Stress and Its Effects on Job Performance
Who of you worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? -Luke 12:25-26
Whether you are talking to a college professor, a nuclear physicist, a doctor or the fifteen year-old flipping burgers at your neighborhood McDonald's, a common factor that ties all of their very different jobs together is job-related stress. Stress comes in many forms and it affects people in many ways. Some people have mastered the art of targeting and reducing it at its root, and at the other extreme, some may die as a result of it. Whatever the case, stress is a force to be reckoned with both at work and elsewhere.
Stress is not a new issue, nor is it always a bad one. As a matter of fact, we need it for survival. According to Richard Stein, author of Personal Strategies for Living With Stress, "In the functioning of our biological systems, normal stress is necessary and vital: Through variations on the themes of fight or flight, stress reactions mobilize us to adapt to changing stimuli. (1983, p. 1)" This type of stress is referred to as "eustress" (Stress Management: Ten Self-Care Techniques 1986). In other words, to be able to adapt and react to change, stress is a vital factor. Another example of the healthy side of stress would be what Stein calls a "controlled exposure to stress." An example of that would be watching a horror movie. The stress that we experience from that is not only "controlled" as Stein would call it, but also a bit pleasurable (1983, p. 2).
More obviously, stress can be quite harmful. Stress occurs when the pressures upon us exceed our resources to cope with the pressures (Stein, 1983, p. 3). This type of stress is called "distress" (Stress Management: Ten Self-Care Techniques 1986). Too much of it can actually be deadly. One of the main reasons that stress can be labeled as a killer is that its effects can be delayed and it can accrue. More or less, stress is a time bomb. Stein states that:
It is now known that the most malign effects of stress can be deferred and can accumulate until excessive levels are reached. Compounded stress can contribute to sudden death - as it does each year for thousands of victims of heart attack and stroke; or it can contribute slowly and insidiously - as it does for millions - to a vast assortment of other equally devastating physical and mental disorders. (1983, p. 2)
This is not to mention that stress is not cheap for anyone by any means. According to one study, stress costs US industry $19.4 billion dollars every year because of premature employee death due to stress. Another $150 million per year is lost in the US alone because of stress-related absenteeism. Annually, $700 million dollars is being spent to recruit replacements for executives with heart disease, chronic pain, hypertension and headaches, three stress related disorders, that make up...