Work stress ‘changes your body’

October 25, 2009 | Filed Under Front_Page_News |

stress_computerA stressful job has a direct biological impact on the body, raising the risk of heart disease, research has indicated.
The study reported in the European Heart Journal back in 2008 focused on more than 10,000 British civil servants.

Those under 50 who said their work was stressful were nearly 70% more likely to develop heart disease than the stress-free.

The stressed had less time to exercise and eat well – but they also showed signs of important biochemical changes.

The studies of Whitehall employees – from mandarins to messengers – started in the 1960s, but this particular cohort has been followed since 1985.

As well as documenting how workers felt about their job, researchers monitored heart rate variability, blood pressure, and the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood.

They also took notes about diet, exercise, smoking and drinking.

Then they found out how many people had developed coronary heart disease (CHD) or suffered a heart attack and how many had died of it.

Lead researcher Dr Tarani Chandola, of University College London, said: “During 12 years of follow up, we found that chronic work stress was associated with CHD and this association was stronger both among men and women aged under 50.

“Among people of retirement age – and therefore less likely to be exposed to work stress – the effect on CHD was less strong.”

Biological factors

On the one hand, those who reported stressful jobs appeared less likely to eat sufficient amounts of fruit and vegetables, and were less likely to exercise – although problem drinking did not emerge as a significant problem in this study.

Lifestyle, the researchers concluded, was nonetheless a key factor in the development of the disease.

But the team also say they are now confident they understand the biological mechanisms that link stress and disease, a connection widely held to exist but which has been difficult to prove.

These mechanisms held true regardless of lifestyle.

Stress appeared to upset the part of the nervous system which controls the heart, telling it how to work and controlling the variability of the heart rate.

Those who reported stress were also recorded as having poor “vagal tone” – the impulses which regulate heartbeat.

A major part of the neuroendocrine system – which releases hormones – also seemed to be disturbed by stress, evidenced by the fact that anxious workers had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the morning.

Worker status

While the younger worker seemed to be more at risk, the findings were the same regardless of the status of the worker.

Previous studies had suggested those of lower employment grades may be more at risk.

“We did not find strong evidence that the effect of work stress on heart disease is worse for those in lower grades – the effect of stress was pretty much the same across different grades,” said Dr Chandola.

“However, later on in the study, some parts of the civil service underwent considerable change in their working environments, including privatisation.

“We are currently exploring whether the effects of these changed work stress levels, partly brought about by privatisation, are particularly deleterious for those in the low grades of the civil service.”

The British Heart Foundation said the research added to our understanding of how stress at work may alter the body’s chemistry.

“The study also reinforces what has been identified by previous research, that stress at work is often associated with unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, lack of exercise and a poor diet – all which can impact on heart health,” said June Davison.

“There are many ways that we can help ourselves by learning how to cope with stressful situations.

“Keeping fit and active also helps to relieve stress and therefore reduce the risk of heart disease.”

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    Posture: Perfecting Your Posture at Work

    October 24, 2009 | Filed Under Front_Page_News |

    sitting_postureWith long hours spent at your desk, it can be difficult to keep good posture. To prevent your spine from taking on a “C” form, it is important to take steps to reduce your spinal pressure by sitting correctly so that your spine falls into its natural “S” position. Good posture can substantially improve the way your back and neck feel at the end of your workday Here are a few suggestions from The Back Store and to help you improve your posture at work:


    Use a footrest: Purchase a footrest or use old phone books that are approximately four inches high. This will raise the height of your knees and effectively changes your center of gravity backwards, helping you to improve your posture.

    Sit close to your desk: Be as close to the edge as possible. It will prevent you from bending forward over the desk.

    Keep your back supported when sitting: When you will be sitting for long periods of time, you should make sure your back is supported from the lumbar region (lower back) to at least the shoulder blades. The chair you sit in should support the whole spine, right up to the neck. To avoid bending your neck to look down, try placing a small lectern on the desk or table top.

    Take stretch breaks: If you are sitting for a long period of time, get up and stretch for a few seconds at least once every hour.


    Tilt your pelvis slightly forward (towards your rib cage): Tighten your abdominals and keep your head directly over your shoulders and pelvis. Try not to pull your shoulders back, as this may actually worsen y our posture. If it is hard for you to hold this position, try placing your feet slightly apart with one foot in front of the other and bend your knees a little.
    Use a railing or box to prop one foot up: This will take some of the pressure off your back. You can also place a rubber mat on top of a concrete floor to help ease pressure.
    Change your feet and positions at least every 20 minutes: This will keep your back from getting “stuck” in the same position.

    Your Workstation

    For optimum comfort, you should assess your workstation and make changes based on the types of tasks you do on a daily basis, and the amount of time spent sitting or standing. offers these tips for creating a more comfortable work environment:

    Take your task in consideration when choosing a surface height for your desk: For example, an architect will need a higher surface for drawing, but a person who works on a computer all day will more than likely want a desk surface where they can sit or stand, depending on the need to use other tools or references.

    Adjust the seat of the office chair:

    Your work surface should be elbow-high.
    Your fist should be able to pass easily behind your calf and in front of the edge of the seat to keep your legs from being pressed too hard and your feet from swelling.
    Two fingers should slip easily under your thigh. If not, place a footrest under your feet to raise your knees to the same level as your hips.
    The backrest of your chair should push your lower back forward slightly.

    Fix the height of your computer screen: Sit comfortably at your desk and close your eyes. Slowly reopen them. Where you first gaze is the place to put the center of your screen. You can easily raise you screen with books or a stand if need be.

    Hello there ! - We offer Corporate office massage in London. We specialise in on-site massage in the office, accupressure massage, seated accupressure, chair massage, head and neck massage and stress management massage. Achieve relaxation in the office with the help of our therapists - Relaxed workplace

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    Diary of stress at work

    October 19, 2009 | Filed Under Life in the office |

    before_work_after_workWorkplace stress is a myth, claims a recent report by the Institute of Directors, which says workers blame the office for everything that’s wrong in their lives.

    But yesterday a new report suggested the opposite – and warned bosses could be sued if they dismiss complaints of stress as mere “whingeing”.

    Whatever the truth, for most of us the issue is not whether stress exists but who suffers the most – those at the top or the bottom of the ladder?

    Four people in a thriving London business, from the chairman to the office assistant, monitored their heart rate throughout a typical working day.

    If the average healthy heart rate is 72 beats a minute – and anything over 100 can be damaging – what did their “stress diaries” tell us?

    Expert Belinda Linden, cardiac nurse adviser for The British Heart Foundation, gave her verdict and rated their overall stress levels out of 10.

    Example 1: The chairman

    Rory Steer, 44, is the founder and chairman of the Freeplay Energy Group in Conduit Street , W1, which develops and sells self-sufficient energy gadgets, such as the wind-up radio. He is married and lives in St James’s.

    His hour-by-hour diary: 6am:

    Watched TV business news – nothing happening to affect us today. 65

    8am: Business breakfast with potential distributor. Talks on sales percentages tricky, but we reach a compromise. 110

    9.30am: Board meeting about to start, so check emails. Distracted by executives popping in and out, including the finance director asking if we should chase a late payer. Of course we should. 82

    11.35am: During board meeting colleague advises that our “new generation radio” project “can’t move any quicker”. Very frustrated. 112

    1pm: I’m starving. Surely someone should have arranged lunch. 80

    1.30pm: Eating prawn sandwiches and fruit between calls. Need to return calls but can’t get hold of anyone. Irritated. 84 3pm:

    Ask Debby for minutes of board report, thought she’d have typed them by now. 93

    5.30pm: Dash to the airport through London traffic to catch flight to South Africa to attend the World Economics Forum in Durban. Being driven, so not too stressed. 90

    7pm: Board flight, sort out board report and read FT. 68

    The expert’s view: “Rory thrives on challenge and success, but his heart rate reflects the demanding moments of his day, including a tricky business breakfast and a meeting where he could not achieve what he wanted.

    “Each was frustrating for Rory because he had little control over them, but a few simple relaxation methods could have helped to control his heart rate better and reduce his demands on Debby.

    “He needs to find more balance, to make time for exercise and relaxation.”

    Workplace stress rating: “He thrives on stress, but doesn’t handle it well when he feels out of control.” 7/10

    Example 2: The chairman’s PA

    Debby Coltman, 38, is Rory’s PA. She is single and lives in Hounslow, Middlesex.

    Her hour-by-hour diary:

    7am: Woke up to an extremely high reading. Must be because there’s a board meeting. 155

    9.28am: At office, set up the boardroom. Urgently need photocopying from Carey, ask her to hurry up. 89

    11.40am: In meeting Rory isn’t happy, he looks agitated and is talking very fast. 108

    1.05pm: Rory is restless, waiting to eat. Carey is in charge of lunches, wish she’d get a move on. 85

    1.30pm: Have to get out for a brisk walk. 102

    2pm: Rory asks for the first draft of the board report to be ready before he leaves for the airport, so am typing frantically. 75

    3.02pm: Rory asks for board report. I can type fast, but not that fast. 92

    5pm: Last-minute rush to get Rory to the airport. Have to make sure his papers/tickets/ passport are sorted. Everyone clamouring to speak to him before he leaves. 93

    6pm: Leave for evening at the theatre and dinner with a friend. 68

    The expert’s view: “Debby’s challenge is Rory. She feels she keeps calm but her heart rate rises in response to demands from Rory.”

    Workplace stress rating: “Debby is feeding off Rory’s anxieties and her heart rate is too high in the morning – where her boss’s is normal. At least she’s trying to switch off after work.” 8/10

    Example 3: Operations director

    Vivian Blick, 40, is married with two children and lives in Gloucestershire. He is taking a more laid-back approach to life since having a minor heart attack four months ago.

    His hour-by-hour diary:

    6.30am: Stayed overnight at hotel as we have an early board meeting. 70

    6.35am: Irritated because hotel shower door is broken and the floor is all wet. 100

    7.30am: Walk to the office, about a mile at brisk pace. 77

    8am: Hot and bothered, shouldn’t have walked. 113

    9.30am: Wondering how long board meeting will take as need to make calls. 70

    11.30am: Rory wants new project to move quickly, but tests need to be completed to meet standards. 90

    2pm: Tired, drink a can of Red Bull. 75

    2.45pm: Discuss increasing distribution to meet targets. It’s a big challenge due to competitive market, but I am confident. 78

    3.30pm: Excuse myself from one meeting to jump in a cab and rush to another. 85

    7pm: Dinner at great Chinese restaurant. Enjoy delicious aromatic crispy duck with glass of red wine. 70

    11.35pm: Go to bed, feeling relaxed. 65

    The expert’s view: “Vivian is taking things easier since his heart attack. His heart rate increases on fewer occasions than his colleagues do. He dealt well with the pressure of the board meeting, but drinking Red Bull isn’t the ideal way to deal with feeling tired. He regrets walking to the office in the morning, but exercise is positive.”

    Workplace stress verdict: “He’s doing well to avoid another heart attack by taking a calm approach to the job.” 6/10

    Example 4: The office assistant

    Carey Myers, 26, is single and shares a house in Golders Green.

    Her hour-by-hour diary:

    7am: Wake up to a high reading. 150

    7.22am:. Need to get ready but my housemate is in the shower. 110

    8.40am: Hate the Tube: it’s hot and busy and I am late. 106

    9.25am: Debby asked for photocopying for the meeting. Oops! No paper in copier, no paper in cupboard. Should have done it yesterday. 103

    11.15am: Liaise with PR agency about product photography. 75

    12.59pm: Suddenly asked to organise sandwiches for the board meeting as they overran. Feel under pressure. 98

    1.18pm: Go back for more money and buy myself a sandwich but have to eat while typing. 94

    5.15pm: Have to wait for urgent call from Vivian. Where on earth is he? 97

    6pm: At last, I am off. 101

    8pm: Relax at last. Eat and watch TV. 60

    The expert’s verdict: “Carey’s heart rate reflects that she is the most stressed of the team. This bears out evidence that the person who has least control appears to have a greater risk of coronary heart disease.”

    Workplace stress rating: “Carey needs to make time for exercise and take breaks in the day. She could keep a supply of healthy food, such as fruit, for colleagues to snack on. If everyone else’s blood-sugar levels are maintained, they will be less irritable.”9/10

    Hello there ! - We offer Corporate office massage in London. We specialise in on-site massage in the office, accupressure massage, seated accupressure, chair massage, head and neck massage and stress management massage. Achieve relaxation in the office with the help of our therapists - Relaxed workplace

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