Have you ever felt like your job is killing you? Unfortunately, you might be right. Turns out, constant work stress is one of your body’s worst enemies. A study published in Preventive Medicine found certain cancers have been linked to prolonged work-related stress in men. Study participants had undergone 15 to 30 years of constant work stress, and some had faced more than 30 years of unrelenting stress. So, if you’re always tense and popping Alka-Seltzer tablets like candy, it’s time to take a good look at your work life. You might want to consider making some adjustments to the way you manage your personal and work obligations.
What leads to work stress? One factor is lack of control. A study from researchers at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business discovered employees who work in demanding jobs with little control over their workflow were 15.4% more susceptible to death than those who worked in less demanding jobs. Another work stress factor is conflict. If you work with a horrible boss who doesn’t like you, this can cause significant emotional strain. Walking on eggshells every day can leave you feeling drained and eventually cause you to question your abilities.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by work, you’re not alone. Chronic work stress has negatively impacted millions of Americans at one time or another. Roughly 65% of Americans said work is a major source of stress, according to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey.
Are you experiencing an unusual amount of job stress on a regular basis? It’s time for a change.
1. Lung cancer
Lung cancer accounts for more than 1.69 million deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. One reaction your body might have to a stressful work situation is increased heart rate and breathing faster. If you’re constantly under pressure at work, this can put stress on the lungs and cause complications with your respiratory system over time. For example, prolonged stress can worsen the symptoms of chronic conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to the Lung Institute.
What you can do
One way to reduce the impact of stress on your lungs is to practice meditation or breathing exercises. There are plenty of guided meditations you can access online. You can also consider hiring a meditation coach. So when your boss or co-worker is testing you, pause for a moment and focus on your breathing instead of reacting immediately to the stressful situation.
2. Colon cancer
The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 95,520 new cases of colon cancer in 2017. You might not give your colon much thought, but it can be sensitive to incessant stress. If you want all parts of your body to work properly, you’ll need to get your stress levels under control. This is especially true when it comes to your colon. If you’re often met by stressful situations at work, you might sometimes find that you experience anxiety-related constipation.
What you can do
A high-fiber diet, plenty of water, and stress-reduction techniques can help alleviate constipation related to anxiety. A few small lifestyle changes might assist you with being more regular. “Aside from taking laxatives when you are stressed, consider taking long walks, deep breathing, meditation, taking a break, exercising and massage therapy. These are safe and healthy forms of stress management and will also likely improve your constipation,” the experts at ZocDoc said on their blog.
3. Rectal cancer
The study on work stress and cancer also found a higher number of rectal cancer cases among those who reported significant stress. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the world. It accounts for roughly 9.4% of cancers in men and 10.1% of cancers in women. In addition to stress, other possible risk factors for this type of cancer are age, family history, physical inactivity, and body mass index.
What you can do
Stress can sometimes lead to bad habits. Researchers in a study by Scientific Reports found those who reported higher stress tended to work longer, smoke more, and drink more alcohol. You can move toward a healthier lifestyle and reduce your cancer risk by kicking your smoking habit (if you smoke) and cleaning up your diet. If you feel overwhelmed at work, instead of reaching for a cigarette, get away from your desk and take a walk or hit the gym. Replace your old, bad habits with new, healthier ones.
4. Stomach cancer
The World Health Organization estimates roughly 754,000 cancer-related deaths are the result of stomach cancer. Approximately 28,000 new cases of stomach cancer will be diagnosed in 2017 in the U.S. (17,750 in men and 10,250 in women), according to the American Cancer Society. Unfortunately, in 2017 about 10,960 people will die from stomach cancer (6,720 men and 4,240 women).
What you can do
Some of the risk factors for stomach cancer are poor diet, smoking, family history, and chronic health conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease. Stress can make GERD worse, so it’s important to stay calm when work obligations begin to wear you down. You can also make an effort to eat a healthier diet if you’ve been slacking off in that area.
5. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
There are several risk factors that could increase your chance of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, such as medications that suppress your immune system, certain infections, and certain chemicals (such as weed and insect killers), according to researchers at Mayo Clinic. Advanced age can also play a role. Those who are age 60 or older tend to be at a higher risk of developing the disease.
What you can do
The study found factors, such as a high workload and time pressures, were not the only causes of work-related stress. Participants also cited financial issues, lack of job security, and conflict at work as some of the other sources of job strain. Regardless of the source of your work stress, it’s important to find ways to release your pressure. Take time to exercise, eat right, and most importantly, talk about your problems with a trusted friend or therapist.
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