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December 2, 2012
By A. Lee. Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

None of us can avoid being stress out at work. It’s the nature of the
beast. How much stress are we feeling at work? It’s hard to get a
handle on exact figures but in the 2011 the Office for National Statistics
in the UK conducted a Labor Force Survey which found that 40% of all
work-related injuries are caused by mental stress. In the US, the
Centers for Disease Control (National Opinion Research Center)
reported found similar results, with  30% to 40% of people saying that
their work was often stressful.   

Causes of Job Stress

The stress you experience at work can come from many different
sources.  The most benign of these is that the task itself may just be
too hard. Some work is simply more tasking than others. Add to this
load are time pressures  --which increase during periods of high
unemployment because there are fewer people at work to do the same
jobs.  Finally, stress may be people-related. In particular, supervisors
are a major source of stress. And, the incidence of outright "abusive
supervision" is on the rise, according to a 2012 study by Dr. Marilyn V.
Whitman, of the University of Alabama.

Job Stress Can Wreck Your Health

All stress can be harmful to your health. But job stress --called job
strain -- can be particularly corrosive to your health.  You experience
job strain when you are asked to meet high demands over which you
have little or no control.  Job strain often spills over into your private
lives, ruining your plans to improve your health outside of work.  For
example, job strain can make it more difficult for you to quit smoking,
according to a 2009 study by researchers from Nottingham University's
Institute of Work, Health and Organization in the UK.

What can you do to reduce the amount of stress you experience at
work? Here are 5 natural remedies for job stress, based on medical

Top 5 Remedies for Stress at Work  

1.        Refuse Illegitimate Tasks.  Have you ever been asked to do
something that is clearly not your job? From being asked to pick up an
extra sandwich for your boss while you’re out at lunch, to picking up
the slack when a co-worker fails to do their job, to even being asked
out on a date by a boss –these are what scientists call “role violations”.

In a 2012 study of 109 men, a team researchers at the University of
Bern in Switzerland led by Dr. M.U. Kottwitz discovered that any role
violations you experience at work will jack up your stress hormones
(cortisol). This is especially true if your health is sub-par in the first

Practice Being Mindful. Do you know what mindfulness is?  It’s a
way to train your attention, a type of meditation that not very many
people practice.  According to a 2012 study on mindfulness by Dr.
Teresa Edenfield of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina
University in North Carolina, mindfulness can help to combat stress and
even depression.  

How do you practice mindfulness? Take about 5 minutes several times a
day to focus on the present moment. Just notice what’s going on in the
present –sounds, sights, your breath, how your neck feels. You’ll start
to notice that, yeah, my knee does still hurt….and yeah, I can smell a
slight odor of a cigarette somebody must have smoked in here.  When
distracting thoughts enter your mind –you start to wander off worrying
about something –then just gently observe it and come right back to
the present moment.  

Mindfulness takes practice –what doesn’t?—but over time you’ll find
that you will become more relaxed throughout the day, the small stuff
just won’t bother you as much, and maybe more important, you will
enjoy your present life more. Mindfulness is about the only mind-game
that you should play on yourself.   

Exercise…Even a Little Bit Helps.  Even doing just 30 minutes of
exercise a day can improve your mood. A 2005 study from researchers
at the University of Texas at Austin found that even a single 30 minute
bout of exercise lifted the mood of depressed patients temporarily. The
patients exercised at only 60 to 70% of their maximum capacity for half
an hour.  

Guard Your Sleep Like a Wolf. Chronic sleep deprivation is an
independent cause of stress, studies have shown. But when you’re
dealing with stress at work, coming to work on less than a full tank of
sleep is disastrous.  You need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night
to be able to withstand normal stress loads and maintain a positive

Sleep deprivation takes an especially heavy toll on men. According to
one 2012 study from Brock University in Ontario Canada, sleep
deprivation actually lowers  testosterone levels in men, making you
both less aggressive and less alert.

Testosterone dropped after the men in the study experienced 33 hours
of sleep deprivation. While we do not know if an accumulated sleep
deficit --missing out on 2 or 3 hours of sleep that adds up to 33 hours
of sleep deprivation over time --- would cause the same drop in
testosterone or alertness, other research suggests that a cumulative
sleep loss also depresses your aggression.

The solution is to guard your sleep like it’s gold. Try to start to wind
down about one to two hours ahead of bedtime, shutting down all the
electronics. Don’t exercise within an hour of trying to sleep. And cut
way down on coffee and caffeinated sodas if you find that you’re
having trouble sleeping. By the way, practicing mindfulness can also
help to improve sleep quality.  (Read more about
foods that make you

Avoid Avoidance.  Think avoiding problems is a good strategy
for dealing with stress? Wrong. Using thoughts to distract yourself
from what is really bothering you is the strategy most of us use when
dealing with something unpleasant. We stuff it down deep where we
can’t notice it or we avoid it.  

You may notice that you’re using avoidance if you “shut down” or
“zone out” when a boss or co-worker starts to get on your nerves. But
avoidance merely delays problems. If you find yourself avoiding a task,

Avoidance—procrastination or simple ignoring things, shutting down,
zoning out--- will just compound the mess when you finally deal with it.
A better strategy is to start to dismantle the problem a little at a time.
Think of a question or an observation you can make to start to subtly
turn the direction of the problem away from you. If you hate doing the
reports on a topic, start to complement some other co-worker for
his/her abilities in that area or better yet praise his/her abilities to your
boss. Say, “Michelle really helped out a lot on this last report. She had
some good insights”.  It may encourage them or your boss to migrate
the problem toward the eager beaver. At the same time, find another
less stress area where you have special competence and start a
campaign of encroachment toward those tasks.  

Get Out and Get Some Fresh Air and Sunlight. Can't decide where to
eat for lunch? Choose to eat outsie. New research has found that
getting enough sunlight helps to lift your mood. Sunlight lowers the
amount of cortisol, a naturally occurring stress hormone, in your blood
stream. (Read more about the
health benefits of sunlight.)

Guard Your Anger While You Make a New Plan.  Nothing relieves the
stress of work as well as having a secret escape plan. Even if you
cannot realize your plan for awhile, simply having one will give you
enormous satisfaction and stress relief. Your inner fire will be stoked by
the power of self-liberation.  Ideas?  Make your hobby a side business.
Start a blog and monetize it. We live in an age where starting a side
business takes almost no capital --a few dollars a month in web hosting
--and to grow it only takes the will to allocate some of your time to
eaach week to move it along.

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Job stress can wreck your health. .