How workplace stress affects your health

How workplace stress affects your health

Workplace stress can be just as harmful as secondhand smoke, according to a new study.

Stressors such as unemployment, shift work, long hours, high job demands, work-family conflict, lack of health insurance and low social support that impact an employee’s health were examined by researchers from Harvard Business School and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

They found that high job demands increase the odds of having an illness diagnosed by a doctor by 35 percent. In addition, long work hours increase the chance of early death by nearly 20 percent. Job insecurity and worrying about job-loss also increased the odds of poor health by almost 50 percent.

Researchers said the study’s results show that workplace stress generally increases the odds of poor health outcomes to approximately the same extent as exposure to second-hand smoke.

To make matters worse, people who experience excessive stress often deal with it in unhealthy ways, such as overeating, smoking cigarettes or abusing alcohol or drugs.

“Everyone has stress from time to time,” Dr. Tahir Sheikh, a psychiatrist with Advocate Medical Group physician at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. “However, when stress becomes chronic, it can be overwhelming and harmful to your physical and emotional health. While we can’t always avoid these kinds of situations, we can learn how to manage, minimize and deal with stress in a healthier manner.”

Dr. Sheikh offers six tips for managing stress:

  1. Track your stressors. Keep a journal to identify situations that create the most stress and how you respond to them. This exercise can help you identify patterns and establish healthier ways to react to these situations.
  1. Develop healthy responses. Instead of fighting stress with fast food or wine, head to the gym. Exercise is a great stress-buster. Also make time for hobbies and activities. Go to dinner with a friend, read a book or attend a concert.
  1. Get enough sleep. Good quality sleep is key to effective stress management. Aim for at least seven to eight hours each night. Limit caffeine late in the day and minimize stimulating activities and screen time at night.
  1. Evaluate your options. Discuss specific concerns with your supervisor and work on solutions that allow you to meet expectations but alleviate some of the stress factors associated with the position.
  1. Take time to recharge. Take time for yourself. Don’t let vacation days go to waste. Use them to relax and unwind.
  1. Get some support. Reach out to co-workers, friends or family members for support and collaboration on how you can better cope with the stressful situations.

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  1. It’s all well and good to tell people how to better manage their work place stress, but you could do soooo much more good if you could get the message out to employers to stop the work place stress in the first place.

  2. Yes, if marketing folks don’t we in any bids, I have no billable work to do. They keep doing Business Development while I go home.

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About the Author

Johnna Kelly
Johnna Kelly

Johnna Kelly, healthe news contributor, is a manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She is a former newspaper reporter and spent nearly 10 years as a public relations professional working for state and county government. During her time as a communications staffer for the Illinois General Assembly, she was integral in drafting and passing legislation creating Andrea's Law, the nation's first murderer registry. In her spare time, she volunteers at a local homeless shelter, enjoys traveling, photography and watching the Chicago Bulls.