People who hate their job get sick more often.
That really shouldn’t be a surprise. If you spend eight hours or more a day in an environment you can’t stand, your stress hormones are flowing overtime. That means more sick days, more headaches, more GI problems, more insomnia, more depression. And we are continually finding more evidence that chronic stress increases the chance of heart disease, cancer, immune system disorders, and more.
In one recent study, Concordia University documented how long-term job stress increases numerous physical and emotional health problems.
As a women’s health physician, a large number of the patients I see are suffering the physical effects of chronic stress, including physical pain, hormonal disruptions, and more. Certainly other life circumstances can cause stress outside of your job, but for many of us job stress is certainly in the top five!
Feeling out of control is perhaps the most damaging aspect of stress. Rats confined in a cage where they received random electric shocks soon gave up trying to escape and collapsed. When the rats received a warning light prior to the shock their stress response was less: they could prepare “emotionally” for the stress. And when they were allowed to jump to another “safe” compartment of the cage when the warning light signaled an impending shock, the rats could endure the stress indefinitely.
Which rat are you? Are you sitting in your cage (job) waiting for the next electric shock (conflict, impossible task, or unreasonable expectation) to stress your body and mind to the point of collapse?
Have you learned the warning signs of an oncoming shock, and developed ways to lessen the impact on your body and mind?
Or have you discovered a way of escape?
Leaving the “security” of the cage may take tremendous effort. But it will not be as damaging to you as staying in a job where you have little or no control.
There are at least three types of control you can choose to exercise in dealing with a destructively stressful work environment:
1. Leave. Jump out of the cage. This may take the most planning and hard work initially, but just might lead to the best long-term health for your body and your mind – not to mention your relationships and your spiritual life.
2. Control what you can in your present environment. Place reminders of what’s important to you in your work-space. Take care of your physical body (good nutrition, exercise, etc.). Stop trying to please people who can’t be pleased.
3. Change your attitude. If leaving is truly not an option (at least right now), choose the attitude you will have. Determine your own mindset. Taking control of your internal environment will lessen the effects of a stressful job situation on your body and your mind.
As much as I love taking care of patients who need my help, I’d much rather NOT see you in my office with one of the many stress-caused illnesses. Don’t wait until you collapse to do something about an impossible job situation.
Hard work is not the most stressful aspect of any job or business. Being out of control is much worse. Don’t let your job make you sick.
You may just have to jump out of the cage!