Stress, pressure, and tension are part and parcel of the business executive's job - the price he pays for the involvement and responsibilities of executive life. But they're not necessarily harmful. Indeed, the man of action thrives on them, finds them stimulating. Simply holding a responsible position indicates that you can stand more stresses than the average man and probably that you work best when "tensed."

Both psychiatrists and internists emphasize that stress and tension are a normal part of life. Only the dullard is free of them. And, of course, what is a tension-producing, stressful situation to one person will be almost routine to another. It boils down to the individual's own tolerance for tension. A man working below his tension tolerance point won't realize his potential or know the satisfaction of full achievement. If he goes too far beyond it, he feels irritable, unhappy, "under pressure."

The point is that tensions that strain a man's tolerance for them are harmful only if they continue without let-up. Even excessive tension won't hurt, so long as it's of short duration (what's short varies with the individual - and the state of his health). However, many executives - keyed up to the daily demands of their jobs - don't realize they have been pushing their tolerance point too hard. There's no specific test for tension, obviously. But certain symptoms are frequently identified with too much of it. One of the first is inability to get to sleep, waking early in the morning or throughout the night. Another telltale sign is fatigue - the kind you feel in the morning as well as at night.

Frequent headaches, indigestion, or tightness around the back of the neck and shoulders round out the symptoms of excessive, destructive tension. At this point, a medical examination is important to determine if an illness is at the root of the trouble.

But in most people, these are purely symptoms of too much tension.

When you're tense, your blood pressure and pulse rise slightly, body temperature goes up, digestion slows, and muscles tighten. All this is normal, and provides that extra stamina and alertness needed to cope with a stressful situation. But when the body can't return to normal because of persistent, continued stress and tension, the system is impaired. Blood pressure remains too high, muscles stay taut. The result will be changes in the body that can set the stage for heart disease, chronic high blood pressure, ulcers, asthma, arthritis. Note: Tension is never the sole cause of these disorders. There usually must be a basic weakness or predisposition.

Physical exercise and diversion are the best antidotes for tension buildup. Relaxing in an easy chair with a website or television is no sure way of releasing emotional tension. Rather, experts who have studied the problem in executives feel that sedentary living - which allows little physical release of tension - is one of the major culprits in a tense age.

They suggest an "anti-tension" routine for the desk-bound executive: regular 15-minute walks in the morning, evening, and at lunchtime; 10-minute work breaks every two hours during the day; a hobby or absorbing interest that involves some physical activity, and is totally different from your regular work routine.

Above all, don't look to tranquilizers - drugs or drinks - for relief of tension. Pills have their place and, indeed, are very useful for temporary periods of unusual stress, such as a death in the family. But the person who relies on them to see him through situations that are a regular part of his life - such as responsibilities of the job - is simply admitting that he can't cope.

Interested inReading Up On Art?


When an executive hits those "middle years" strange things often begin to happen. He's up near the top of the management ladder; his children are through school and probably raising families of their own; he can still put enough belt into his golf swing to whip some of the youngsters at the country club.

Everything should look rosy. But then he starts feeling tired and listless. His energy begins to ebb too fast each day. Few businessmen in such a position are ready to admit publicly that they're constantly feeling fatigued. But many physicians maintain that fatigue is the No. 1 complaint among middle-aged businessmen.

There is a chance, of course, that tiredness and listlessness... see: Fatigue