Chris Iliades, MD is the author of this terrific piece which provides a different perspective on how we view stress in the work-place and more.
You’ve seen the headlines: “Bad Bosses Are Bad for Your Heart;” “One in Three Workers Risk Health by Skipping Lunch;” “Is Your Job Killing You?”
In the United States, it seems that our super-stressful jobs have turned us into a bunch of maxed-out, sleep-deprived, meal-skipping employees. But consider this: Not all stress is bad for you. On the contrary, a little workplace pressure is healthy. One study (an eight-decade-long one called “The Longevity Project”) even found that people with stressful jobs tend to live longer than their carefree (read: bored) counterparts.
Other workplace benefits? Your career promotes social connections, can give you a sense of purpose, keeps your mind in tip-top shape, and more. So take a quick coffee break, and read on to discover how your nine-to-five could be adding five to nine years to your life. Then get back to work!
"Stress does not have to be unhealthy; you just have to know how to respond to it," says Edwin R. Shirley, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. In fact, positive stress actually challenges you and can increase your sense of accomplishment. It’s that negative or unrelenting stress that can lead to a sense of hopelessness, especially if you have no control over it. “A stressful job that challenges you to develop and grow as a person can be a great benefit,” says Shirley.
Your Own Social Network
Is your workplace abuzz? Most jobs require a good deal of interaction with co-workers, and that’s a good thing: “The Longevity Project” found that people who were committed to their work and took on more responsibility formed the best social relationships, and they also got the most work accomplished. Consider your “work friends” just another part of your benefit package. "Social connections form a buffer against stress, anxiety, and depression," says Shirley. “For many, they are one of the main reasons people enjoy going to work.”
Your Profession, Your Purpose
According to researchers, one big key to happiness is having a sense of purpose. “At work, when you know your unique contribution and how to tap into the company vision, your job can keep you happier and healthier," says Debbie Mandel, MA, stress-reduction specialist and author of Addicted to Stress.. “The Longevity Project” found that when people had stressful jobs but found meaning in their work, that stress was not harmful. In fact, they seemed to thrive in spite of it.
"A challenging career, one that involves problem-solving and trouble-shooting, can stimulate your creative juices and give you a great sense of accomplishment," says Shirley. According to research, a work environment that promotes employee health and well-being is over three times more likely to also encourage creativity and innovation. And a survey of more than 28,000 employees in 15 countries found that 72 percent of participants who rated their job high in health and well-being also rated their job high in creativity and innovation.
Voilà! A Finished Product
Most high-stress jobs demand productivity — and that’s not a bad thing. "When you feel productive at your job, it gives you a sense of purpose," says Shirley. “The Longevity Project” found that men and women who were continually productive on the job tended to live longer than people who were laid back and less productive. On the other hand, people who felt like their jobs didn't really matter were more likely to experience job burnout.
Use it or lose it! When your daily grind presents you with a little daily stress, it’s good for your brain. According to the National Institute on Aging, memory loss does not have to be a normal part of aging, and much of the decline in brain power we associate with getting older can be prevented by keeping your mind active and challenged.
Benefits of Earning a (Longer) Living
A job that challenges you and keeps you productive can make life more worth living — and it even keep you living longer. "As you get older, retirement might be beckoning," Mandel says. “However, people who keep working stimulate their brain, have a greater sense of community, and do not lose their personal empowerment. And sharing your wisdom with younger employees gives you the status of a mentor.” So go ahead — keep punching the clock.