Whether it's the pressure others put on us or the pressure we put on ourselves, our industry is rife with stressed out people. Go to a property management convention sometime, and I swear you will see a sea of smokers who NEED their nicotine fix standing outside of it. Vendors, try calling your regionals and property managers just to chat on Monday morning at the beginning or end of the month. It will be funny. I promise. (I'm kidding! NEVER do this!) And we all know that the reason the door to the managers office closes is so that they can go in there and cry when they need to without anyone seeing it.
And it's not just our industry. Research conducted at Fairleigh Dickinson University found that 3 out of 4 American workers describe their work as "stressful." The same study also found that the workload has increased substantially over the last 25 years, as today's workforce is now working the equivalent of an extra 13th month every year in hours. On top of the extra work, we now have less pay for more work, and job security has become the punchline to a very dark joke. And if you think stress is just "a personal problem," consider this factoid from the same study: Workplace stress costs U.S. employers an estimated $200 billion per year in absenteeism, lower productivity,staff turnover, workers' compensation, medical insurance and other stress-related expenses.
Here are a few signs you might be stressed out:
- You are seriously contemplating how much money you could make as a full time beachcomber who cleans up shells and sells them to tourists
- You get a snow day, and even though you're out of milk, bread, eggs, and all other basic food elements, you pray for the snowbounding blizzard to continue
- You've experienced either a significant weight gain or weight loss without trying for either and now none of your corporate attire fits right anymore
- You know deep down in your heart that if you could just carry a tazer and lightly shock the people who upset you, that your job would be SO much more fulfilling and better
Since according to a NIOSH report on workplace stress, 26% of workers report being burned out OFTEN by their work, we have to find new ways to combat stress on the job. Step one for many people comes from taking control of the situation. This is a step that some people find can create even more problems if not taken correctly. I'm not suggesting that you jump in to PROPERTY COMMANDER mode, turning your workspace into a marine boot camp. The key in taking control is realizing that you control YOU. You're in command of how you react, how and if you let things affect you, and how long you are willing to worry about problems.
After you get control of yourself, you can do a lot of different things to help alleviate the effects of stress on your body. One of my favorites is exercise. You'd be surprised how incredible you feel after a session of kickboxing, or a yoga class where you worked so hard that you had to focus on nothing else. Besides a rush of endorphins, exercise can also provide a mental clarity that allows you to see otherwise hidden solutions to issues. I've gotten some of my best ideas while trying to keep a good pace on the elliptical.
The food you eat can do more than just put you in the carbohydrate coma after lunch. It can actually cause serious mood alterations in the body. Fast food for lunch might seem an ideal solution on a busy day, but you're going to regret the grease on that pan pizza in about two hours when you feel sluggish and depressed. You don't want to do the other classic property management move of skipping your lunch either, because as your blood sugar falls, so does your good mood. Pretty soon you're throwing a stapler across the room and you don't really know why you're upset. You're best bet is to eat a healthy balanced lunch, and to get out of the office when you do it. Everyone deserves an uninterrupted lunch break.
When you're not sleeping, your body's ability to handle stress is severely compromised, so if you're having trouble sleeping, see your doctor as soon as possible. They can give you tips like not using your computer or watching tv for an hour before bed, or keeping a pad of paper next to the bed to record ideas on, and they can also check to see that your sleep problem isn't indicative of something much more serious. A well rested body is key to keeping an emotional balance.
Lastly, as much as we're tempted, all articles and papers on stress management I've read have one consistent piece of advice: Keep away from the nicotine and only drink in moderation. You may feel for the 20 minutes after your cigarette that you can handle anything, but because nicotine is a powerful stimulant, it will actually lead to higher levels of anxiety, not lower. Likewise, as your body processes alcohol, you will find that there is a delayed reaction of higher anxiety. This occurs when your body breaks down the drug on the cellular level 48 to 72 hours after ingestion, so a night of binge drinking on Saturday means a likely Monday stress fest.
You want to beat burnout from stress? Breathe. That's one thing you can do, no matter where you're at.