The playwright David Mamet once suggested the best way to get rid of stress was to eat a pie. “Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie,” Mamet wrote in Boston Marriage. Of course, most of us know that eating away our stress with a pie – or a family size serving of nachos, for that matter – is a recipe for disaster (no pun intended). But stress out we do – about finances, fitness and most of all, work.
If you think you’re alone in your Monday back-to-work blues, you’re wrong. More Canadians than ever are prioritizing work at the expense of family and personal health. They’re also hating it, according to a 2012 survey of 25,000 Canadians. Almost two-thirds of us are working more than 45 hours a week, which is 50% more than two decades ago. It seems the digital age isn’t leading to better efficiency – it’s leading to burnout.
The effects of job-related stress on the body are … well, a little crazy. Signs of stress include an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, muscle tension, poor concentration, irritability and trouble sleeping. All of this can have a huge impact on your relationships and home life, and once you’re stressed out, your immune system is more likely to fail you when you need it most. Queue the sick days!
So what can you do about it? If you don’t want to end up on YouTube from a workplace freakout (see example), consider a few ways to kick stress to the curb.
- Exercise: A 30-minute run or session at the gym won’t rid you of your over demanding boss, but it will put your head right. Exercise reduces pent-up emotional intensity, clearing your thoughts and enabling you to deal with your problems more calmly.
- Connect: A problem shared is a problem halved. A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way.
- Cut back the booze, smoking or food binge: Don’t rely on alcohol or other vices to cut your stress level. Going to bed with a buzz is going to impact your sleep. Instead, try taking a shower before bed and get away from the kids for a while.
- Work smarter, not harder: As we mentioned, long workplace hours are an epidemic, so tackle time management and you’ll feel less stressed throughout the week. That means 15 minute of planning for tomorrow at the end of the work day, and focusing on tasks that make the most impact first.
- Get your sleep: Men who sleep 7-8 hours a night have about a 60% less risk of a fatal heart attack than those who sleep 5 hours or less. Prioritize your bedtime – and leave a window for some fun between the sheets once or twice per week as well. Sex is a big stress reliever, and if you hadn’t figured that out for yourself.
So next time you come home from work stressed, don’t pound back a six-pack or burn through a bag of Cheetos. Beat your stress with a few simple changes then walk into work with a weight off your shoulders. Or start your path to a healthier life today by taking our Men’s Health Check online tool.