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Take a load off: learn how to achieve more and stress less.

You've finally secured that breakthrough contract, and your company is performing at maximum efficiency. But months of managing the business single-handedly are beginning to take their toll on your health. Or maybe incessant deadlines, uncooperative co-workers and a demanding boss are leaving you drained. Now you're exhibiting the classic signs of stress and overwork: a racing heart, high blood pressure and muscle tension.

Are you beginning to question whether a successful enterprise or career is worth the mental and physical strain? Well, spare yourself further worry. With a little practice, you can learn to manage anxiety without coming apart at the seams.

Stress is a debilitating response to adverse external influences. It's a common side effect of intense work and strikes entrepreneurs and employees alike. Because of its impact on the heart, stress poses a serious threat to blacks, says Sharon Jones, M.D., a psychiatrist at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. "Stress makes the immune system even more vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, heart attacks or stroke, she says.

These conditions plague the African American community in disproportionate numbers. Blacks are twice as likely to die of a stroke as whites, according to the American Heart Association. Black men are 47% more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than white men. And black women have a 69% greater risk than white women.

Although it is commonly minimized or ignored altogether, stress is a very serious condition. According to the American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, New York, stress-related illnesses, including tension, irritability and depression, put a $100 billion strain on the American economy each year.

The key to managing stress is knowing your own tolerance level. Acknowledge when your internal barometer alerts you to anxiety, and take active steps to reduce it. By combining the following suggestions with rest and a proper diet, you can keep stress at bay.

* Remove yourself from the source of stress. "Take a mental health break. Recognize your physical limitations and take time out", advises Jones. Stretch frequently at your desk and take leisurely strolls during lunch. Exercise increases your stamina and releases chemicals that stabilize your mood.

* Create a soothing atmosphere. Cornell and DeJuana Adams believe that relaxed employees are more productive. "Music has a calming effect, so we play it in the office. There's no substitute for a happy workplace," say the owners of Newark, New Jersey-based Accurate Set Inc., a dental materials manufacturing company.

* Surround yourself with encouraging people. The increasing anti-affirmative action measures are a big source of stress, especially for Samuel Carradine, executive director of the National Association of Minority Contractors in Washington, D.C.

"A supportive family is extremely important in stress management, says the husband and father of four. "Engage in family activities and enjoy the peace they provide," he advises.

* Make it known that you're overwhelmed. "Learn how to say `no' when you're overloaded in the office," says Jones. If you can't meet a deadline, contact your clients and set a later date. It's better for them to receive a superior product later than to get poor-quality work sooner. When you feel bogged down, let your co-workers know you cannot take on additional tasks.


You've got the power

Take responsibility for your own actions

Personal power plays on important role in how successful you will become. Although this authority is built-in, it takes time to develop. Observe the four interrelated stages of self-empowerment:

Self-awareness. Focus on how you view yourself, not how others see you. "Deprogramming" your mind frees you to take responsibility for your own actions.

Truth. Facing the truth propels you forward and forces you to be accountable for the choices you make. Ignoring it only results in stagnation, an enemy of success.

Connectedness. When you value interpersonal bonds, you are more trusting and self-confident. You then become comfortable and strong enough to seek the truth in its many forms.

Commitment. This requires living the truth while holding it up for continuous inspection. In so doing, you can make necessary changes without breaking your covenants with others.

Keep in mind that self-empowerment is a journey, not a destination. Learning as you go along grants you the distinct pleasure of meeting a new part of yourself every step of the way.

--David Crocker is an organizational change consultant and president of Crocker Associates in Yorktown, Virginia.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Author:Kirk, Charles
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Feb 1, 1998
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