Thursday, March 11, 2010

How much is the stress worth?

Steve likes to say that the extra pay you get with career advancements is for the extra stress that comes with the greater job responsibilities. I'm inclined to agree.

I've been blessed to have a relatively stress-free job for the past four years, for the most part. There have been periods where the work load was heavy or the responsibilities were daunting, but those were sporadic. And, if I'm honest, they were the periods I enjoyed the most! I've found it far more grinding - and harder to get up on Monday mornings - when the days are slow and predictable.

As I've been idly scouring the Ottawa job market for communicators, I've been tossing around the question of how much responsibility (read, "stress") do I want? Part of me likes the idea of applying for "writer" or "communications officer" positions, which are below my qualifications but would be jobs that I could do with little or no stress. Another part of me looks at the more senior positions and thinks, "I could do that!" and relishes the challenge.

Which brings me to the question of "good stress" versus "bad stress." I happen to believe that some kinds of stress are actually productive and can be energizing. A 2004 article at supports this, in terms of your immune system. The article states that short bursts of stress can actually help your immune system.

"But long-term stress such as an injury or trauma that caused permanent or life-changing damage, such as having a long term disability, losing a partner or spouse or being abused as a child, appeared to wear out the immune system, leaving people more prone to infections." Read the article here.
Another site says,
"Positive stress--known as eustress--is what helps you write your best report, ace your tennis game and deepen your relationships." It goes on to say, "You don't have to eliminate stress so much as manage it--to determine the level that's optimal for you."Read the article here.
I guess "eustress" is what I'm looking for. I liken it to "hypomania" - that condition where you aren't truly out-of-control manic, but you're full of energy and enthusiasm. And I think, for me, that means I need a challenge. But I'll also need to learn how to manage that stress.

What are your tips for managing stress? What would you choose: higher stress or lower stress? Will choosing more stress just send me to an early grave? Share your thoughts.


  1. I am a fan of doing things at the edge of one's competency so there is room to grow and challenges to overcome. With any job it seems one gets to a place of accommodation with the demands and so the stress goes down. When that happens to me, I tend to launch a new initiative (or three).

    The only way I would choose a low stress job is if I were facing some serious challenges in my non-work life that would have me working on my growing edge elsewhere.

  2. Hmmm.. I like the idea of a "growing edge."

  3. Joe: reminds me of ski wipe-outs. If I don't have a fabulous wipe-out at least once a day while skiing, I'm not close enough to the edge.
    WA: you need the challenge. When you are ready to rest, you can always back off.


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