Research tells us that physical and mental demands on the job, lack of rewards for work done, infrequent breaks, heavy workloads, and long work hours are stressful. Shift work, which may disrupt the worker's biological clock, contributes to stress. In addition, tasks which do not use a worker's skill and provide little sense of control contribute to worker stress. Minimal worker participation in decision-making, poor communication in the workplace, and lack of support from supervisors and co-workers are all stressful conditions for workers. Also, fear about losing one's job, and rapid changes in the workplace are stressful. What can you do? The good news is that there are things that individuals and organizations can do to reduce stress levels. Here are some proven methods for reducing the stress response: 1. When you are in a stressful situation, remove yourself or focus on something else. 2. Use a programmed relaxation method to relax your body and mind. Effective methods include relaxation breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Look in the health and fitness section of your local store for books, videotapes, CDs, and audiotapes which explain these methods. 3. Develop a positive outlook: you may not be able to control your work environment, but you can control your response. Think of the stressful situation as a test that you need to pass. Try to see your troubles as temporary, and celebrate the positive things in your life. This can reduce your feelings of stress. 4. Find a method of relaxation that works for you. It may be exercise, or it may be a warm bath or a crossword puzzle. For some people a quiet afternoon with a book is not relaxing; quiet may even make some people anxious! The key is making the activity work for you. 5. If you have persistent physical or emotional symptoms after experiencing a traumatic event, talk with your health care provider. Posttraumatic stress syndrome is treated by a variety of psychological therapies and drug therapy. Employee stress is a major cause of increased health care costs, as well as losses in productivity. Companies that introduce stress reduction measures often find improvements in their bottom line.