“Every now and then a person wants to show us they can work incredible hours and cope, but they take it too far. If we see something occurring, we have to be there to help them. Sometimes we’ve gone too far and we think we can help them when they need professional help,” Kane says.
At its extreme, job stress can ruin marriages, lead to severe depression, unhealthy weight gain, alcohol addiction, sleep interruption and major health problems. Nemeroff at UM usually gets called in when the situation reaches a crisis stage.
“People burn out in all kinds of destructive ways,” he says.
Nemeroff’s first step would be to get the person in crisis to recognize that he needs to make a change. “They have to be motivated because behavior modification is not easy. It’s a gradual process.” Next, he works with them to identify attainable goals — leave work by 7 p.m., take their spouse to dinner once a week, exercise twice a week and go get a physical. Then, he may work with them on relaxation techniques.
He has found women often are able to prevent a full-fledged crisis by reaching out to co-workers and friends for help with managing job stress. “As men age, it’s harder to make friends and there is a reluctance to share. They can be in same office and never talked about what’s going on in their life.” As part of stress management, Nemeroff encourages men to reach out to male peers for support.
Corali Lopez Castro, a shareholder and the managing partner at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton in Miami, says female professionals often come to get her help when they are still in the yellow zone. “Men go much faster to the red zone.”
She believes one of the most effective stress-beaters is helping employees manage their workloads. “Sometimes lawyers get used to living that craziness. When you start talking to people, you recognize that they can make small adjustments that get them to where they want and need to be.” Getting high-achieving professionals to take work off their plate can be a challenge, she says. “I have to go to them with a solution.”
But personally, Lopez-Castro says the best stress buster she has discovered is exercise.
“I know I need to do something to relieve stress. We all do.”
Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org or read her columns and blog at worklifebalancingact.com.