According to a 2008, 12 year study of 10,308 London-based civil servants, chronic work stress was found to increase the risk of Coronary Heat Disease by 68% and is higher in employees under 50 years of age. This study also found that work stress was also associated with further poor health behaviours that could compound the risk. Coronary Heart Disease is one of many medical symptoms that is compounded by stress.
During over 13 years of nursing I saw many things. During this time I became increasingly interested in the psychological aspects of illness. For the last 6 years of my nursing life I would always ask my patients the same question, “Have you been experiencing more stress than usual lately?”
The answer was always, “yes.”
There were two main areas in the lives of my patients that continually contributed to patients presenting with strokes and heart attacks; relationship problems and work-related stress. Both of these were big indicators of people who are at risk of more serious illnesses developing.
Let us look at why.
Stress causes our body to go into fight or flight mode. Blood to our non-essential organs is diverted to your muscles and brain, which is why stress can cause indigestion and contribute to weight gain. Your body is also flooded with adrenaline, which is why sleeplessness is common in those with higher than average stress levels. You are also filled with energy, causing your blood pressure to rise and your heart to beat faster, which is why hypertension is common in those who have stressful lives.
This response literally prepares you to either run or fight for your life.
Because office-based jobs that are stressful involve you having to deal with these surges of energy, without giving you a chance to offload the symptoms, it can literally leave you wanting to put your foot or fist through a computer screen. This is because you are prepared to fight for your life.
What can cause this?
The danger of stress is that your brain has not learned to distinguish between a real and perceived threat. Consequently, a dismissive or critical comment from your boss or a work colleague can put you into fight or flight. Clearly, your life is not in immediate danger but your body is preparing you as though it is. Just by thinking about the same criticism, slight on your character or threat can literally have you preparing to fight for your life, repeatedly several times a day.
With the current recession causing pay cuts and redundancies, it is likely that many employees are living on a knife-edge as they fear for not being able to work, pay bills or even feed their families. Constant worry about such issues has the same affect on your body as living in the jungle and seeing lions arriving to feast on your family.
What can you do to reduce your stress at work?
When you find yourself experiencing symptoms of fight or flight then it’s time to focus on your breathing. Deeper breathing is one of the fastest and most effective ways to reverse your body’s stress response. Also, tell yourself “I am safe.”
This may sound ridiculous but your body is preparing you to fend for your life. By repeating the message that you are safe and making a conscious effort to deepen your breathing, you are putting yourself on the fast-track to a more relaxed day at work.
Something to think about.
Ultimately, unmanaged stress will kill you early and then you will not be able to earn money, spend time with your family or enjoy the wonders that life can bring. If you are spending your time focusing on stressful things and the above technique does not appear to be helping then get help. Most people who get ill and die early are those who did not ask for help until it was too late. There are plenty of free tips, resources and easy to use alternatives available to you but you will need to invest a little time in learning them.
You can find such tools at my website http://www.adamshaw.co/
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