Managing Stress

February 17, 2011

Managing Stress

Posted: 09 Feb 2011 05:25 AM PST

Excellent customer service providers are in tune with the emotions of the people they deal with through awareness and empathy. They’re proficient at handling conflicts, and they have the ability to maintain positive attitudes while engaged in their work. However, a continual barrage of negative customer interactions can be a reality within the role of service providers, and they can cause what is commonly called emotional labor.

Arlie Hochschild, author of The Managed Heart: Communication of Human Feeling, defines emotional labor as displaying a set of emotions that differ from the emotions the service provider is currently feeling. Based on this definition, people in service jobs who are acting differently than they are feeling can experience high doses of emotional labor which can cause stress, fatigue, and diminished impulse control.

Service providers deal with a higher level of stress no matter what product or service they provide due to the fact that customer interactions are always fueled with many types of emotions. Stress is a physical reaction that you experience when you cannot cope or have difficulty dealing with a negative or threatening situation. Due to the direct connection between a service provider’s role and stressful situation, learning how to understand, manage, and reduce stress becomes an important skill to master.

In the book Stress Management for Dummies, author Allen Elkin cites:

7 out 19 people felt stress at some point on a typical workday.
People reported that they lost their temper an average of 5 times a month.
Many people reported that stress contributes to doing things they regret later.
About 5% of those asked said stress was preventing them from enjoying their lives.
People under stress tend to be more on edge and will erupt more quickly and violently, increasing their number of conflicts with people in general. Extreme stress saps your energy because your body is functioning in emergency mode. Stress tightens your muscles, impacts your breathing and the flow of oxygen to your vital organs, and it can cause sleep to be difficult. High stress can put a strain on many of your bodily functions and can lead to high blood pressure, ulcers, and heart attacks. It can become a vicious cycle. Obviously, reducing stress can have many health benefits as well as making your life more enjoyable and rewarding. It is important to identify what pushes your buttons and produces stress in your life. Identifying your stress producers is the first step in effectively managing and reducing stress.

In order to effectively manage stress, you must build or increase your tolerance for stress. Stress management is your ability to deal effectively with adverse events and stressful situations without falling apart. Having a positive outlook on new experiences and change is also important. Plus the ability to stay calm and maintain control in stressful situations is a large part of building an increased tolerance level. People who excel at stress management tend to face crises and problems head on with a positive attitude rather than surrendering to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and self-doubt.

The first step is to understand where the stress is coming from or what events are activating the stressful feelings you are experiencing. Check out next week’s blog for more on reducing and eliminating stress.

Tammy A.S. Kohl is President of Resource Associates Corporation. For over 30 years, RAC has specialized in helping businesses and individuals achieve high levels of excellence and success. Learn how at