Posted by: healingtheworkplace | November 1, 2014

A New Stress Threat At Work

 Stress in the workplace is not new but I recently came across an article by Beth Levine that made me stop and think! Levine writes about new research from St. Louis University—research that shows that secondhand stress might be worse than stress that we experienced firsthand.

You’ve heard about the dangers of “secondhand smoke”. That’s when someone in close proximity smokes, putting you at risk for asthma, heart disease, and a host of other problems. Well, “secondhand stress” is somewhat similar.

In one study researchers at St. Louis University asked participants to speak publicly or to perform in front of other people. They then measured the stress reaction of the people who were observing. And they measured the stress levels in the people who were performing. Both groups experienced higher levels of cortisol in their bodies.

Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone” When cortisol is released into the blood stream our body “goes on high alert” and prepares to run away or fight the perceived threat. If we don’t fight or flee the threat then cortisol builds resulting in a number of chronic diseases and other health related problems such as increased blood pressure and weight gain.

Chronic stress weakens the immune system and so being in close proximity to someone who is chronically anxious, agitated, tense or uptight may be deadly.

What can we do if we find ourselves experiencing stress in the workplace?

First of all, according to Avril Carruthers, author of Freedom from Toxic Relationships, you need to be able to recognize secondhand stress as separate from your own state of being. When you notice yourself feeling tense or anxious take a moment and take a few deep breaths. This will help you calm down and help clear your mind. If you work in an environment that is full of “secondhand stress” then learning to meditate and meditating on a regular basis will help reduce your own stress level. Regular exercise such as yoga, walking, running, swimming, cycling or a trip to the gym is also a must.

For most of us, stress in the workplace is here to stay but there are things that we can do to take control of how we respond to it.

By the way, Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin Carving

 

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