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Work got you stressed?

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Posted: Friday, April 3, 2009 10:00 pm

Economy.

Budget.

Furloughs.

Cutbacks.

Pink slips.

Layoffs.

They are the terms that echo through offices, schools and homes every day. They sneak into conversations during breaks at the local coffee shop. They are whispered between colleagues in offices. And, for some, they are the last words thought before a restless night's sleep.

While it may seem that company heads are exempt from work stress brought on by these inescapable ideas, Lodi-area leaders don't sneak through a slumping economy unscathed. From restaurateurs to owners of construction business and school officials, those in charge have a plan of attack when it comes to stress, whether it means working harder on the job or hitting the gym.

Tokay High principal Erik Sandstrom admits cutbacks in local education have affected his personal life, particularly his once-healthy eating habits.

"I (was) very noticeably not eating regularly or as healthfully as I should," he said. "We get a call saying, 'You have to pass out these pink slips … (So,) I'll grab a burger. That really increased in the past two or three months."

Pink slips. That's a major cause of his stress. He struggled with the fact that he had to go to teachers - who are new, young, just married and just bought houses - and tell them they won't have a job next year.

"I'm having a negative impact on other people and their financial well being. Throw that in with other stressful parts of the job," he said, talking about the demands for higher scores with fewer resources and a smaller staff.

Still, Sandstrom is positive about the upcoming future, including a possibility that he won't lose his teaching staff after all. As for his plunging diet, he used spring break to get back on track, doing grocery shopping so he can start packing his own work lunches again.

Even restaurateurs, like Ruben Larrazolo, owner of AlebrijesMexican Bistro, has noticed he's gained weight after spending so much time working in his restaurant.

His wife, Adi, who also helps run the restaurant, jokes about it, but says they have to work at the restaurant more to keep costs down.

"We try to run business and raise family," said Adi Larrazolo, who rotates days off with her husband. "We have to be here, (so we don't) have to pay an extra employee. Sometimes it does cause stress."

Galt City Council member Darryl Clare has not noticed that he's eating more or sleeping poorly, he has realized there is a need to "work harder and be better at what we do."

This has resulted in him spending more hours at work and more time with the many boards he serves on.

In Galt, he says most of the job stress falls on mid and lower management, as they see cuts being made in other cities and wait to see if it will happen to them.

Nancy Martinez, Library Services Director, who works part time, also says job stress is falling on her employees.

"They're short staffed so they're more stressed … I try not to put any pressure on them," she said.

She also says it's just not like her to take work stress home, and having a "roll with the flow" attitude is key.

For others, finding time for themselves in helpful in curing the blues of the workplace.

Dave Olson, owner of Olson Construction, has recently begun setting his alarm clock at 4:30 so he can hit the gym before he heads off to work. The biggest pressure he feels is when the banks lag on approving funds for his customers who are qualified borrowers.

"I'm frustrated with the banks," he said. "I have about half a dozen jobs where the banks are holding up projects. They won't let go of the money."

That's when he starts to feel the pressure and responsibility of keeping his workers in a job. He says his employees are the driving force that keeps him chasing leads to stay as busy as possible.

However, it is knowing that he's done all that he can do is what gives him peace.

"I don't let it get me stressed out. I work hard, pray hard and I can't control the rest. I sleep at night," he said, adding that his morning exercise is another good release.

Exercise has also helped Public Works Director Wally Sandelin keep his mind focused on his well-being and not on budgets and cuts. That - and a Hawaiian vacation and fixing up a 1969 Firebird convertible.

He also looks at 2009 as the third recession he's experienced. What he's learned is to give the work away, to delegate, which is something he says many people don't know what to do.

When it comes to job stress in a bleak economy, the remedy is easily a good attitude.

"It is what it is and you do the best you can with it," Sandelin said.

In their own words: How to cope with work stress

"You need to go out and do the things you enjoy doing. Those are the things people need to pay attention to in their off time. We spend a lot of time traveling out of town on the weekends to get a breather."
- Jim Rodems; parks and recreation interim director, Hutchins Street Square director

"You have to look for the silver lining - students receiving national merit recommendation, etc. - and focus on the positive."
- Erik Sadstrom, Tokay High School Principal

"I think the main thing is open, constant communication."
- Darryl Clare, Galt City Council member

"I exercise regular and I have a hobby: fixing up … a 1969 Firebird convertible. 2-3 year."
- Wally Sandelin, public works director

"Working out more early in the morning - it's a good release."
- Dave Olson, owner of Olson Construction

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