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7. Let the trainee take the strain: relieving workplace stress
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The Independent Culture
The Little Book of Calm has done a huge amount to reduce work- related tension. For its author, at least - who can relax in the knowledge that he's so staggeringly rich, he never need work again. Publishers have responded with a whole new catalogue of stress-busting self-help manuals: forthcoming publications include Men Are From Mars, Middle-Managers Are From Hendon, File the Fear And Do IT Anyway and Women Who Love Too Much Paperwork.

However, workplace stress remains a serious danger. Many senior managers, for example, often find themselves terribly highly-strung - although autoerotic asphyxiation is, admittedly, a somewhat extreme method of stress relief. Far better to follow more simple techniques, such as those detailed in The Little Book of Calm. This invaluable tome includes such sage advice as "Ignore The Phone - Let It Ring" (a favourite anti-stress tactic of switchboard operators) and "Wear Donald Duck Underpants To Lighten Your Mood", which is probably taking the concept of Dress Down Fridays just a little too far. Here are some other simple yet effective techniques to calm jangling nerves.

l Yoga By practising yoga you can develop the ability to bend your legs into many bizarre contortions. For further information, please consult the section in an earlier column entitled "Adjusting Your Gas Lift Chair".

l Hypnotherapy Focusing one's eyes on a large gold watch, allowing a glazed expression to develop and drifting into trance-like state is a popular tension-relieving practice for many businesspeople. Especially after lunch.

l Massage You may find that one of the many small, vibrating electronic devices available could help soothe tense muscles. However, most people who own a pager would dispute this. Enlightened bosses are offering their employees complimentary massage treatments. Less enlightened bosses still refer to this as Groping The Temp,

l Acupuncture Leaving upturned drawing-pins on a superior's chair and observing the result will lift the gloom of the most overworked employee.

l Stress balls It is now possible to buy special "stress balls", small lumps of malleable plastic which can be squeezed in the palm of the hand to release pent-up tension. Should you be unable to obtain a set, the testicles of a subordinate make an admirable substitute (although this may not ease the stress levels of the subordinate).

l Avoid computer-screen flicker It is not uncommon to see a PC operator suddenly seized by a spasmodic fit of uncontrollable shaking and gasping for breath. This normally means they have pressed "Delete" when they meant to press "Enter", and subsequently wiped out the last seven years' accounts.

l Be aware of RSI Workers particularly prone to Repetitive Strain Injuries include telephonists (who have to constantly raise their receivers), insurance brokers (who have to constantly raise their eyebrows when presented with a claim) and chairmen (who have to constantly raise their own salary). RSI is the primary reason for the excessive level of wrist-strain suffered by typists, although the excessive level of wrist strain suffered by Bank Managers is believed to have other origins.

l Try Self-Help It is common practice for employees to ease their worries by helping themself, particularly with regard to the Stationery Cupboard (or "Pick'n'Mix Counter", as it's known in those companies with a particularly relaxed disciplinary policy). Self-analysis can be highly beneficial in enabling you to get in touch with your inner self. Although you may well find that your inner self is out, in which case you will just have to leave a message on its voicemail instead.

l Take regular breaks Overwork is not only bad for stress levels but can lead to sloppiness, typnig mistonks, lack of concentration and lack of concentration and lack of concentration.

l Power-napping is an increasingly prevalent strategy. It is not uncommon to find areas set aside for employees wishing to grab forty winks during the working day. These are designated by a small sign reading "Board Room".

l Outward Bound If your manager tells you to prepare for an outward bound trip, he is either sacking you or - far more depressingly - inviting you to take part in one of the increasingly rigorous "bonding weekends". For no discernible reason, charging around trying to splat your colleagues with bright yellow paint is highly regarded as a stress reducer. It is particuarly widespread amongst council road-painters, which is odd, because council road-painters must be the LAST people ever to suffer stress through overwork.

Debbie Barham

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