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Chronic stress

News Coping with the toxic stress in IT environment Recommended Links Neoliberalism war on labor  Overload Office Stockholm Syndrome The psychopath in the corner office Avoiding Anger Trap
Over 50 and unemployed Casino Capitalism The Iron Law of Oligarchy Secular Stagnation under Neoliberalism Redistribution of wealth up as the essence of neoliberalism Neoliberalism as the Cause of Structural Unemployment in the USA Work Overload Techno-fundamentalism
Office Slaves: the rise of bullshit jobs Tactful communication Diplomatic Communication  Negative Politeness Dealing With Negative Criticism Six ways to say No and mean it Rules of Verbal Self Defense   
Coronary Artery Disease Hypertension Controlling your Weight Notes on Diabetes Type II Conformism pressures in large organizations Learned helplessness Basics of Preventing RSI for programmers and sysadmins  
Stoicism Slackerism Alienation in neoliberal society Social Isolation under neoliberalism Toxic managers Bureauactic ritualism Humor Etc

Your body is hard-wired to react to extreme situation  in ways that helps you to escape or fight threats from predators and other aggressors. Organism mobilizes all its resources for a fight or flight.

When stress occurs in modern life often there is no possibility of fight or flight. And under neoliberalism then each is his/her own, and workforce is artificially atomized,  t life is full of stress. Just lack of job security is a huge factor in creating the chronic stress. 

Also facing conflicting demands each day, shouldering a huge workload, making ends meet and taking care of your family creates additional level of stress.

Your body treats these factors as  threats and reacts accordingly. It inject hormones that increase your heart rate, blood pressure to give you additional chances to fight the threat.

For "natural threats" the body reaction to stress is usually short term and limited in time. Once a perceived threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. Both adrenaline and cortisone levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels, and other systems resume their regular activities. With "social stress" duration is longer. The next result for your body is the same as if you're constantly under assault.  That's wear the body down and shortens your life.

when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. It also increase probability of obesity (overeating is often a reaction to high level of stress), sleep disorders, heart  disease, diabetes and other serious chronic diseases (see the list at mayoclinic.org ),  especially for people over 50.

People vary greatly in their tolerance  to stress. The level of "stress tolerance" depends on your genetics. Some are very "stress-resistant". For example many politicians live over 80, despite spending large part of their  lives in highly stressful environment.

The natural stress response

From mayoclinic.org

When you encounter a perceived threat — a large dog barks at you during your morning walk, for instance — your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain's use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.

Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.

Some stress management strategies

They do not always exist. for example under neoliberalism just belonging to lower class and lower middle class automatically puts you in highly stressful environment because of the lack of job security and artificial exaggeration and exaltation of competitiveness (job reviews and such).  Making your employment highly conditional and durition of it unpredictable is the goal of neoliberalism. It wants to destroy all permanemt employment and make everybody into contractors. In other words it wants to convert everybody in lower and middle class into Uber drivers. According to Naomi Klein perspective (see her book "Shock Doctrine") it destabilizes social environment intentionally in order to secure market outcome for any activity ("neoliberalism"=market fundamentalism). This true both on a given society level and in relations between nations. Being  weak, poor or unemployed is a sin under neoliberalism (they view you as Undermensch) and they must suffer is the slogan: 

"Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that "the market" delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve."

Typically "stress management" recommendations  include  but are not limited to:

Consider using the following two-step approach to managing workplace stress:

Some additional recommendation for decreasing toxic worry

  1. Keep a journal: One strategy that many people have found effective in coping with stress is keeping a journal, sometimes referred as a “stress diary.”
     
  2. Please remember that job insecurity under neoliberalism is a norm. That is what neoliberalism is about. It artificially injects it into workplace via periodic layoffs, outsourcing, performance reviews and such. It is not your fault. But you can be better prepared to such calamity if you understand that and try to save some money for such an unfortunate event. Borrowing from 401K under duress (which unemployment is) is not penalized, so saving into 401K is a good way to secure such a fund. 
     
  3. Take it easy.  Most of IT activity is useless, anyway; it like creating paintings on sand the shore. The next technological wave will wipe the sand clean. That means this stupid and nasty boss that block some of your super-useful initiative is a natural part of ecosystem and might even prevent you from wasting your efforts to help the useless corporation that currently employs you. Such broader view on your environment provide better psychological stability. See Slackerism. There are a lot of books that recommend such an approach, which might provide some other useful details.  Some can be bought cheaper the $1, see for example Don't Sweat the Small Stuff--and it's all small stuff ...
     
  4. You can consider you boss to be an interesting clinical case and try to study him/her as a natural phenomenon. Some danger is not uncommon in studying natural phenomenon as any volcano researcher can attest.
     
  5. Try to improve you "work-life balance". US work culture supports longer working hours, and a culture of "workaholism" all of which in combination with micromanagement produce dangerous amount of workplace stress. Micromanagement is actually the leading causes of workplace stress in the USA. There are two contributing factors: 
    1. Poorly defined and designed work roles.  Clearly defined work roles, and variation in work tasks within work roles, are likely to alleviate stress.
    2. Irregular work schedules. Unpredictable work schedules, particularly caused by  frequent changes in project direction typical for micromanagement.
       
  6. Get the facts. Often worry is a small problem blown out of proportion by your imagination.
  7. Make a plan B. Don’t become a passive victim of toxic worry; attack the worry by intensified searching for other job. Even if you never find a decent substitute the activity itself have high therapeutic value. Just make a plan and take it one step at a time, solving one part of the problem first and then the next. Bit by bit you’ll overcome the problem and dissolve your worry. Don't expect wonders; assume that you need to lose something to preserve your health.
     
  8. Fight micromanagement induced speed disorders. Sleep deprivation increases irritability. Use slow walking for an hour before sleep and taking a 15-min warm bath after. A grass of warm milk or red wine might help too. What is more effective depends on your metabolism. People with slow oxidation of alcohol react better to milk. For people with high oxidation of alcohol wine helps better but the problem can be to limit its consumption to a healthy level and avoid becoming another alcoholic.  Valerian is a herb that is widely used for such cases in Eastern Europe and it is availed in the USA too.
     
  9. Change your eating habits. You need to understand that your body is under severe pressure and  you just need to switch to a healthy diet (cut down on fats, sugar, caffeine). Some alcohol, especially red wine, can be your friend, especially a glass just before going to bed: it might improve sleeping. 
     
  10. In case your manager is really nasty,  increase the doze of physical activity in after-hours. Bicycling, running on treadmill in gym, actually anything that can burn calories. As a more exotic example you can buy boxing gloves and punching bag. For many people this trick helps relieve micromanagement induced stress.  This is a proved Japanese approach.
     
  11. Let it go. When you can’t do anything more about the problem, then let the worry go. Give it up to your past and forget about it. This may be difficult to do, but it is worth the conscious effort.
     
  12. Say no to work on Sundays.  You can burn still same sardays, but make Sunday a "holy day". Take time out from the hustle and bustle of life for leisure time. Too much work is actually inefficient and can lead to burnout. Recognize when you are most stressed and allow yourself some reasonable breaks. When things feel especially difficult, take a walk or change your scenery. Most importantly, try to do things that make you happy.

Try to shape your office environment in such a way as to reduce the level of stress

Even minor things can have a positive effect:

If your stress additionally increases due to job insecurity, take stock of yourself. Update your resume, and remind yourself of your skills and strengths. Also, make sure you keep up with new developments in your field. This will make you valuable on the marketplace.


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