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Work Stress and Your Health

By Christian Goodman

I grew up on a farm with lots of animals. One thing I always liked about animals was that they never lie. They're always 100% authentic. If they're angry, they act angry. If they're sad (like the mother that has lost her lamb), they scream at the top of their lungs. They never act differently from what they feel, like we humans often do.

You know what else I've noticed? Most animals don't have those stress related conditions that humans have. They very seldom have high blood pressure, have heart attacks or strokes. If they do it's because they're surrounded by humans that put too many demands on them. So I'm left to ponder some of the things we as humans do to ourselves to create so many physical problems.

One thing that people mention to me often is work stress. "I sit in front of a computer all day and I feel horribly fatigued at the end of the day." Or "I'm sure my blood pressure problems are job related."

There are occupational hazards in the most common places, like your cubicle or office. It's estimated that over 1 million people are absent from their jobs DAILY due to stress related issues. There are entire conferences, numerous books and corporate training programs devoted to just this problem. How do we combat this?

Quit your job? That might work in the short term, but most people cannot survive financially without it.

Most stress management tips people actually know, and just forget or at least, forget when they need them the most.

Sometimes we have to say 'no' or at least 'not yet.' Some personalities are inclined to take on more and more work, favors, and coverage for others who "really need a break." If this is you, ask yourself, how much is too much? What happens if I politely (but firmly) turn down this particular request? Or, ask for help when you need it. Some people just can't get past the idea that this denotes weakness or incompetence. But remember, people are asking you for help too... including your boss and co-workers.

  • Take a time out. Walk slowly and without purpose. Don't worry about walking "to get somewhere and fast." It doesn't have to take long - but get away from the environment for a few minutes every hour or two if possible.

  • As always, watch your diet. Try to eat sensibly and stay away from the over processed foods that do nothing to help the body.

  • Use good posture. Slouching catches up with the back and the rest of the body in painful ways.

  • Practice deep breathing. The body needs this oxygen. This can be done anywhere and can become a great habit after awhile.

  • Give your fingers a break too. Stop typing - and stretch your fingers for a few seconds. Breathe in deeply, and imagine the stress leaving your body through your finger tips as you exhale.

  • Feeling better already? Finally, leave work at work. Trust me, it'll be there tomorrow and nothing productive will come from reliving the entire work day on your drive home. Meditate to some peaceful music instead.

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