How you can han­dle work- re­lated stress

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING -

IN to­day’s de­mand­ing, fast- paced world, peo­ple can po­ten­tially be work­ing 24/ 7. If your work e- mail is synced to your smart­phone, it’s easy to check your e- mail on the way home from work, in the mid­dle of the night, at your child’s soc­cer prac­tice.

Even if you’re not check­ing e- mail, when work is stress­ful to you, chances are good it stays on your mind, per­haps worm­ing its way into your sleep. The end re­sult: you never truly get away from work.

Is there any­thing wrong with this pre­oc­cu­pa­tion?

“Of course,” says Patricia Nor­mand, a psy­chi­a­trist who di­rects Rush Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter’s Mind­ful Life Pro­gram. “Your brain can’t be on all the time. You need down time and time for your­self. If you’re a worka­holic, you can’t be giv­ing your­self – and per­haps your fam­ily – at­ten­tion.”

The ef­fects of self- ne­glect can pile up: You might not have time to go shop­ping or pre­pare din­ner, leav­ing you less healthy din­ing op­tions. No time for your­self can also mean not ex­er­cis­ing, which can lead to weight gain, which can lead to heart dis­ease, high blood pres­sure or di­a­betes.

Stress can also give you anx­i­ety, con­trib­ute to de­pres­sion, cause prob­lems with your sleep, and cre­ate feel­ings of help­less­ness, says Nor­mand.

When you’re stressed, your body pumps out stress hor­mones: ep­i­neph­rine, nor­ep­i­neph­rine and cor­ti­sol. You need those hor­mones in acute sit­u­a­tions, like the fa­bled saber- tooth tiger our an­ces­tors fought off. But to­day, our stresses are fre­quent and mul­ti­ple; yet our bod­ies are still putting out these acute- re­sponse chem­i­cals that, over time, can be harm­ful to your body.

Al­though it might feel like just one more thing on your to- do list, you can get a han­dle on work- re­lated stress.

Iden­tify the prob­lem.

The first step is to no­tice how much you’re work­ing and how lit­tle time you have for your­self, ac­cord­ing to Nor­mand.

Plot out your day, all 24 hours of it. How much are you sleep­ing? When are you work­ing? In ad­di­tion to your of­fice time, are you log­ging hours at home or dur­ing your com­mute by check­ing and re­spond­ing to e- mails?

“Plot out how much time you’re at work and all the times that you’re do­ing work,” says Nor­mand. “See how much time you have left. Is that ad­e­quate?”

Learn – and reg­u­larly prac­tice – re­lax­ation strate­gies.

If work is con­stantly on your mind, and you are dis­sat­is­fied with that, there are things you can do, says Nor­mand.

If you’re anx­ious about work, prac­tise re­lax­ation and mind­ful­ness tech­niques, such as med­i­ta­tion, deep breath­ing or guided im­agery. For ex­am­ple, in guided im­agery you might use a CD or book to guide your imag­i­na­tion to a re­laxed, fo­cused state by help­ing you imag­ine your­self in a peace­ful set­ting.

Make use of the sil­ver bul­let: ex­er­cise.

Make sure you ex­er­cise reg­u­larly; re­search has shown that in ad­di­tion to its phys­i­cal ben­e­fits, ex­er­cise im­proves your mood and de­creases your anx­i­ety. Aim for 30 min­utes a day, most days of the week.

Seek a pro­fes­sional’s per­spec­tive.

If get­ting a han­dle on your work stress is prov­ing harder than you an­tic­i­pated, you may need to talk to a coun­sel­lor about other fac­tors at the root, like anx­i­ety or the de­pres­sion.

Look within.

“The big­gest ques­tion is, do your cir­cum­stances al­low for a change, and you’re just not chang­ing?” asks Nor­mand. “Or, if the cir­cum­stances don’t al­low for any change, is it pos­si­ble you could change the cir­cum­stance?”

Nor­mand rec­om­mends chang­ing jobs as a last re­sort. In­stead, ask your­self, do you gen­er­ally re­act to stress in this way? If you’re fine out­side of work, and you’re able to re­lax, then it’s likely some as­pect of work may be the cul­prit. But it may not al­ways be your de­mand­ing boss: It could still be you.

“Is your stress some­thing you’re putting on to work, for in­stance, your ex­pec­ta­tions and your hopes for this job that are caus­ing you to get stressed out?” asks Nor­mand. If so, con­sider re­lax­ation tech­niques or talk ther­apy.

But if the an­swer is ob­jec­tively an ex­ter­nal source like the amount of work, your su­per­vi­sor or your co- work­ers, then it might be time to think about an­other job – one that will give you the work- life bal­ance you need to be happy and healthy. – HealthNewsDigest. com

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