exactly which factors are contributing to your high total. Regardless of what is causing your current stress, it is important to avoid any additional stress until you feel more in control of your life. Second, seek out professional help-your physician or psychologist-for ways to reduce your already high level of stress and for assistance in altering your stress-producing lifestyle. Source: Audio Health Services
COPYRIGHT 1990 National Association of Realtors
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Magnuson, John
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:May 1, 1990
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