Before my bank was acquired, my colleagues and I were under tremendous pressure to perform. But that stress can't compare with what we are feeling now.

We have more work to do, because so many people have been laid off. Plus, we keep expecting that we'll be invited to join them.

Please give us some help on coping with job-related stress. --Sweaty Brow Dear Brow:

There's no doubt that the job security in banking has been replaced by high anxiety. Still, you can handle what psychologist William A. Roiter calls "recession depression" by fighting to maintain a sense of control.

Make a list of the things you can change, says Christine Sullivan, who manages a department for a savings bank in New York. "Understanding where your power lies--and what you can do nothing about--helps to cope."

Take Action

Once you know what you can change, act on the knowledge. That's advice from one banker who was told her job was being eliminated on a Friday but who was promised an unspecified position in the company.

She was at her PC on Monday morning, updating her resume and calling associates in the bank, looking for an opportunity.

"It's less stressful when you act," she says. "You have to focus not on losing the job, but on finding another one."

She makes a list every day of things to do for her job search, as well as what to do to wind down her projects. It's important to maintain her work so she will be an attractive candidate to prospective bosses in the bank.

But it's really hard, she says, when her heart isn't in it. "My real worry is where I'll be in two months."

Getting Physical

This woman finds relief in running several days a week. "I start off with my stomach burning from the stress," she says. "But you can't stay anxious when you're running."

One executive, also a runner, took up shadowboxing. In addition to getting physical benefits, he got a psychological boost from knowing he could protect himself.

Such aerobic exercise--add in jumping rope, swimming, rowing, and so on--done as little as 12 minutes three times a week, can relieve stress.

And steer clear of negative thinking.

There's an unwritten rule at Ms. Sullivan's bank: Officers do not discuss work at lunchtime. It's a relief, she says, to leave work at your desk and talk about things like families and vacations.

The banker whose position was eliminated suggests comparing your situation with those of folks who are much worse off.

Try remembering the saying, "I used to complain about having no shoes until I saw a man with no feet."

Positive imaging helped the executive who took up shadowboxing. He advises picturing yourself in a work situation you would love to be in.

All through his career, even during the most stressful moments, he saw himself as a powerful executive in an office at the top of the building, a position he eventually reached.

Read Up

You can find more methods to relieve stress by reading health magazines sold on the newsstand. And try one of the many books on the subject.

One that is on target is "How to Stay Cool, Calm, and Collected When the Pressure's On: A Stress-Control Plan for Businesspeople" by John Newman, published by the American Management Association.

Now, if you don't have the energy to try any of these ideas, you may be suffering from something more serious than stress.

Real depression saps energy. Asking someone with extremely low energy or none to take on more tasks is an invitation to failure and will only exacerbate the depression, says Margo Krasne, director of the Speak Out Program, a New York company that specializes in communications skills.

If your problem is depression, your career doctor should be a real doctor; consult a psychologist or some other qualified professional.

Need Career Advice?

If you face a career or workplace dilemma, let American Banker's Career Doctor address your problem.

Send us your questions, including your name, address, and telephone number so we can verify your letter. We will not print your name unless you ask us to.

Write or call Patricia Kitchen, features editor, American Banker, One State Street Plaza, New York, N.Y. 10004. Telephone: (212) 943-5733

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