“I have to work very fast.” “I work very hard.” “I manage competing demands of others.” “I worry about losing my job.” “I feel underused or powerless.”
If so, your job may be making you sick or putting you at risk for a heart attack or stroke.
Do you have high job strain? Ask yourself:
- Are you feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed?
- Have you lost of interest in work?
- Do you have problems sleeping?
- Are you feeling worn-out, or fatigued?
- Do you have trouble concentrating?
- Are you having tension headaches or muscle pain?
- Is your stomach acting up?
- Are you staying away from friends, family, or avoiding social contact?
- Have you lost that loving feeling? (Reduced sex drive)
- Are you turning to alcohol or drugs to get through?
- Has the phrase “doing more with less” become standard operating procedure?
- Are you working more hours to make up for staffing cutbacks?
If you answer yes to three or more of these questions – your high-pressure job could be impacting your health.
People who experience psychological stress of a demanding job are at high risk for negative health consequences. In fact, according to a study recently released by the American Heart Association, women with high job strain are at even more risk and are 40 percent more likely to develop heart disease!
“Our study indicates that there are both immediate and long-term clinically documented cardiovascular health effects of job strain in women,” said Michelle A. Albert, M.D., M.P.H., the study’s senior author and associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Mass. “Your job can positively and negatively affect health, making it important to pay attention to the stresses of your job as part of your total health package.”
What should you do?
- Quit Beating Yourself Up: Our society rewards the overachieving, multitasking, put-your-head-down-get-it-done workers. You can’t, however, drive in high gear all day every day. You need to take a break. Don’t feel guilty about taking time to care for yourself. The time to eat right, move around, just catch your breath isn’t selfish – it is essential. Take the time, and don’t feel guilty!
- Don’t Dine al-Desko: Eating at your desk may seem efficient, but you are robbing your body of the opportunity to refresh and nourish itself. Desktop meals tend to be less healthy and gobbled quickly. Disengage from your job – even for 15 minutes while you eat. Be conscious of what you are eating. Connect with other people – or even get outside. Both have the benefit of reducing stress! Check out more information about the Dangers of Dining al-Desko.
- Take 10 at 10: When the clock reads 10:00 a.m. — take a break and lower your stress. Do yourself and your heart a favor. Sometime during the 10:00 a.m. hour, stop what you are doing, close your eyes, and take ten deep breaths. You’ll come back to your task refreshed and with new focus. Check out more ways to take a break and refresh.
- Have a little fun: Seriously, a good laugh reduces stress quickly. Find ways to add a bit of levity to your day. My pal Chip Lutz has some great ideas of how to have fun at work.
- Get some ZZZs: Most women don’t get enough sleep – we need between 7 and 8 hours consistently to allow our bodies to process all the stress hormones created during the day. Get tips on a good night sleep.
- Pull Your Head Out of the Sand: One of the best things you can do for your heart is to understand your own personal risk of heart disease. Visit your doctor and find out your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Discuss what these numbers mean in relationship to your family history. Don’t hide from your risk – do something about it!
Don’t let your job ruin your health. Take steps to protect yourself from job strain!
Eliz Greene works busy people to improve heart health, so they can work well, feel better, and stress less.
She is a heart attack survivor and the author of the Busy Woman’s Guide to a Healthy Heart as well as 3 other books on wellness. She writes one of the top 50 health and wellness blogs and is a sought-after wellness & stress management speaker.
If you are planning a women’s wellness program, workplace wellness program or programs for healthcare professionals check out EmbraceYourHeart.com to see if Eliz would be a good fit with your organization.