A few days ago I followed a link from LIS News to the School Library Journal article that summarized a session on librarian stress.
The Public Library Association couldn't find any librarians to talk about reducing stress, so they cleverly brought in a consultant. As an aside, the rage for "consultants" cracks me up, since I've yet to meet one who could tell me anything that wasn't completely obvious to just about everyone. However, they're very clever about getting people to pay them for stating the obvious, so they're certainly not stupid. Here are the relevant paragraphs from the SLJ article:
"Who’s stressed? Judging by the jam-packed crowd that attended “Everyone Is Getting Crabbier,” a session presented by Sandra Nelson, the answer appears to be loads of librarians. Nelson, a former librarian who now runs Nelson Consulting, in Nashville, TN, says many librarians are stressed out of their skulls. And since they’re so up tight, in many cases their productivity has plummeted, which—you guessed it—leads to even more stress. The culprit behind this brain drain? Today’s unparalleled rate of change.
Thanks to an armada of technological innovations, the demands of juggling work and family, an unstable economy, and plain old über-demanding bosses, many librarians are ready to scream “Uncle!” But take heart: Nelson offered conference-goers a number of salutary strategies for keeping hysteria at bay, including setting meaningful priorities, learning how to “no,” thoughtful planning, and managing one’s time more efficiently. Ultimately, coping with stress begins at home, says Nelson. “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself,” she says, quoting Leo Tolstoy."
Librarians are "stressed out of their skulls," huh? Maybe. I haven't seen any evidence of that. I'm not stressed out of my skull, nor are many of the librarians I know, and those that might be considered "stressed out of their skulls" are generally so because of having to supervise a lot of whining nitwits rather than the allegedly "unparalleled rate of change" assaulting us with an "armada of technological innovations" among other things. As for screaming "uncle," my only question is, who writes this crap?
But now let us examine the so-called remedies for this skull-exploding stress, or, in the purple prose of the SLJ writer, the "salutary strategies for keeping hysteria at bay" (is the stuff in SLJ always this awful? This is worse than American Libraries.) : "setting meaningful priorities, learning how to “no,” thoughtful planning, and managing one’s time more efficiently." Wow! I can see why this woman is a consultant! All of this is, as I predicted, bloody obvious to even the halfwits among us. And all this time I've been setting meaningless priorities, never learning to say 'no' (and lordy the trouble that has caused little old me, sigh), thoughtlessly planning, and not even bothering to manage my time after I lost that little paper calendar book of mine back in '91. No wonder I'm not stressed! Be sure to hire this person to come consult at your library. She can show up and say, "Hey, you need to plan things better. That's $5000, please." Maybe I should get in this consulting game.
While all this obvious advice is nice in its bland way, I have other suggestions to reduce stress. This is the regimen I follow, and I feel great.
1) Drugs. This is the first and easiest step to reduce stress. It seems like everyone is taking drugs for stress or anxiety these days. Xanax, Zoloft, Prozac, Effexor, Bisacodyl, Nyquil, etc. Since librarians usually have decent health insurance, this plan makes sense. I have an aversion to prescription drugs myself, but I also take drugs to relieve stress. In fact, I prefer a combination of two different drugs--gin and dry vermouth, at about a 4:1 ratio, served very cold about 6pm most days. Occasionally I vary this with a similar combination of drugs--rye whiskey and sweet vermouth in the same proportion, plus a dash of bitters. It works just the same. I highly recommend this particular drug regimen. One dose of this makes the day fade away and the evening seem much nicer. Three to four doses makes the evening go away as well if you're really desperate. And listen to some good music while taking your dose.
2) Get off your fat butt and move around occasionally. This is another proven stress reducer that is anathema to a lot of librarians and just difficult for others. This could involve going to gyms and working out and all that, or it could just involve walking more often and actually taking the stairs instead of the elevator. You're only going up one floor, tubby, you don't need the elevator. It's not like you're carting books to the top of a skyscraper. You don't have to be a jock to get up out of your chair and take a walk around the building.
3) Realize that those people you work with are just people you work with. Don't take them so seriously, and don't make their little mini-dramas your own problems. Treat work as if the whole thing were happening to someone else in a movie. Nobody will know the difference and you'll feel better.
4) While you're at it, don't take yourself so seriously, either. I certainly don't. The library was there before you were born, and it'll be there after you're dead (well, most libraries, at least). Relax a bit and quit acting like the whole operation depends on you, because it doesn't.
5) You might criticize my martini, but I see the fizzy sugar water you guzzle from the soda machine. Do you really need three liters of Coke every day? Why don't you stop drinking so much of that and have a bottle of water sometimes instead? You'll feel better. And pass the snack machine by as well.
6) And while we're on drinks, why don't you cut down on the coffee. I suppose having your hands shake and your pulse race is fun for a while, but jacking yourself up on caffeine isn't really helping. If you're one of those people who "just can't function without your first cup of coffee," then you're a sad creature who needs to go to bed earlier instead of staying up watching the idiot box all night.
7) Don't stay up all night watching the idiot box. I know you think you need that time to "veg out," but six hours a night watching desperate housewives break out of small town prisons and solve crimes the pseudo-scientific way isn't doing your brain any good. It just makes you stupider, and that will increase your stress. If you're getting stupider while everything else stays the same, even without rapid change you're going to be stressed. I assume being stupid makes life more stressful, so you certainly don't need anything that will make you more stupid than you already are.
8) Why don't you read an improving book, instead. But don't read a book about relieving stress. That self-helpless stuff is almost worse than TV. I prefer a nice cultural history, but I know most people like fiction. There's plenty of good fiction to suit every taste, though some of it will keep you just as stupid as your TV habit.
9) If the pace of technological change is bothering you so much, why don't you sit down in front of a computer and actually learn how to do something new. Oh my, I bet you never thought of that, now did you. All that time you spent staring at the television or complaining to your equally stressed colleagues about how this computer thing keeps changing on you could have been spent learning something. Plus, it could make you famous. There are actually librarians who have become well known merely because they can make a wiki. Isn't that amazing? And trust me, baby, making a wiki ain't that hard.
10) Finally (I could go on all day, but people like lists of ten, so here you are), if one of the stressors is "juggling work and family," throw an extra family ball into the juggling mix. Leave work at work. Do you have a kid? Spend time with the little brat, and not just staring at the idiot box. A boyfriend? Make him some dinner and have a conversation, even if you have to drag the lazy bum away from his videogames. If you don't have any family around, surely you must have friends. If you don't, make some, and spend more time with them without thinking about or mentioning work. For pete's sake, people, we work in libraries. We're not saving lives here. Relax.
Well, there you have it, the Annoyed Librarian's mundane list of stress reducers. Better than you'd get from a consultant, and it didn't cost you a dime.