Friday, February 11, 2011

Work: Ways to decrease job stress

Last semester, I took a graduate-level class on the Behavioral and Social Aspects of Public Health. For our final, we were to choose a topic of interest and turn in a lit review on related health care interventions.

I began researching occupational stress.

What I found was amazing: Lifestyle-related conditions and stress levels are the greatest enemies to health in Western nations (vs. infectious diseases in underdeveloped regions of the world).

A few items to gnaw on:

  • Americans say money, work and the economy are their top stressors

  • U.S. workers spend half of their waking hours on the job

  • 35% of Americans report experiencing job stress harming physical and emotional health

  • Work-related stress, depression and anxiety caused the loss of 13.5 million U.S. working days between 2001 and 2002 [trending upward]
Sources: American Psychological Association [pdf] and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [pdf]
In educational interest, article(s) may be quoted from extensively.

The consequences?

Among other things, unchecked occupational stress can exacerbate feelings of irritation and anger; fuel anxiety; increase cardiovascular disease risk and decrease sleep duration; heighten major depressive episode risk; and produce emotional exhaustion that spills over from the workplace to the family environment.

So, getting on top of work stress is vital.

First, let's look at how you can use your commute -- via bus, train, car -- to prep you for your day and help you unwind on your way home.

MSNBC's 5 ways to keep your commute from killing you shares a number of tips, and is well worth a look. Here's a clip:

Even if you work at your dream job, chances are it's not just a hop, skip and a jump down the street. In fact, a recent national survey shows it takes most of us a 46-minute round-trip to get to and from work. That's nearly four hours a week. With the extreme winter weather making some already lengthy commutes even more of a slog, it can turn into a major health drag. ...

If you ride the subway, bus or train, practice a sensory meditation by closing your eyes and feeling the movement or vibration, relaxing into the gentle rocking motion of the vehicle suggests Jonathan S. Kaplan, a New York City clinical psychologist and author of the 2010 book Urban Mindfulness: Cultivating Peace, Presence and Purpose in the Middle of it All. “You can also do a thinking meditation by looking around and imagining what would make each person around you laugh, or what you have in common with them.” Those little mind games divert worrying.

Meanwhile, Jason Fitzpatrick discusses Five Traits Low-Stress, Happy Work Cultures Have In Common over at Lifehacker.

In a nutshell they are:

  • Limit your workweek
  • Avoid long commutes (or see tips above if not possible ;-)
  • Don't skip vacation
  • Enjoy happy hour
  • Find the right boss
Want a few more ideas?

Life123 offers 10 Ways to Reduce Job Stress.

And, finally, a recent segment on ABC Channel 15 [Phoenix, AZ] features a somewhat funny discussion with a chiropractor on managing stress.

Sometimes laughter is the best medicine. :-)

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