Alexandra Levit on Stress

Alexandra Levit - Water Cooler Wisdom  - Career advice for the 20 somethingI had dinner with Alexandra Levit a few months ago in Chicago – I’ve always liked her blog and style, and meeting her in person was awesome. I’m a big fan! Since I’m busy in Savannah I thought I’d introduce you to her… here’s something she wrote just for you 🙂

Stressed out? It might not be for the reason you think.

Most people know that high levels of stress are associated with a number of negative physical and psychological consequences. Physical problems include high blood pressure and cholesterol, and an increased risk for heart disease, ulcers, and cancer. Psychological side effects include anger, anxiety, irritability, and boredom as well as sleep and eating problems and increased smoking, drinking, and drug abuse. In the world of work, high stress levels are linked with decreased productivity and increased absenteeism and turnover.

While some jobs are clearly more stressful than others, it might surprise you to learn that top executives are not prone to more stress and stress-related problems. Rather, employees who are at greatest risk are those who have very little control over their tasks or work conditions. A research study I came across in my recent review of industrial/organizational psychology actually indicated that sawmill workers performing machine-paced tasks were the most stressed out of all!

Overall, though, you should know that work is not the primary culprit when it comes to people’s stress levels. Events related to marriage (death of a spouse, divorce, etc.) are the ones that really send stress through the roof. Another interesting research finding showed that stress induced by daily hassles actually has a stronger impact on health than stress due to traumatic events. So the next time you think about taking a job that requires a three hour a day, traffic-filled commute, maybe keep that in mind. I remember my dad saying that one of the reasons he was quitting his job was that he believed the daily drive from suburban Maryland to suburban Virginia was shaving years off his life. It looks like he might not have been far off.

Alexandra Levit (link to is a twenty and thirty-something career expert. She’s the author of They Don’t Teach Corporate in College (link to, as well as the forthcoming How’d You Score That Gig (Random House 2008) and Solving the Talent Equation (ASTD Presss 2008). Alexandra frequently speaks at conferences, universities, and corporations around the country about workplace issues facing young employees. Visit her blog, Water Cooler Wisdom, at

Also, she just started a new podcast series with Christine Hassler and Lindsey Pollak – 30/20 Vision is for 20-something women who wish they had a couple of big sisters to clue them in on the ins-and-outs of life after college! Check it out here.