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Avoid stress -- work on your perspective

By Amy Agronis on September 28, 2001 in University

Despite all the massive changes and critical incidents we've gone through in the last couple of weeks that definitely have changed our world, it's time for the world as we know it here on campus to start again. For me, and I hope for many of you, it's a wonderful time. As a local resident, I, of course, like some of the convenience of Davis in the summertime. But town never seems to be quite alive until our students come back. They are our reason for being, and without them it's just a sort of unrealistic vacation.

The negative side is that this is the time when things speed up again, when there are more tasks its seems than we can finish in a 60, forget 40, -hour week. The demands, even when they are things that we like to do, can sometimes overwhelm us. A great deal has been said on campus and a great many measures taken to reduce workload stress. But today, as we begin again, here are some things that you can do to avoid or prevent workload stress altogether.

Many of my suggestions fall under the heading of stress management or time management. These include such things as prioritizing, being sure of what your objectives are, analyzing problems before you act, scheduling your work tasks to fit your best times and tackling the really tough problems when you are fresh and thinking well. On the stress management side, there are such things as following a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and remembering to look for the humor in situations that could easily become aggravating. It does create energy rather than deplete it.

However, I think that it takes more than a change in behavior to help prevent workload stress. I think what must accompany that is a change in perspective. Objectively, we each know we cannot do 60 hours work in 40 hours. However, subjectively most of us still think that we ought to be able to do those 60 hours if we just did it the right way.

  • won't suggest not doing your very best job, because that's not how most people work and it won't satisfy their needs. But there are things you can do that may keep you from personalizing a heavy workload as a personal failure if it does not all get done.

First, develop detached concern. In other words, you care about your job, you want to do your very best and you'd like to get the job done. But the job is also not you. If, realistically, it cannot be done, know it doesn't make you less valuable or less important.

Also, evaluate your effectiveness in doing a particular job, not your ability to work miracles or achieve perfection. Is what you have accomplished done to the standards you wish it to be? Reward yourself and recognize those things you are doing well.

Finally, practice acknowledging your ac-complishments and contributions. Too often, too many of us focus on things we don't get done, that we didn't do up to our standards or that we wished we had done differently. Focus on what you're proud of. Just try it for a week.

Practice these skills, these new attitudes, and see if they help you avoid workload stress.

As usual, if you'd like to talk, call me at 752-2727, email me at or contact the Student Counseling Center, 752-0871.

Sally Harvey is the director of the Academic and Staff Assistance Program.

Media contact(s)

Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932,