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You’ve finally secured that breakthrough contract, and your company is performing at maximum efficiency. But months of managing the business single-handedly are beginning to take their toll on your health. Or maybe incessant deadlines, uncooperative co-workers and a demanding boss are leaving you drained. Now you’re exhibiting the classic signs of stress and overwork: a racing heart, high blood pressure and muscle tension.
Are you beginning to question whether a successful enterprise or career is worth the mental and physical strain? Well, spare yourself further worry. With a little practice, you can learn to manage anxiety without coming apart at the seams.
Stress is a debilitating response to adverse external influences. It’s a common side effect of intense work and strikes entrepreneurs and employees alike. Because of its impact on the heart, stress poses a serious threat to blacks, says Sharon Jones, M.D., a psychiatrist at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Stress makes the immune system even more vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, heart attacks or stroke,” she says.
These conditions plague the African American community in disproportionate numbers. Blacks are twice as likely to die of a stroke as whites, according to the American Heart Association. Black men are 47% more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than white men. And black women have a 69% greater risk than white women.
Although it is commonly minimized or ignored altogether, stress is a very serious condition. According to the American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, New York, stress-related ilInesses, including tension, irritability and depression, put a $l00 billion strain on the American economy each year.
The key to managing stress is knowing your own tolerance level. Acknowledge when your internal barometer alerts you to anxiety, and take active steps to reduce it. By combining the following suggestions with rest and a proper diet, you can keep stress at bay.
Remove yourself from the source of stress.
“Take a mental health break. Recognize your physical limitations and take time out,” advises Jones. Stretch frequently at your desk and take leisurely strolls during lunch. Exercise increases your stamina and releases chemicals that stabilize your mood.
Create a soothing atmosphere.
Cornell and DeJuana Adams believe that relaxed employees are more productive. “Music has a calming effect, so we play it in the office. There’s no substitute for a happy workplace,” say the owners of Newark, New Jersey-based Accurate Set Inc., a dental materials manufacturing company.
Surround yourself with encouraging people.
The increasing anti-affirmative action measures are a big source of stress, especially for Samuel Carradine, executive director of the National Association of Minority Contractors in Washington, D.C.
“A supportive family is extremely important in stress management,” says the husband and father of four. “Engage in family activities and enjoy the peace they provide,” he advises.
Make it known that you’re over-whelmed.
“Learn how to say `no’ when you’re overloaded in the office,” says Jones. If you can’t meet a deadline, contact your clients and set a later date. It’s better for them to receive a superior product later than to