By Marcia Heroux Pounds
Stressed-out workers can use the pressure they feel at work to benefit themselves and their employers, according to South Florida psychotherapist and organizational consultant Aimee Bernstein.
Bernstein, who has worked with many South Florida companies, including the Ritz-Carlton hotel and Microsoft Latin America, details ways to turn pressure into a positive force in her book, Stress Less, Achieve More, recently published by Amacom, a division of the American Management Association.
In a recent interview, Bernstein talked about how she teaches workers to transform pressure from an enemy into an ally and what some local companies are doing to reduce worker stress.
Q: What level of stress do you often see among workers?
A: Between global competition, technology that keeps on changing, 24/7 availability and the information glut, people are experiencing overwhelming pressure. A friend of mine told me her young daughter who is a manager calls her and cries. A senior vice president of human resources disclosed to me that she’s under such pressure [that] she’s thinking about retiring early. Her job is ruining her personal relationship.
Yet, there’s a hidden gift to it — it forces you to confront the questions: Are you running faster but not deeper? Are you going from one to-do item to the next, and losing contact with yourself and the meaning of your work? Or, are you living according to your own rhythm no matter how many demands are on you, so you can feel happy, empowered, and engaged at work?
Q: What’s the difference between pressure and stress?
A: Stress is not good. Pressure — which is power and energy — can be good depending on how you relate to it. Consider that whenever there’s a job or task to do, energy comes into your system to do the job. If you’ve ever given a speech, you may have felt this rush of energy coming into you.You have a choice: If you close down and resist the pressure, you’re going to feel discomfort and stress. But if you open up and align to it,you will feel excitement and joy, and your performance is enhanced.