A new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reports that men who suppress their feelings about unfair treatment at work are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack or die of heart disease as those who don't ignore conflict.
When Men Avoid Conflict
Researchers asked nearly 2,800 working men about how they usually react when treated in an unfair way or when in conflict with a supervisor or coworker. Letting things pass without saying anything or just "going away" were considered covert coping reactions. Feeling bad (headache, stomachache, etc.) or getting into a bad temper at home were considered possible consequences of covert coping reactions.
Volunteers for this study were then followed for an average of almost 10 years. During this time, 47 men had a heart attack or died of heart disease.
Men who reported that they sometimes or often just "go away" when involved in conflict with a boss or coworker had a three- to fourfold higher risk for heart attack or death from heart disease compared to men who said they never just "go away."
The study also included more than 2,000 women, but too few had heart attacks or died of heart disease to draw any conclusions. The study did not examine what might be good ways of coping with work-related stress.
Many people experience conflict or stress at work. Sometimes stress can be helpful. It can encourage you to meet a deadline or get things done. But long-term stress can increase the risk for diseases like depression, heart disease, and a variety of other problems.
Here are some tips from the American Psychological Association to help you keep workplace stress to a minimum:
Keep a "to-do" list. Doing so will help you reduce the risk of forgetting something and will enable you to better focus on the task at hand.
Take short breaks. Throughout the day take a minute or two to stand up, stretch, breathe deeply, and shake off tension. These mini-breaks are especially helpful to mark the completion of a task. Also, take a 10 to 15 minute break every few hours to recharge. Finally, don't work through lunch. The productivity you gain will more than make up for the time spent on break.
Ask for professional support. Your employer may offer stress management resources through an Employee Assistance Program. These programs often provide online information, counseling, and referral to mental health professionals when needed. If your stress level persists, you may also want to talk with a psychologist.
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They are the people you admire: your best friend, the "tough cookie." Or maybe your brother, the "hardy soul." Such people handle difficult family, health, work, or financial problems with grace and strength. They do not "fall to pieces" during stressful times, which may help them avoid stress-related health problems like stomachaches, depression, or even heart conditions. They are resilient.
Some people seem to be born with this flexibility and resourcefulness. Yet resilience is something we all can develop. Here's how to start: