Dr. Robert Sapolsky offers stress tips for professionals 

September 21, 2008

If you've never been pursued by a carnivorous predator in the workplace, you've probably never stressed in the way Mother Nature intended. Instead of stressing about immediate survival, professionals stress over deadlines, job security and the economy — not the kind of life-threatening moments stress can help resolve. As Dr. Robert Sapolsky tells it, humans constantly turn on stress responses for the wrong reasons, and it's killing us.

Sapolsky's National Geographic special, "Stress: Portrait of a Killer," airs nationwide Wednesday night on PBS. The special explores what 30 years of baboon research have taught Robert about stress, and how humans have a knack for turning psychological dis-ease into physical disease. We had a rare chance to sit down with Robert and sought to apply his groundbreaking research to the common office primate.

Ever wondered how important grooming is to putting stress in check? Find out:

All documentary footage courtesy Stanford/National Geographic.

Beyond the four key tips Robert offers for reducing stress, he notes the importance of friends and grooming, which are "much more predictive of health than your rank." This can be applied to the professional sphere and networking online. LinkedIn helps professionals maintain a network of quality relationships which should accurately reflect their offline experience. As Robert says, "Primates don't get a lot of solace from 2000 friends" — build a reliable network of people you know and trust. Instead of literal "grooming", professionals need recognition and approval from peers to help reduce anxiety, depression, or neuroses. A simple virtual application of this need is met through LinkedIn Recommendations, a service by which LinkedIn users can express approval of each others' work, which in turn enables them to feel good about their accomplishments and pursue greater opportunities.

This week on LinkedIn Answers, Robert asks, "When it comes to balancing stress and professional achievement, how do you decide when 'enough is enough'?" Follow the link to weigh in with your own solution to balancing stress or to find out how other successful professionals are doing just that.

UPDATE: A related article from Lifehacker notes that workplace envy causes employees to collaborate less and withhold information, according to a study by the University of Notre Dame. For those that missed the special Wednesday night, it's available for pre-order on Amazon for a November 18 release. In addition, you can download a few free podcasts from iTunes which feature lectures by Dr. Sapolsky.