Preventing Stress at Work from Becoming a Health Risk
You may have your life set up as optimally as possible for preventing stress. For example; a well-paying job, comfortable standard of living, good relationships, healthy foods in your pantry and a steady exercise routine. However, there is one key piece to consider that often gets overlooked. Your health is still at risk if your job causes you stress.
According to this Women’s Health Study, sponsored by the American National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, stress in the workplace is a primary hazard for heart disease. In the findings of this large study (17, 415 middle-aged women), factors that increased cardiovascular disease and heart attacks included:
- demanding, straining work
- ambiguous job security
- not able to use personal creativity or skills
These things may seem less than ideal, yet plenty of people are tolerating these typical elements at work. These things can eat away at you, and, over time, put a strain on your health.
Take stock of your own working conditions and identify “if and how” you are preventing stress. Consider the following indicators of work-related stress that may compromise your heart health:
- Are you trading off a balanced lifestyle for an income, status, or commitment to an unsatisfying career?
- Do you find yourself eating fast food on the fly? How about drinking too many cups of coffee in a day to stay alert?
- Do you find yourself griping to friends (after work hours) about your frustrating manager or co-workers?
- Do you stay longer than 8 hours some days, or compromise important things in your life to complete projects?
Are you a perfectionist with your work, amidst other already straining conditions, frequently going the extra mile to do the best job possible, no matter what it’s costing you?
It’s up to you to consider how to handle your current employment situation. If the stresses of work are draining your life-force, it may be time to consider a career change. On the other hand, perhaps it’s prudent for you to stay working where you’re at, based on financial commitments or career strategies. If the latter is the case, be sure to establish a system of checks and balances that ensure an affective handling of the stressors. For example, if work takes much of your focus and energy during the week, be sure to protect your ‘down-time’, or your batteries won’t get recharged and you could find yourself caught in a vicious cycle of running on empty.
As most experts would say when preventing stress awareness is the first key. Recognize the stress factors in your work life. Some elements you can’t prevent or control, such as difficult personalities who may be directly supervising you or sharing your project. Yet you can handle your attitude toward things that trigger stress or frustration. Or you can train yourself to handle interpersonal dynamics more effectively, or even learn how to establish boundaries for yourself around time and workload. There is always a way to take responsibility for how you handle the situation in front of you. If heart health is at stake, then learning how to manage workplace stressors is crucial.