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2014 StressFest

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 11:27 a.m. CDT

We’ve waited long enough. It’s time to admit the truth — 2014 is a bust.

Sorry, 2014. We had high hopes for you, but despite putting on funny hats and acting inappropriately at the office New Year’s party, and despite all the pomp and ceremony in our annual ritual of replacing the Snap-on Tools calendar in our cubicles, 2014 has proved itself to be just another sorry replay of 2013 — too much work, too little reward, and lots and lots and lots of stress.

But wait, isn’t stress an integral part of any job? Heck, even the magnificently compensated movie stars nominated for Oscars will be biting their nails. Or hiring someone to bite their nails for them. (They really don’t want to bruise those daVinci veneers.) Even the CEO of your company is STRESSING out over whether earning 250 times your salary for doing 1/250th of the work will attract the attention of remorseless journalists who have no sympathy for the strains that come with leadership. Like running your Lamborghini Veneno into one of your midlevel managers and having to suffer all the pain of replacing the bumper.

In fact, some jobs do have less stress. And, like you, I have been totally stressed-out waiting for CareerCast.com to come out with their annual list of the 10 most and least stressful jobs. Now we can relax. Wall Street Journal writer Lauren Weber has just released the 2014 rankings, and we can see if that buzzing noise in your head is a sign of a stress aneurism sure to kill you before the end of the year, or just a hive of wasps living in your ear canal.

To compile their list, CareerCast.com scores “200 occupations, according to 11 different stress factors, including physical demands, deadlines, competitiveness, and the amount of travel the job requires.” (Apparently, some people don’t have your gift for ignoring deadlines, and I suppose that “travel the job requires” does not include your daily, midafternoon jaunt to the KitKatClub.)

And the winner for the most stressed-out workers? The envelope, please. Surprise! They’re enlisted military personnel with a stress score of 84.72 percent.

I’m not sure I can accept this. Being dropped behind enemy lines in another country where people are constantly shooting at you is stressful, but not as stressful as sitting down with your workplace enemies at the Monday morning staff meeting, of course. Or facing your annual review with a sniper from human resources. And soldiers get to wear uniforms and jaunty berets at their jobs. The last time you wore your beret to the office, you were laughed out of the coffee room!

Public relations executives rank as the sixth most-stressed, higher than policemen. Putting out press releases to explain the latest insult to good taste by Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus must be quite a strain. Also suffering more stress than law enforcement officers are event coordinators and corporate executives. But requirements for both of these jobs are intermittent. An event planner could go six months between events, and a corporate executive could go six years before facing a stressful decision. And then, she’ll probably flip a coin.

So, what should you do when you grow up if you want to avoid stress?

With a puny score of 3.35 percent, being an audiologist is the career with the least stress. Makes sense. Most of the people an audiologist deals with are hard of hearing. If they can’t hear what the audiologist is saying, they’re much less likely to raise a fuss. Hairstylists are next in line, with a stress score of 5.41 percent. This is about half the stress level experienced by a librarian. Libraries should stop limiting themselves to peddling books and start doing hair. “Put a copy of ‘Moby-Dick’ on my library card, and a pixie cut on my Visa.”

Since the world is an unfair place, you won’t be surprised to learn that the most stressful jobs are not the best-paying jobs. Conversely, the least stressful jobs can pay more than stressful jobs. Remember those stress-free audiologists? They’re pulling down a median salary of $69,720 a year.

Does this stress you out? Don’t just sit there trembling. Do something positive to lower your blood pressure. Sneak up behind an audiologist and scream, “WATCH OUT!” It won’t completely level the playing field stress-wise, but it will give those darn audiologists a taste of the stress the rest of us have to live with.

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