Stress and hypertension

Stress is a serious growing concern in the corporate world. In this fast moving world, where everything is time bound, employees are usually under a lot of stress to complete tasks. This lack of balance between workplace demands and job control is the root cause of chronic and acute stress. This is also considered one of the frequent factors in the etiology of hypertension in today’s challenging world.

Stress can be caused due to multiple factors and it is very complex to analyze its extent at physiological & psychological levels. Stressful situations may cause spike in your blood pressure temporarily, but researchers are not sure whether stress can cause long term high blood pressure.

Also read: 10 ways to stay cool in stressful environment

Our body produces rush of hormones in a stressful situation which temporarily increases blood pressure & causes heart to beat faster and narrow blood vessels. There is no proof that stress alone can cause long term high blood pressure, but reacting to stress in unhealthy ways can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke. After considering different aspects of corporate stress and analyzing the relationship between the two, we can work towards designing operative proposals at individual and public levels to reduce the effect of corporate stress on health & well-being.

There has been a noticeable increase in the number of individuals suffering from the stress of their jobs than the ones suffering from stress because of family responsibilities or personal health concerns. Most of these corporate workers have reported their working situations to be extremely stressful. But why is such a large working population affected with corporate stress? The answer may lie in the changing nature of work challenges at a rapid pace. Employees are expected to work longer, meet their targets and do so for less pay which results in frustration, fear, uncertainty, and stress. Stress is the result of harsh responses in the form of changing emotional, physical, social or economic factors. In corporate jobs, these harsh responses occur when the requirements of job over exceed the limitations of an employee.

Work stress can affect both, the employers and employees. As the economy swings, job security becomes uncertain which follows by downsizing, bankruptcies, mergers, and layoffs, producing big change and stress for employees. Employees often face increased responsibilities and higher demands for lesser benefits and lack of appreciation. They are constantly faced with competition, pay cuts, target pressures, and deadlines, all of which leads to exhaustion and stress. When continuously subjected to such forms of stress, workers develop low morale which makes their productivity suffer and can affect their mental health.

Body’s response to stress: When an individual perceives stress, their brain sets off an alarm which prepares the body to defend itself against the stress. The nervous system is automatically put on alert and hormones are released, making our senses more alert, increasing pulse, deepening respiration and making our muscles tense. This is commonly termed as a “fight or flight” response. When a stressful situation is ongoing or remains unresolved, this response is constantly activated and we try to adapt to it, causing wear and tear on our biological systems. Eventually we reach to the exhaustion stage and develop fatigue and weakened immune system. This could lead to sleep disturbances, hypertension, upset stomach, headache, irritability, depression, loss of appetite, etc.

Also read: World Hypertension Day: Risk factors of high BP

Solution for managing corporate workplace stress:

The best way to help manage stress for everyone working in a corporate workplace is by conducting stress management training sessions. This will not only help empower the workers to deal with a difficult situation, but also help them understand the source of their stress and develop strategies to eliminate these stressors as well. Such strategies may be time management, goal management, conflict management, relaxation techniques, etc. Employers can help minimize stress by

· Providing opportunities, growth, and incentives for career development

· Recognition & appreciation of employees for good performance

· Aligning the workload with employee capabilities & resources

· Keeping an open communication between the employer and employees for the overall benefit of organization

How to do away with the stress?

Simple activities that can be followed on a day to day basis, like laughter or listening to music, can make all the difference. Laughter boosts the immune system and decreases stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine. A few simple and proven ways to de-stress yourself can include 10 minute walk during a break which may clear your head and boost endorphins that reduces stress hormones.

Inhaling long mindful breaths can help fill us with positive emotions and exhale out the negative emotions. Our moods and good foods are closely linked. Eating healthy food can change our mood and also provide us energy to be more productive. Being hugged by someone you can count on may act as an effective means of conveying support and can reduce the deleterious effect of stress. When one sings, chemicals like oxytocin are released, bringing the feeling of pleasure and relieves us of stress and anxiety.

Apart from these techniques, adopting some simple lifestyle alterations like exercising, eating healthy, anger management, practicing yoga and meditation, getting appropriate amount of sleep, etc. can make all the difference of relieving stress. Although practically stress in corporate world may never be completely eliminated, strategies like these can prove to be effective in reducing its intensity and occurrence.

(Writer is Dr Sahir Jamati, Head of Dept of Psychology and Manager of Health Care Service, Masina Hospital. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)

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