New Job + Expectations = Stress Overload

Excitement, euphoria and a sense of accomplishment are all feelings you experience after successfully landing a new job and rightly so - you’ve put forth the effort and succeeded. Before you know it, the news of your recent accomplishment spreads like wildfire and you are overwhelmed with support from family and friends. Monday arrives, and it’s time to prove that everything you meticulously wrote in your resume about yourself is true. You wake up 2 hours before you’re scheduled to come in, outfit chosen from the night before, coffee brewing promptly at 7:15 am, address to the office locked in the GPS and what happens? A freight train breaks down while you’re waiting at a railroad crossing. Cortisol floods your hippocampus, you’ve just entered the stress zone.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone secreted by your body in response to stress. When you’re faced with a difficult task, cortisol is released into your hippocampus. Thought to be the center of emotion, the hippocampus is located under the cerebral cortex and it is responsible for consolidating information from short-term memory to long-term and spatial memory. Working side-by-side with adrenaline, cortisol aids you in sticky situations by increasing blood sugar, metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates. Cortisol springs you in to action when a freight train stands between you and making a good first impression. Small levels of cortisol are a good thing. However, when the hippocampus is exposed to excessive amounts of cortisol, it can hinder learning and cause physical side effects, such as severe fatigue, redness of the skin, and dietary abnormalities. Dr. Gail Gross, an expert on relationships, family development, education and behavior, said “Everything we learn, everything we read, everything we do, everything we understand, and everything we experience counts on the hippocampus to function correctly.” This influx of cortisol to the hippocampus likely explains why everyday tasks seems so daunting when you’re stressed.

All this talk about hippos and hormones, what does it mean to you? It means that if you are serious about your new position, you are going to experience fatigue and frustration. Normal tasks that you’ve done a hundred times before will seem difficult, and that’s okay! You may feel like you’re doing everything wrong when in reality, you’re actually doing everything right. Since that reassurance may not do much to settle your nerves, here are some tips to help you dial down the cortisol and keep your hippocampus happy, so you can feel your best on your big first day. 

5 steps to prevent cortisol over load:

  1. Eat well, drink plenty of water and exercise. In other words, be sure to take extra care of yourself when your stress levels start to kick into overdrive.
  2. Instead of thinking of tasks as chores, think of them as challenges to give you the motivation you need.
  3. Effectively communicate with your co-workers. This can have a dramatic effect on your personal morale, putting you at ease and decreasing the release of cortisol.
  4. Taking notes as often as you can will take a huge load off your hippocampus.
  5. As cliché as it sounds think positive thoughts and more importantly, ignore those around you who ooze negativity.  Dr. Konstantin Korotov professor of physics at St. Petersburg State Technical University, states that “When we think positive and negative thoughts, each have a different impact on our surrounding environment.” Take control of your thoughts, and your environment will follow. 

As the newest addition to OE’s world class team, I write this from my own experience. I’ve had my fair share of fatigue, frustration, and (perhaps most comically) mishaps answering the phone. Answering the phone is something I’ve successfully done at least 321 times in my life, but because I’m constantly worried about not messing up—well, I mess up. But, I will have you know that on my second day of work, I seamlessly transferred calls and I even managed to speak in complete sentences. I attribute the shockingly swift return of my lost talent to the encouragement and consideration of my co-workers. Understanding that your mistakes are opportunities for growth is the best way to tackle a learning curve.

Ahmed Ibrahim, Marketing Associate 

Onward Engineering

Sources: Dr.Gross & Dr.Korotov