A study conducted
by the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare found
that the best predictor of heart disease was not any of the physical
risk factors (smoking, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, obesity
and diabetes) but rather job dissatisfaction. The second biggest predictor
was "overall unhappiness". In fact, most people under the age of fifty
who have had their first heart attack have none of the major physical
risk factors for cardiac disease.
Did you know that
more heart attacks occur on Monday mornings at or around 9:00 a.m. than
during any other time of the week? The long-term strain of a stressful
job takes its toll over time and presumably the stress of returning
to an unhappy work situation after a weekend away can become the catalyst
for the physical breakdown.
This means that
for your overall physical health as well as for your mental and emotional
well being, you would be wise to get your act together and find a job
that you enjoy. If that is not feasible for you right now, ample research
suggests that you should seek ways to help you shift your perceptions
about the current job and/or cultivate areas of enjoyment outside of
work by taking up hobbies, volunteering, focusing on family, service,
people can only aspire to find a satisfying job. In the meantime, they
have to manage in a situation that may be less than fulfilling. In such
a situation, personal strategies for the self-regulation of the job
stress would be a wise investment of time and energy. Ample research
demonstrates that while you may not be able to avoid exposure to stress
at work, you can effectively manage its effects and prevent the damaging
One of the best
means to coexist with stress is develop skills that enable you to be
able to periodically unwind from it. Accessing an unusual but measurable
state of deep, healing rest called "the relaxation response" has been
proven to counteract most of the negative effects of stress. If done
four or five times a week for fifteen or twenty minutes before bed time,
or on your lunch hour, or when you return from work, or upon awakening
in the morning, it is possible to break out of stress/arousal state
for long enough periods to allow every system and organ in the body
to heal, balance and restore.
When the relaxation
response is elicited with some regularity, many surprising benefits
appear. Anxiety, headaches, depression, allergies, insomnia, eczema,
herpes, asthma, fatigue, indigestion, chest pains, impotence, anger
and other "rust" of life often clear up or are significantly reduced.
Productivity rises. Memory, concentration and creativity improve. People
become more positive and optimistic and happier.
Not least, job satisfaction
measurably increases. In a study done by Martin Shain of The Addiction
Research Foundation of Ontario, and published in the book, Healthier
Workers, job satisfaction increased by 33% for the participants of our
short Beyond Stress training program.
So, whereas stress
may be unavoidable, it is possible to counteract many of its debilitating
effects. As Ursula LeGuin so beautifully put it, "It is good to have
an end to journey towards but it is the journey that matters, in the
end". So relax and enjoy the journey.
© 1996, Eli Bay
empowers people to successfully co-exist with change and stress, and
offers twenty-first century survival skills through keynotes, workshops,
television and audio/video learning systems he teaches the practical
"how to" of adaptive self-renewal to individuals and organizations.