Everybody knows that stress can wreak havoc on a person both mentally and physically. According to Stress.org, anxiety and stress can lead to high blood pressure, digestive issues, headaches, migraines, panic attacks, heartburn, sleep problems and even heart attacks. And those are just physical consequences – behavioral issues caused by stress can include irritability, depression, lack of focus, eating disorders, substance abuse and social withdrawal. While there are countless possible causes of stress – divorce, illness, traumatic events and financial issues, just to name a few – one of the leading causes is job trouble. And with 9.6 million people still unemployed in the U.S., workers have a lot to be worried about. Unfortunately, a new study has found a link between job insecurity and asthma, a condition that isn’t usually first on the list of stress-related maladies.
Risk of Developing Asthma Startlingly High
The study, conducted by researchers from New Zealand and Europe, examined over 7,000 German adults who were employed between 2009 and 2011. Similarly to in the U.S., these years are arguably considered the peak of the economic downturn. Study participants answered questions about both job insecurity and asthma. Specifically, they were asked if they thought they would be fired or laid off within two years. It was found that for every 25 percent increase in job-related stress, a person’s asthma risk also jumped by 25 percent. Among those who considered job loss highly probable, asthma risk skyrocketed to 60 percent. Overall, 100 new asthma cases cropped up among the workers during the study period.
Participants who felt most in danger of losing their jobs tended be unmarried, young, less educated and have a lower income. These workers were also more likely to have depression.
How to Reduce Job-Related Stress
While the fear of losing your job is often caused by factors outside your control, there are many ways to reduce stress at work and potentially avoid job insecurity and asthma risks. Some strategies include:
- Exercise – Aerobic exercise can be a serious stress reliever. Try going for a walk or run during your lunch hour.
- Eat the Right Amount – Eating too much for lunch can make you feel tired, but not eating enough will cause your blood sugar to be low. Try eating smaller, healthy meals throughout the day.
- Time Management – Organize your time so that you can complete tasks effectively. This means prioritizing assignments, breaking projects into smaller steps and delegating responsibilities if possible. Also, try creating a balanced schedule for both work and after-work hours, including time for breaks.
- Meditation – Simply learning how to relax and recognizing when you’re stressed can increase your bodily awareness. Find out more about how to practice meditation here.
- Stay Physically Organized – Clean your desk. Organize files on your computer. You’d be surprised how helpful it can be to know exactly where everything you need is located.
- Get Enough Sleep – Everybody knows that being tired at work increases stress. If at all possible, get a good night’s sleep every night. At the same time, make sure you’re waking up early enough to avoid stress in the morning.
- Change Your Outlook – Sometimes we are our own worst critics. Staying positive at your job and being encouraging to yourself can be incredibly effective for reducing stress.
- Get Help! – Your supervisor or human resources department may be able to help you deal with your stress. If that doesn’t seem like an option, consider seeing an anti-stress therapist or massage therapist.
Job Insecurity and Asthma: The Bottom Line
The recent study does not necessarily prove causation between job insecurity and asthma. Instead, researchers state that job stress might provide an explanation for the increase in respiratory conditions over the past few years. Even if there is no causation, however, there are just too many health problems that can be caused by work stress to not try doing something to reduce it. Fearing job loss is incredibly stressful, but taking some of these tips to heart could at least help prevent some of the physical maladies that stress causes.