According to the scientists, stress kills.
Stress affects our brain chemistry and our neurological system and makes us gain weight in all the wrong places, like around the belly.
Some scientists say that the lower your place in the social hierarchy, the more stress you’ll have. That doesn’t sound terribly shocking, considering some of the difficulties of being poor. But what is shocking is that these studies weren’t conducted on the poorest of the poor, they involved middle class folks in middle-class jobs making their middle-class widgets. Apparently, being a subordinate sucks.
Even more surprisingly, some studies suggest that stress passed on in utero from mother to child can have life-long effects, making these adults more sensitive to stress and more prone to depression and other mental health issues—and now it’s official. Your mother is indeed the cause of all your problems.
(Look, I’m no doctor, but how do these folks know that the children aren’t genetically prone to depression or whatever and weren’t necessarily subjected to stress in the womb that caused their adult maladies? Perhaps this is a fine point, but it’s a point nonetheless.)
Regardless, I don’t need to be convinced that individuals subjected to high levels of stress for long periods are likely to experience physical and psychological effects as a result. Been there, done that. Anecdotally, I find that sometimes people don’t even realize how much they’ve been affected by stress until the symptoms are pretty dramatic. And, again, if we’re talking about the workplace, this is yet another reason for leaders to think twice about turning a blind eye to incivility and all its attendant costs.
Many people have written much about how to beat stress at work but my favorite list so far comes from Hannah Nicholas from Money NZ (New Zealand), of all places. Nicholas recommends laughter, exercise, time away from work, adequate sleep, and if all else fails, another job. I just find her list to be very practical. Other writers recommend trying to think of work as “just work” or “just a game,” but if you’re not built like that I can’t see that advice helping.
I’d add to Nicholas’ list prayer and helping others, which often takes our focus off us and our stress.
Whatever you do, do something. Because as I said the science is in—stress is no joke, and while we seem to know this, we’re still trying to do fifteen things at once while disdaining leisure.