Jim O's advice on the dealing with stress.

Construction contracting ranks pretty high up the list of stressful occupations. Managing labor is something that always makes people pull their hair out or put their fists through a wall. Safety hazards are omnipresent, job bids keep many of you awake at night and you're always at the mercy of things over which you have no control. No wonder people in the construction business work themselves into a frazzle to the point where they experience health problems, relationship problems or simply the inability to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

This is compounded during the winter season, say all the experts. It's due to the hectic pace of holiday activities, along with problematic family relationships.

Couple all this with our national anxiety over terrorism and the war's impact on the economy. It wouldn't be surprising to find many folks on the verge of burning out.

If you're among them, here are some simple stress-relieving tips from the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, which operates the world-renowned Mayo Clinic.

15 steps

1. Fatigue makes it that much harder to cope with stressful situations.

2. Read a good book. I would recommend avoiding books that are too closely related to work or of bleak subject matter.

3. Seek out positive people. Cheerful folks have a way of spreading that attitude.

4. Meditate or pray. So you're not really religious? What do you have to lose?

5. Delay or delegate a non-critical work project. Be realistic. Not everything you do is critical. Set priorities and focus your attention on only the top one or two items.

6. Do volunteer work for a favorite cause or charity. Don't just write a check. Give something of yourself. I can think of no better way to start feeling better about yourself and your activities.

7. Go to a humorous or uplifting movie. About a week after September's terrorist attacks, my wife and I went to see "Rat Race," a movie filled with slapstick humor. Movie critics didn't particularly like it, but there were plenty of laughs to provide a couple of hours respite from all the gloom and doom. We walked out of the theater feeling happy for the first time in a week.

8. Write in a journal. Focus on recording the best things that happen to you each day. Even on the worst days, if you look for positives, you'll find them.

9. Tackle unpleasant tasks early in the day and get them over with. Otherwise, you'll spoil your day by thinking of what's ahead.

10. Eat properly and exercise regularly. Exercise is a particularly good stress reliever.

11. Go with the flow. Not every battle has to be won--or even fought. Give in on issues that are relatively trivial to you. Some things are not worth arguing about, and only the most important things are worth going to war over.

12. Deal with only one thing at a time. If you have the same problem join me in resolving to heed this advice.

13. Ask help from a partner, friend or co-worker when you feel overwhelmed. As they say, "Pride goeth before the fall."

14. Create a change of pace. Make no plans for an entire day. Maybe work from home that day.

15. Be realistic about how much you can accomplish. You may be asking too much of yourself.

A little perspective

Finally, I'd like to add a little advice of my own. A stress management technique that works for me is simply to pause and put things in perspective.

Personally, I've never bought into all the hype about the business world being particularly stressful. A certain amount of stress goes with the territory if you are to succeed in any walk of life. The more competitive the business, the more stressful you'll find the work, but the financial and personal rewards ought to be a worthwhile tradeoff.

To me, the most stressful life is one without job satisfaction, and without enough money to support your dependents. If this describes you, maybe you need to look for another line of work. But if you like what you're doing and making a decent living at it, take comfort in that.