Chronic stress on the job can have powerful negative effects on both mind and body, but a new University of Rochester Medical Center study has found that stress and weight gain are strongly linked.
Lead study author Diana Fernandez, who specializes on how and why diseases occur in different groups of people, says she and other researchers interviewed 2,782 employees of a large manufacturing plant in upstate New York.
She says a common theme soon developed: After spending the day sitting in stressful meetings or at their computers, workers looked forward to going home and “vegging out” in front of their TVs. And while doing so, they were gobbling unhealthy snacks high in fat and calories.
The researchers also found that at times when layoffs were occurring, the snacks highest in fat and calories were the most popular ones purchased from workplace vending machines.
Many of the workers interviewed for the study said they didn’t take the time to eat properly at lunch, or to go for a walk, because they feared they might get into trouble for being away from their desks for too long.
“In a poor economy, companies should take care of the people who survive layoffs and end up staying in stresses jobs. It is important to focus on strengthening wellness programs to provide good nutrition, ways to deal with job demands and more opportunities for physical activity that are built into the regular workday without penalty,” says Fernandez.
Intense work pressures and feelings of minimal control on the job are associated with heart disease and strokes, diabetes, depression, exhaustion, anxiety and weight gain.
The researchers found that 72 to 75 percent of the employees they interviewed were either over weight or obese. More than 65 percent of the study participants admitted to watching two or more hours of television daily.
Among workers who reported watching two to three hours of TV daily, 77 percent were more likely to be overweight or obese and those who watched four or more hours were 150 percent more likely to be obese than those watching two or fewer hours.
If you are stressed and noticed you have been putting on weight, stay away from the candy and chip vending machine and take a walk during your break.Read More
A study of 10,000 civil servants in the United Kingdom between 1991 and 2004 found that people working 10 hours a day are more likely to have heart problems than their counterparts who work shorter hours.
The study, reported in the European Heart Journal, followed each participant during an average 11-year period to see how often they worked more than seven hours per day and also looked at their overall state of health.
The results were not encouraging. People who had worked a significant number of 10-hour days were 60 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with heart problems than people who called it a workday after seven hours.
Within the group there were nearly 400 people who either died from heart-related problems, survived heart attacks or suffered angina (chest pain).
However, working up to nine hours per day did not seem to significantly increase the likelihood of heart problems. A team of researchers led by Dr. Marianna Virtanen, who works at both University College London and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, controlled the study for the effects of smoking, high cholesterol, carrying excessive weight and other cardiac risk factors.
Virtanen says it’s possible that people working longer hours have riskier lifestyles and may have more aggressive, competitive and tense personalities. They also tend to be more likely to suffer depression, anxiety and sleep deprivation.
While stress has a strongly negative connotation, in small doses, it can be a powerful motivator. The problem, according to the University of Montreal’s Centre for Studies on Human Stress, is that repeated exposure to situations that cause our bodies to produce stress hormones may have negative effects on people’s mental and physical health.
“There are two kinds of stress. Acute stress is a normal part of everyday life and helps our stress response system stay on the ball,” according to the Centre for Studies on Human Stress. “Problems arise when we are repeatedly exposed to the same stressor or many different stressors for an extended period of time.”
Chronic stress is linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, adult onset diabetes and depression. The centre says that in someone who has a family history of these conditions, or has unhealthy lifestyle habits, chronic stress can bring on these health problems.
According to the centre, stress results from specific events or situations that involve novelty (something new to a person), unpredictability (the person has no way of knowing it will occur), threatening to the person’s ego (your competence as a person is called into question) and a feeling that you have little control over what’s happening.
Managing stress starts with recognizing the signs that you are responding to a stressor—a pounding heart, sweating, feeling flushed and experiencing anger or feeling on edge.
While starting to meditate or engaging in deep breathing exercises in the middle of a stress-inducing meeting probably isn’t appropriate, the centre says that people can learn to dampen the release of stress hormones by fooling their stress response system. This involves thinking about something positive.
“If you are faced with a stressful situation, then momentarily bring to mind an image, a moment, an event or anything you find pleasant and soothing.”
For example, if you get a terse message to be in the boss’s office in 10 minutes and feel your heart starting to pound, calm yourself by imaging the look on your child’s face when she saw her first birthday cake, or mentally place yourself at a favorite fishing or wave-watching spot.
Take some deep breaths as you let the pleasant image wash over you. Sometimes taking a quick walk around the block can also help you deal with stress and be able to look at a problem in a calmer, more positive way.Read More
A disgruntled former employee walked into a truck rental company near Atlanta in January 2010 and opened fire, killing three people and injuring two others. That same month, an employee of a St. Louis, MO, transformer manufacturing company shot eight people, killing three, before taking his own life.
And in Edmonton, AB, Canada, a car dealership employee who had been suspended for posting sexually explicit material on a company bulletin board returned to work in March 2010 and shot two co-workers, killing one, before fatally shooting himself.
These tragic cases show how random workplace violence can be. Suzanne Bogdan, an attorney with Fisher & Phillips LLP in Fort Lauderdale, FL, says employers are, by law, required to provide a safe workplace and that includes a workplace where workers do not feel threatened, verbally or otherwise.
“Many incidents are foreseeable and/or preventable. Recognizing a situation that may escalate and erupt into violence is often the key to stemming the violence,” she says.
According to Bogdan, the use of effective pre-employment documents (for example, reference letters, motor vehicle records, or criminal records) and thorough background checks can help potential employers understand certain temperaments and avoid hiring potentially violent workers. Background checks can uncover previous convictions, motor vehicle violations, lawsuits filed by a person, employment references, credit history, education records and other important information.
“Further, it is incumbent upon management to establish policies on workplace violence and to enforce them. A written zero-tolerance position on violence, threats or abusive language allows management to terminate anyone who violates the policies. Drug testing may also be a manner of pre-empting violence,” she says.
Workplace violence policies also need to include a procedure whereby threats or drug abuse can be reported anonymously.
“Supervisors should be trained in conflict resolution, stress management, managing change in the workplace and recognizing the early warning signs of violent employees,” says Bogdan. “For the safety of themselves and their colleagues, they must be sensitive to the fact that small issues can suddenly escalate into workplace problems.”
She adds that employees should also receive training regarding their responsibility to report threats or violence.
Bogdan also stresses the importance of establishing an employee assistance program, which can help employees who are having a difficult time dealing with issues in their personal lives.
“No one goes to work with an expectation of conflict, let alone violence. Sadly, however, even an office can be a place of risk. However, with proper policies in place, the risk of tragedy can be reduced,” she says.
Are their “loose cannons” in your workplace? Are they allowed to intimidate others without being challenged? Does your workplace even have an anti-violence/harassment policy in place? Is it being followed?
Info to go: Read more about workplace violence, including how you can prevent violence at your workplace, by clicking on the Info to Go safety links at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
Reading or writing emails can cause an increase in heart rate and anxiety, even if what we are reading or typing in itself isn’t making us anxious or angry.
Nearly everyone has heard of obstructive sleep apnea, where people temporarily stop breathing while sleeping, and partially awaken up to hundreds of times a night. The result is that they are left extremely fatigued upon awakening and throughout the day.
But have you heard of email apnea? It’s a term used by writer/consultant Linda Stone to describe breath-holding or shallow breathing that many people experience while reading or composing emails. Stone says she realized she was holding her breath while writing or reading emails and then observed many others doing the same thing.
It’s harmless, enough, right? Actually, it isn’t harmless. Stone contacted Dr. Margaret Chesney at the National Institute of Health (NIH) and learned that research conducted by Chesney and fellow NIH scientist, Dr. David Anderson, found breath holding contributes substantially to stress-related diseases by throwing off the body’s balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitric oxide.
Stone says breath-holding or shallow breathing also cause the body to become acidic and the kidneys to reabsorb sodium (salt).
The human body uses nitric oxide—not to be confused with nitrous oxide your dentist may give you—to fight viral, bacterial and parasitic infections and tumors. Nitric oxide is also involved in learning, memory, sleeping, feeling pain and likely, depression.
Other downsides of breath-holding/shallow breathing, writes Stone, include causing the liver to deposit glucose and cholesterol into the blood and one’s heart rate to speed up. The body’s fight or flight response is also triggered, but even though the body is tensed for action, the person is ignoring that response by sitting at the computer for long periods.
Stone speculates that breath-holding may cause weight gain and diabetes. If you spend a lot of time on the computer, learn and practice some deep breathing exercises (especially while reading or writing) and get up and take frequent walks throughout your shift. If you don’t have much freedom to get up, moving your legs and feet at your desk is still a form of exercise.Read More
They come in all ages, shapes and sizes and they can have you granting their wishes before you realize it.
Your four-year-old child who has been pleading with you to buy him candy in the supermarket and has been told “no” several times, smiles in bliss as he bites into the chocolate bar he finally wheedled out of you at the checkout stand.
You have been working extra hard all week and you want to take your wife out in the boat Saturday. Just as you are getting ready to leave work on Friday, a co-worker approaches you and asks you for a hand in helping her move “a few things” on Saturday.
You tell her you had planned to go out in the boat and she promises you it will only take an hour in the morning and then you can have your boat ride. Half-heartedly you try to fend her off, but her persistence prevails. The next day, exhausted and angry, you drag yourself home at 3 p.m., just as it’s starting to rain.
Your child got what he wanted and so did your co-worker. While a candy bar is a far cry from a destroyed day off, both these scenarios show how people can be manipulated quite easily.
The youngster may not be able to grasp the concept of manipulation. He just knows that if he grinds you down long enough, “no” will turn into “yes.” But the adult manipulator knows exactly what he or she is doing. As your co-worker relaxes in her new apartment in the sofa that you wrestled up three flights of stairs, she is feeling zero guilt over your scuttled Saturday and your sore back. After all, you agreed to help.
That’s not to say that everyone who asks for help is a manipulator, but if you find that these people are all take and no give – and you feel like a patsy – it’s time to grow a backbone.
With years of practice under their belts, manipulators are adept at finding their marks. Here are some of the things that will put a bull’s eye squarely on your back:
Some people cave in easily to a manipulator’s demands, while others take some convincing. And they are sure to get some. Unless you are firm, you haven’t got a chance against a master manipulator.
If you find yourself getting talked into saying yes and it angers you afterwards, put your foot down. In the case of the co-worker needing help with her move, you could say, “I’m sorry, but I have plans for the entire day and I am not going to break them.”
If you have been taken advantage of several times in the past and feel angry about it, the next time the manipulator asks for a favor, ask him or her to do something for you. That person will likely back off when the tables are turned.Read More
Many workers believe it’s a badge of honor to drag their flu-ridden bodies into work and try to work through their misery. But a new survey conducted for CCH, a tax and business law information and software provider, suggests that their bosses might not be impressed.
Presenteeism – showing up when one is not well enough to work – is a problem for 56 percent of 326 US human resource executives surveyed, according to CCH.
Two years ago, a similar survey conducted for CCH found that 39 percent of employers did not like workers coming to work while sick.
“Presenteeism is a concern for employers not only because it lowers an employee’s productivity, but because that employee can pass along contagions to other workers and customers,” said CCH Employment Law Analyst Brett Gorovsky. “Employers need to understand why employees are coming to work sick and what they can do to help address this, whether it’s adopting policies, educating employees and managers, or taking some other steps to make it clear that while they need employees at work, they also want a healthy workforce and workplace.”
The survey found that 62 percent of companies with presenteeism problems report that they try to combat the issue by sending sick employees home. Forty-six percent educate employees on the importance of staying home while sick; 36 percent foster a culture that discourages workers from coming in while sick; 22 percent permit employees to work from home while sick and nine percent give unlimited sick days.
Reasons for employees showing up at work looking like death warmed over include:
Gorovsky said that if an employer takes disciplinary action against employees for exceeding a sick-day limit, it should expect plenty of presenteeism. “Employers need to be particularly careful that their policies are not encouraging the wrong behavior, which can be counterproductive to a healthy workforce and have costly consequences,” he said.
No matter where you live, every day of your life has the potential to be a storm. At the end of the day your to-do list is bigger and the only thing ticked off is you.
So says Dr. Jack Groppel, vice-president of the Human Performance Institute. In a keynote address at the recent National Safety Council Congress and Expo in San Diego, Groppel said people will respond to any storm based upon the way they have been trained to do so.
“Everyone has a story. Your story dictates how you respond to situations,” said Groppel, author of The Corporate Athlete.
Often people will respond negatively to storms that don’t even exist – by worrying about things that never actually happen. This is known as sweating the small stuff.
Millions of people in the workforce are there in body only. Groppel says they are disengaged because of insufficient energy capacity and poor energy management skills.
“The brain needs air and glucose to work. No air and you’re dead. No glucose and no one’s at home,” he told his audience. Yet millions of people skip breakfast and try to energize themselves with too much coffee, which makes them jittery but hardly energetic.
Groppel says there’s a human energy crisis going on right now. If people don’t concentrate on balancing their lives with activities that promote recovery, they will be forever stuck on a treadmill.
“If you have no recovery in your life, you have no growth,” he said.
Recovery can be as simple as taking a break from work and talking on the telephone to a child about what the youngster has done that day, or taking a brisk walk.
Workers frequently complain about poor managers, insensitive bosses, poor working conditions and insufficient recognition, but they don’t do anything about it personally.
“We’ve got to take ownership in what is going on,” said Groppel.
People need to look at how they take care of their bodies, minds, emotions and spiritual needs and realize that it’s never too late to make life-enhancing improvements.
Physical inactivity leads to low energy, reduced work performance, high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary artery disease. The healthier you are physically, the more engaged you’ll be.
Taking care of your emotions means working on staying optimistic, building your confidence and controlling your anger.
Mentally, people need to be able to focus, prepare themselves for challenging situations, stay positive and visualize what they want to achieve.
Spirituality doesn’t necessarily mean finding religion. It also refers to building team spirit, integrity, respect for others and looking beyond one’s self-interests.
“We need to expand our capacities and go beyond our limits – outside our comfort zones. It brings recovery,” he said.
According to Groppel, people are creatures of habit and it takes considerable effort to develop new rituals, such as learning to exercise regularly, or eating smaller amounts of healthy foods more often. But with determined effort for 30-60 days, new rituals will become healthy habits that are undertaken automatically.
“When you build rituals that are in the service of your mission you will be able to rewrite your story,” he said.
To assess your level of engagement visit www.energyforperformance.com and click on assessment tools and again on free self profile.Read More
Look at the following risk factors and try to determine what condition they pertain to. Hint: it’s the most common and costly occupational health problem, costing more than $20 billion per year in workers’ compensation in the US alone.
What are we talking about? Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDSs). Another risk factor, which we couldn’t list above or it would have given the answer away, is a history of musculoskeletal disorders, such as intermittent back pain.
Work-related risk factors for MSDSs include:
Musculoskeletal disorders are any conditions affecting your workers’ muscles, tendons, bones, joints, ligaments, spinal discs, cartilage and connective tissue. Physiotherapist Michael Eisenhart, an injury prevention consultant with Pro-Activity Injury Prevention Specialists in New Jersey, says employees need to be made aware of the lifestyle choices and work-related risk factors for MSDSs.
Armed with that information and strategies for becoming stronger, fitter and better balanced, he says workers can take action to turn a painful situation around.
According to Eisenhart, if musculoskeletal pain becomes severe, approaching seven on a scale of one to 10, it puts a worker at increased risk for other types of workplace injury, because no one can concentrate and stay focused through that intensity of pain.
Given the considerable costs associated with having workers absent because of MSDSs, it makes sense to bring in an expert to talk to your workers about how lifestyle improvements and different approaches to working can reduce symptoms. One of the quickest means of reducing these risks is to use exercises, including stretching, to increase a worker’s flexibility.
“The business case for wellness is very strong,” says Eisenhart.Read More
Workers who experience minimal job-related stress may have difficulty relating to its symptoms – depression on the day before returning to work, a feeling of dread upon entering the workplace, vacations where relaxation is impossible and relentless insomnia as one’s mind churns and worries.
It’s not surprising that something’s got to give health-wise, in the form of a heart attack, stroke or other life-altering event. On a more positive note, a new study shows that a simple workplace stress-reduction intervention can reverse some of the warning signs of cardiovascular disease.
The American Heart Association recruited 91 office workers, 59 of them men, who were facing layoffs at a DuPont subsidiary in Italy. All of the volunteers reported experiencing work-related stress. Their average age was 40 and they were generally not overweight.
The volunteers were compared to a control group of 79 healthy volunteers of a similar average age who worked outside the company and reported no workplace stress.
Both groups underwent baseline psychological and medical assessments. These included questionnaires on overall stress, tiredness perception and stress-related symptoms affecting the body, along with blood pressure and heart rhythm testing.
The workers facing layoffs showed signs of stress in their heart rhythms. Those workers were offered the chance to participate in weekly one-hour stress management sessions or to receive stress-reduction tips and articles that they could read on their own time. Twenty-six of the group of 91 signed up for the weekly classes, while 25 elected to receive stress-reduction articles and emails.
The sessions focused on mental relaxation techniques, exercises for restructuring their thinking in response to stress, and coping skills. After one year, those in both groups showed small but significant reductions in blood pressure and healthier heart rhythms. They also reported feeling less tired then they felt before receiving stress management training.
Info to go: Check out dozens of stress reduction tips by clicking
on the link at www.SafeSupervisor.com