Does everyone out there expect to be just a bit stressed out tomorrow? It's not a big day. It's just your plain old Monday, ready and waiting for you to fill it with . . . stuff. Not to cause angst, but even if you think you're not going to be stressed, think again. You probably will be.
It's just the nature of our lives at work. And trying to get to and leave work.
Think about your mornings. What do you do just to get into your workplace? Don't forget to take the dog out, dress your daughter, run her to day care. Between feeding yourself, that dog and the baby, you need a shower. And coffee. You might even try to read a few headlines.
We are constantly rushed, constantly trying to make deadlines and, with our cell phones, BlackBerrys and various other "toys," constantly tied to our everyday stresses.
There are big stresses, like the days and months after Sept. 11, 2001, or just the holiday season. But it's really the stress of the everyday, the things that become second nature but that we do in a cold sweat, that can really affect us.
The fact is, many of us deal with our everyday stresses just fine. How? Some people exercise. Others take breaks throughout the day. And there are those who say that just working in a caring environment, or a place with a little perk here and there, pushes stress away to some degree. Whatever the coping mechanism, we all need to pay attention to our everyday stresses so they don't turn into distresses.
Jeff Giesea seems to have it under control. As a 27-year-old company founder and president -- of D.C.-based FierceMarkets Inc., which publishes e-mail newsletters for various industries -- he should be a pretty stressed-out guy, right? But that's not really so. He is on a rather regimented schedule and hopes to hire more than the nine people he has on board so he can pare down his duties (bookkeeper, sales guy, writer . . . ).
Perhaps it is the schedule he has created for himself that helps him feel less anxious than I would if I owned a small business in this economic environment.
He spent his first year of business, 2000, the way many new business owners spend it: toiling away at home, in his case a Dupont Circle basement apartment (and at a neighborhood coffee-and-sandwich place). As the company grew, he rented real office space downtown. He says the company has been profitable for the past year and a half, so he was able to settle into a schedule.
He works from about 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. Every other day, he wakes at 6:45 a.m. and runs six miles from his new place in Logan Circle through Rock Creek Park. When asked if he thinks of the run as a way to ease stress, he pauses, as if the thought never crossed his mind. "It's a stress reliever, for sure. But I don't think of it that way. I just think of it as a great physical activity. Just mental. It lets my mind veg. It's therapeutic."
Every morning before he heads to the office, he drinks his decaf tea (he gave up coffee a couple of years ago -- dare I, the coffee-addicted, say that might help him ease into his day?) and reads two newspapers.
He walks to work: 17 minutes. (He's not compulsive, he says. He just timed it one day.) He says hi to everyone at the office, checks e-mail and plods on. For breaks throughout the day, he reads the Onion, an online humor newspaper, and sends e-mail to a friend or two.
His stress, he said, "is the good kind of stress that is a motivating factor."
He notices how much it has gone down since the business was a true start-up. Because he worked out of his home, it was much more difficult to separate personal and work life. Since moving into a traditional office, he has made sure not to get Internet access at home for that exact reason.
Little did he know he had worked so many stress relievers into his day.
Teresa D. Browning also has a bit of a routine to help her deal with her everyday work stresses. She makes lists. By hand, on paper. "I have a Palm, but I use that mostly for organizing events either with work or with my friends." Each night she writes down what needs to be done the next day. Anything she didn't finish goes on the list. If it's not on the list, she doesn't think about it. She crosses the items off as she completes them. Even on days when there is only one big thing to do, she writes it down.
Browning's job, in fact, is to help people ease stress at work. She works for the Department of Agriculture Employee Services and Recreation Association, a nonprofit that provides on-site yoga and massage, plus discount tickets to events and more. "The employee service is [designed] to improve morale and productivity while at work," she said.
That, said Jeffrey Kahn, a psychiatrist and president of the WorkPsych Association in New York and co-editor of "Mental Health and Productivity in the Workplace: A Handbook for Organizations and Clinicians," is a key to reducing everyday stress. A happy workplace makes work stress much more manageable. "If you work too many hours at friendly company, it's going to be a lot less distressing than at an unfriendly company." He notes that his internship, when he worked 100 hours a week at a hospital with a very friendly work environment, was worlds better than the experience of friends who worked at much less pleasant hospitals.
"If you see your company as a friendly and fair place where people aren't trying to undercut you, then hard work becomes much more tolerable," he said.
Giesea tries to make his company a friendly one for that reason. "People here work very hard. I think there's a great value in stepping away and relaxing. I think ultimately it makes us more productive."
And yes, even Giesea takes time off. He just returned from a trip to Portland, Ore., where he grew up. He claims there is a different, low-stress feel to the place in contrast to Washington. But, he said, it's not so bad here. After all, there are miles and miles of running trails in Rock Creek Park.
Join Amy on Tuesday for a live Life at Work discussion at washingtonpost.com, from 11 a.m. to noon. E-mail her with your workplace issues and stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.