From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

Work often means stress - whether you're driving a truck, writing a report or corralling a roomful of toddlers.

And stress is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Although the relationship isn't completely clear, some people with high levels of stress or prolonged stress may have higher blood cholesterol or increased blood pressure or be more prone to developing atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).

So it's important to keep workplace stress under control. No matter how busy your job, here are six strategies you can try today:

If you have two minutes...

  • Stretch away tension. A common sign of stress is muscle tension in your neck and jaw. Find a quiet spot to stand or sit with your eyes closed. Slowly move your head from front to back, side to side, and in a full circle. Stretch your mouth open, slowly moving your lower jaw from side to side and front to back. (If this activity causes pain, or if you have had any injuries to your back, neck or jaw, check with your healthcare provider first).

If you have 10 minutes...

  • Take a walk. Forget having another coffee on your break; physical activity relieves stress and walking energizes your body and spirit. Even 10 minutes is enough to make a difference. Bonus: Bring a friend to add a little social time.
  • Meditate. There are lots of meditation techniques that can help relieve stress; all involve slow, deep breathing and concentration. Try this relaxation moment: Find a private room and close the door and sit in a chair. Either close your eyes or gaze down at the floor. Relax your shoulders and your jaw. Gently place your hands on your belly and bring your breath all the way down so that your hands lift slightly. Breathe out just as slowly. Continue breathing slowly and deeply for about three minutes. Allow your thoughts to come and go - don't try to control them, just witness them without judgment. Slowly come out of your deep breathing by opening your eyes or lifting your gaze. Stand up and stretch your arms up over your head and shake your arms and legs.
  • Make an appointment for help. If your employer offers an Employee/Family Assistance Program (EAP/EFAP), it can provide confidential short-term counselling and information to help you deal with work-related stress as well as personal and family issues. Call or email to set up an appointment.

If you have 30 minutes...

  • Talk to your boss. If your workload feels out of control, try to speak to your manager about developing some flexibility in your job demands. Use a logical but firm approach and be polite. You can't offend the people in charge of you, but you can stay calm and ask for a slight adjustment in workload.
  • Tackle something big. You may believe you perform better under pressure, but are you just making an excuse to procrastinate? In fact, putting things off can be more stressful. Set aside time to make a start on a looming project, even if it's just to plan your attack.

For more practical tips on stress relief, download our brochure, Coping With Stress.

Posted: October 2011

Heart and Stroke Foundation


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