Managing stress at work is vital to long-term health

According to a nationwide poll by the American Psychological Association, 75 percent of Americans said work is a significant source of stress in their life, with more than half agreeing that their work productivity suffers due to stress.

Is it any wonder? We’re always plugged in. If we’re not at work, we’re carrying work around with us in our pocket thanks to our email-equipped phones. Working long hours is lauded as being ambitious and putting our careers first is thought of as admirable.

But the resulting stress that comes from overworking ourselves can cause some pretty serious health effects including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, insomnia and depression.

In recognition of Health Care Human Resources Week, we want to share with you five changes you should consider making to lessen the work-related stress in your life. Your body—not to mention your family or neglected four-legged friend—will thank you for it.

  1. Turn off after work. Just as you close your laptop before you leave the office, you, too, need to shut it down. If not all night, at least for a few hours—turn off your cell phone—yes, to the “OFF” position, where it can’t buzz, vibrate or ring it’s way back to you—and engage in an alternate activity, like having dinner and good conversation with friends, or going to the gym.
  2. Make a priority list. Part of your work stress might be related to feeling anxious that you’re going to forget something important. In order to clear your mind, put it down on paper or in your phone and list tasks in order of priority. You’ll be surprised at how much more focused you feel.
  3. Find healthy ways to cope with stress. If, as soon as you feel your stress building at work, you reach for a pack of cigarettes or a giant bag of candy, you’re not coping in a healthy way. Swap these automatic habits with better ones, like taking a 5-minute walk outside and breathing in the fresh air (it does wonders for clearing the mind), or make a healthy snack that still fits the craving at hand, like a fresh fruit smoothie (it still has sugar, but in a form that your body will love more than candy).
  4. Take a vacation! The aforementioned APA poll showed at least 50 percent of Americans do not use their allotted vacation time. You may think the office can’t survive without you, but guess what? It can. Go someplace for a week where the only “To Dos” on your list include reading your favorite magazines and getting a massage.
  5. Talk to a professional before stress gets out of hand. In a study by The American Institute of Stress, 14 percent of American workers said they had felt like striking a coworker in the past year, but didn’t. Ten percent were concerned about an individual at work that they feared could become violent. If you start to feel overwhelmed by stress, talk to someone. Your HR department most likely has stress management resources, such as counseling and referral to mental health professionals that can help you better manage your stress level.

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