Don’t have a cow, man

“It’s often assumed that after you reach the top of the corporate ladder … that you’re more disposed to give ulcers than to get them,” says Dr. Paul J. Rosch, president of the American Institute of Stress. But it really is lonely at the top, Rosch says, and boardroom-quality stress is of a different type than that experienced by those governed by the boardroom.

CEO stress manifests itself as insomnia, headaches, backaches, nervousness, stomach distress, high blood pressure and other symptoms common to many forms of stress. It differs from others in its cause: CEOs often feel they have to set a perfect example and be in full control. Anything less may induce a stressed reaction.

Also, senior executives and business owners at smaller companies suffer stress disproportionately, in part because of their closer proximity and involvement with employees, customers and clients and their frustrations and concerns.

CEO stress is imposed to a greater degree by uncontrollable circumstances—Rosch notes that bosses diagnosed with cancer face a tougher recovery because they lack the support systems that typically pop up around others. They or their subordinates may also hide symptoms and treatment for fear of the effect on stock prices.

What to do? Rosch says, “There’s nothing you say that’s generic. … You’ve got to find what works for you.” Meditation, exercise or a hobby may work for you or it may bore you to tears. What works for you, Rosch says, is what makes the symptoms lessen or disappear.

Lucinda Bassett, founder of the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety and author of “From Panic to Power” (HarperCollins; $25), suggests a few techniques to identify stressful situations and control them.

Be gentle with yourself. Don’t berate yourself for feeling anxious or stressed.

Give yourself credit for the accomplishments you’ve had, even the smallest ones.

Keep an open mind. Yoga may look silly, but if it works, what the hey? You have to be willing to feel better no matter what it takes.

Don’t overreact. Instead of fighting your stressed or anxious feelings, listen to them. They may be saying something you need to hear.

Keep a notebook. What were you doing, saying, eating when you felt stressed? Who were you with? Patterns may emerge that will help you reduce your stress level.