If you're a software engineer or a computer programmer, you have one of the least stressful jobs you could possibly get. If that statement gets you all wound up, you're not alone. But if you're one of those people who allows a statement like that to stress you out, maybe you need to think about what you can do to prevent yourself from getting so worked up.
Earlier this year, the website CareerCast.com released its "2011 Jobs Rated Report," which included a list of the 10 least stressful jobs. According to the findings of a survey of 200 jobs on which the report was based, the only jobs you could possibly get that are less stressful than software engineer or computer programmer are ... wait for it ... audiologist or dietitian.
As you might expect, that finding didn't sit well with some IT professionals who posted comments in response on CareerCast's website. Take this one, for example:
As an IT worker, I take offense to this inane garbage that passes for an article. I will assume this is a bad joke by some intern who is bored with his or her duties. Otherwise, clearly you have no clue as to what it takes to be either a software engineer or computer programmer. I guess these could be considered low stress jobs if the engineer/programmer is clairvoyant. Otherwise, you are communicating from the wrong orifice. Is it safe to assume that blogger/columnist should also make this list considering apparently no research went into the writing of this article? As a software engineer, if I could get away with turning in the type of crap this article represents to my boss and still get paid, I would totally agree with you. Until then, stay off of the boss' computer, you could get yourself in trouble putting out this type of crap.
Now, a more level-headed response would have recognized that the writer was simply a messenger who was conveying the results of a survey, the methodology of which was thoroughly explained as part of the report. Certainly, one might well find reason to question the methodology, but getting so stressed out as to be unable to identify where the tongue-lashing should be directed, when that direction was so easily identifiable, begs an obvious question: What causes us to get so stressed out?
Joe Robinson, a stress management trainer and author of the book, "Don't Miss Your Life: Find More Joy and Fulfillment Now," might have at least part of the answer. In a HuffingtonPost.com blog post on Tuesday, Robinson explained that most of us are clueless about stress, and that we actually bring it upon ourselves:
Yes, there are plenty of stressors coming at us in a warp factor 9 workplace, but it's not the deadline, what a customer says, or the conflict with a colleague that's causing your stress. The reality is you are. It's the story you tell yourself about the negative event or the stressor that's causing the stress. We all have the ability to change the stories that create our stress, if we know how the dynamic works.
The problem is a design flaw in our brains that leaves us prone to false emergencies. We were designed for life-and-death struggles on African savannas, not overflowing in-boxes or sales quotas. That's especially true for the part of your brain that sets off the stress response, the amygdala, a hub of the emotional brain, the ancient limbic system, which ran operations before we evolved the higher brain organs that can make decisions based on reason and analysis, not raw emotion.
In times of perceived danger the amygdala hijacks the 21st century brain and takes the helm again. This ancient alarm system is as good at measuring threats in the workplace as a yardstick is at calculating the distance to the sun. A hundred and fifty emails a day is a hassle, but it's not life-or-death. But if an overloaded inbox makes you feel you can't cope, off goes the signal that sets off the stress response, which floods your body with hormones that suppress your immune system to help you fight or run ... away from your computer?
Robinson goes on in the blog post to explain some things you can do to exit the stress trap, and I would imagine he covers it all a lot more thoroughly in his book. I'll leave it to you to explore all that if you're interested. What I want to get across here is that if you're a software engineer or a computer programmer and you're feeling a lot of stress, maybe the problem isn't the job. Maybe it's the way you handle it.
So try to lighten up. After all, things could be worse. You could be a philosopher. That only made it as low as No. 7 on the list of least stressful jobs.