Stressed at work? You're not alone. A survey found that more than eight in 10 employed Americans are stressed about their jobs. And how you handle all of that stress could affect future health. According to a new study, workplace stress can be as dangerous to your health as exposure to secondhand smoke.
The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard University in 2013, looked at a range of job stressors and the effects these factors had on everyday health. For example, they evaluated things like employment history, work shifts, work/life conflicts, perceived level of fairness in the workplace, daily work demands, social support systems, and the availability of health insurance.
Researchers found that workplace conditions and the stressors that people experience each day at work can have a profound impact on their overall health. These stressors — in particular things like having little control at work, having a job that conflicts with family life, and having no health insurance — increased the risk of an early death by 50 percent.
Overall, the researchers concluded that workplace stress, even in small doses, can have a negative effect on your health that is similar to or even greater than the risk associated with exposure to secondhand smoke.
So how can you reduce your risks and preserve your health?
Here are some simple strategies for finding your zen when you're at work:
Breathe deep. It may sound cliché, but you would be amazed at how good you will feel after taking a deep, cleansing breath. Try inhaling, holding, and exhaling you breath in equal counts, say for five seconds each.
Minimize distractions. If you have a deadline looming, take a proactive approach to keep from falling behind. If possible, close the door, flip your phone over, and turn off your email notifications. Even 30 minutes of focused concentration can help you organize your thoughts and do what you need to do.
Schedule breaks. You can't go straight from one project to the next and expect to remain in peak form all day. Instead, aim to focus your attention for 90 minutes or so and then take a five-minute break to get up and stretch or even grab a quick breath of fresh air. You will come back to your desk in much better frame of mind than if you just tried to power through.
Focus on what you can control. Try not to waste your time and energy worrying about things at work that you cannot control like your coworker's behavior. Instead, put all of your energy into the things you can control, such as the way you react to problems.
Catch those zzz's. It's a vicious cycle — stress at work keeps you up at night and a lack of sleep can make you more stressed throughout the day. Break the cycle by getting to bed a little earlier each night and winding down (and don't check that email,) before you hit the sheets.
Learn how to say 'no.' It may not always be an option, but when it is, learn how and when to use the word "no." Over committing yourself will not only make you stressed, it will make you look incompetent as you try to juggle too many projects. Focus on doing a bang-up job with the projects you have before you take on new work.
Nix Negative Nellies. Every workplace has at least one employee who always seems to have something negative to say. Reduce the amount of time you spend around this type of person and if possible, nip their behavior in the bud — or at least your exposure to it — by calling it out for what it is.