Is cleaning out the refrigerator (yes, including that green glob at the back) more appealing than putting up with stress at work? If so, it may be time to save your sanity, and maybe your heart.
Doctors have always worried about men’s and women’s hearts caving in to job stress, because those with a high job strain face up to a 40 percent higher risk of heart attacks and surgery for blocked arteries.
So what should you do? Try these strategies to reduce stress on the job:
- Don’t mutter, “Calm down.” Move. The best way to counter the fight-or-flight stress response is to get active. Do push-ups against your office wall. Hike the hallways or walk around the block. Activity is a BOGO: You relieve tension and condition your heart.
- Add color. Take charge of your space. Splashes of color from posters, photos, flowers or even a throw rug can improve your mood and your productivity. A combination of red and green is better than dull white, black and brown. In one study, those muted colors made people duller, too, scoring 12 points lower on IQ tests.
- Take time for tea. Polyphenols in black tea may reduce stress hormones in your blood and help your body shed tension faster.
- Instead of upsetting family life every night by taking work home (50 percent of people do), declare once a week official "FAB" night, as in Forget About Business. Watch a funny movie together. Tell jokes at dinner. Laugh it up. You’ll feel your tension fade, and your family will draw closer.
Additionally, research shows that – much like a healthy diet and regular exercise – a joyful, enthusiastic disposition and positive attitude may help keep your heart free of disease.
In one 10-year study, people who scored high in emotions like joy, enthusiasm and contentment had a much lower incidence of coronary heart disease compared with folks who experienced those good feelings less frequently. More research is needed to confirm the link between a positive attitude and a healthy, good heart, but other research has already done a pretty good job proving the other side of the coin – that negative emotions like anger, hostility and depression can increase the risk of heart disease.
In addition to setting the stage for a good heart, studies have shown that happiness can boost your immune system, nip your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, and help you live longer in general. And who doesn't want to feel happy, anyway? It certainly makes life easier.