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Is Your Job Killing You?

Thursday, May 30, 2002 at 12:50 PM

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Experts at the Psychosomatic Medicine Journal say having a boring job can kill you. According to a national report released last week, the less control you have over your work can contribute to anxiety and stress that can take over your life. One psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic admits nearly 80% of patient complaints are related to stress. But all too often people don't take care of the anxiety mostly because they don't know how. 90.3 WCPN's Tarice Sims reports on methods of treating stress on the job and why people need to address anxiety sooner than later.

Tarice Sims: More than a decade ago Nancy Anne found out she had a pre-cancerous condition and would most likely need surgery. At the same time she was dealing with a number of other issues in her life.

Nancy Anne: I call it the “superwoman syndrome” - you know two kids, ran my own business, went through a divorce and started a new career, went back to college and started a new career. I was really off-balanced.

TS: Anne says she overcame her condition by mastering the stresses in her life. Now she’s a licensed counselor with New Perspectives in Richmond Heights, and uses her own experiences to help others. Treating patients with stress is what Dr. Michael McKee does every day. He’s Vice Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology with the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. McKee says he treats patients suffering from all types of physical maladies

Michael McKee: Palpitations, people are told by their cardiologist that they’re blood pressure going up because of stress they’re putting their heart at risk. We get referrals from every department in the Clinic. So some people don’t think they’re symptoms are stress related but we see referrals from dermatology, hair loss.

TS: Dr. McKee went on to say that one of the most common causes of stress is work. He says according to an International Labor Organization study in the 1990’s the United States passed Japan as the hardest working of the industrialized nations - meaning employees in the U.S. routinely put in more hours annually at the workplace. And in many cases that means more time doing boring, monotonous tasks. According to the study published in the Psychosomatic Medicine Journal passive jobs have proven to cause a release of hormones that fosters stress. The report indicates this is especially true for blue-collar workers. John Ryan is executive secretary with the AFL-CIO. He says often factory workers become depressed and suffer personally when they are limited on the job.

John Ryan: The number one reason workers come to us and want to organize is not because of pay and benefits. It’s because of all these issues of stress. Favoritism, the time with their families and being able to have some say in that.

TS: Ryan says unions can sometimes help change a workers circumstance but it isn’t always successful in doing away with the actual stress. Nancy Anne says people need to learn to change how they function on the job and how they react in stressful situations. She says there are several breathing techniques she teaches her clients to use during the workday.

NA: Breath in for 6, breath, hold it for 4, breath out 6 and if you learn this technique by breathing it practicing it two, three, five times a day you can learn the difference from being tensed up and being relaxed.

TS: Another stress reliever Anne recommends is yoga, which has become more and more popular in the area. At Eight Limbs Yoga on Murray Hill adults who come to class straight from the job are taught how to leave work at the office.

Another method of relaxation is the arts. Now through July 30th the Cleveland Clinic is running an exhibition entitled Nature: A Cure for Stress. It showcases paintings, photography and sculptures that uplift nature’s imagery to reduce stress and heal the human spirit.

The National Institute of Mental health reports that 19 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders each year and even though there are methods out there to help people cope on the job. Experts like Dr. McKee says if all else fails find a new career. In Cleveland, Tarice Sims, 90.3 WCPN News.

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