Eustressed-outand feeling groovy

RHI Consulting Inc., a Menlo Park, Calif.-based IT consultancy, last year asked 1,400 CIOs the main source of workplace stress. Their answers: rising workloads at 55 per cent, office politics (24 per cent), work-life balance (12 per cent), commuting (four per cent), the pace of new technology (one per cent) and other (one per cent). Presumably the three per cent who had no answer were too stressed out to respond.

Is all of this stress bad? Steven Berglas, a clinical psychologist and author of Reclaiming the Fire: How Successful People Overcome Burnout (Random House Inc., 2001), thinks not. He says eustress, the psychological term for good stress, is critical for physical and mental health. “The mind needs to be actively stimulated with input from the external world,” says Berglas.

But distress, or what we simply call stress, can lead to what Berglas calls supernova burnout. It’s when a competent person suffers from chronic trepidation, despondency and depression. The exhilaration is gone. There are plenty of useful strategies to combat distress:

Ask for help.

“People who have a history of success find simple requests for assistance extraordinarily difficult to make,” says Berglas.

Offer help.

Mentoring others can be a great source of distress relief on several levels, says Berglas.

Embrace bad news.

“The best way to cope with feelings of stress or burnout is to embrace the facts of bad news; the more detail the better,” says Berglas.

Don’t suppress anger.

Suppressing anger is bad for your health and exacerbates burnout, Berglas observes.