By Steven T. Padgitt, Ph.D.

While technology is advancing "faster than a speeding bullet", and product price wars have become "more powerful than a locomotive", corporations are no longer "leaping buildings with a single bound". Its clear that our economy is a failing Superman, and we begin wondering who's got the kryptonite and how long they will hold it to Superman's head. A result of our current and prolonged recession in combination with the recent spurt in technology is that our nation's employees are facing more internal tension than ever before. As product competition escalates, not only is our work force faced with the stress induced by enormous performance pressure, but in the 80s and 90s employees are faced with the very real threat of job loss and unemployment in the 7% range. All these variables result in the physical/emotional sensation known as "On The Job Stress" (O.T.J.S.).

Stress is the way the mind and body react to any situation that is new, threatening or exciting. Stress prepares the individual to act by setting off the body's "flight or fight" response which has the effects of: general muscular tension, vasoconstriction, elevated heart rate and breathing, increased sweating and a decrease in salivation resulting in dry mouth. These physical symptoms may also be accompanied by feelings and thoughts of impending doom.

Many of the warning signs indicating excessive stress are physical ones. These signals include: feeling chronically anxious or irritable, experiencing frequent headaches, stomach problems, constant fatigue, and even frequent physical illness. While all stress isn't bad, monitoring it effectively is very important. A moderate level of stress and effective management can enhance energy to meet challenges, solve problems and reach important goals.

The first step in good O.T.J. S. management is to identify the sources of related tension. O.T.J. S. comes from a number of general sources such as: the physical environment, other people and social politics, negative self-talk and irrational personal beliefs, the success or stress a company is experiencing as well as more general financial trends such as economic recession.

After identifying the sources of stress, it is important to examine both what can and cannot be changed. After altering the external stressors that are amenable to change, the goal is effective internal stress management. Helpful approaches used by psychologists often include: visual imagery and cognitive rehearsal, deep relaxation breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, a program of regular physical exercise, dietary consultation and assertiveness training. There are numerous ways to manage stress and it is important to find the ones that work effectively. While these procedures don't necessarily come naturally in the face of tension, once learned and adopted, they can be a major benefit in using the positive aspects of stress and diminishing the negative and even life threatening features.