Health impacts of chronic stress and proven tools 

Health impacts of chronic stress and proven tools 

< Back to Articles | Topics: Trends | Contributors: Dr. Christine Sauer MD ND | Published: September 6, 2023

Not all people are equally susceptible to stress. Like most things in life, there are no absolutes, yet we know from several good scientific studies that up to 96 per cent of leaders surveyed reported feeling some level of stress and burnout, with nearly a third saying they felt "always" or "often" burned out. Up to 80 per cent of workers reported feeling stress on the job, and nearly half of them said that they needed help in learning how to manage stress.

Chronic stress can lead to a range of negative health outcomes, including, but not limited to, an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and mental health disorders. 

Research has also shown that stress can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to illnesses and infections. 

Some examples of potential negative outcomes of chronic stress include:

Increased heart rate, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, high blood sugars, sweating, anxiety, depression, irritability, digestive issues, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, difficulty sleeping, cognitive decline, memory problems, forgetfulness, weakened/suppressed immune system, frequent infections and diseases, chronic pain, headaches, back pain, fibromyalgia, relationship trouble, and divorce

Stressed parents can even affect the mental and physical health of their children, so stress management should be paramount for parents.

The impacts of chronic stress on work performance 

Stress can have significant impacts on work performance, leading to decreased productivity, decreased job satisfaction, and increased absenteeism. 

In long-standing cases, chronic stress can even lead to burnout — as referenced in the opening paragraph — a condition in which an individual feels exhausted, overwhelmed, and disengaged from their work. 

Six helpful ways to manage stress

  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help to reduce stress levels and improve overall well-being. 
  • Mindfulness meditation, Self-Havening, Yoga, or Taichi: These involve paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental way and can help to reduce stress and improve focus. 
  • Time management: Effective time management can help us to prioritize tasks and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Coaching or counseling: Some executives may choose to work with a qualified coach or a counselor to develop coping skills and strategies for managing stress. 
  • Relaxation techniques: Self-Havening, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualization exercises help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
  • Social support: Building and maintaining social connections can be an important way for executives to manage stress. 

Five unhelpful ways to try and manage stress

Very often, leaders and business executives as well as professionals who try to manage their stress fall into unhealthy and even harmful habits that can be very damaging in the long run.

Here are some common ones:

  • Substance use: Some leaders turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of “self-medicating” themselves in an attempt to cope with stress, and this can lead to a range of negative outcomes, including addiction, impaired judgment, and poor health.
  • Ignoring the problem: Some executives may try to ignore their stress or push through it, believing that this is a necessary part of their job - until they burn out.
  • Overworking: While some levels of stress can be motivating, constantly working long hours, and neglecting self-care is not helpful.
  • Avoiding social support or self-medicating with food: These are other unhelpful approaches to try and manage stress.

< Back to Articles | Topics: Trends

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