Inflammation Nation: Manage Work Stress to Improve Your Health
Inflammation is a normal biological response that humans could not live without. However, when certain contributors like stress and excess body weight lead to too much inflammation, it becomes a serious threat to our health. Chronic inflammation plays a major role in a multitude of conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even depression. As an emerging field in medicine, recent news articles and media reports have referred to it as the new “silent killer.” When you manage work stress (and other types of stress), you can reduce inflammation.
How does stress come into play?
Stress is a huge contributor to chronic inflammation. High levels of stress over a prolonged period of time have been found to alter gene expression of immune cells. It prepares them to fight infection or injury-related tissue trauma, triggering the initiation of pro-inflammatory pathways.
In a study published by Molecular Psychiatry, researchers found that high levels of stress can even buffer the effects of healthy eating. A group of 58 women were provided a meal high in saturated fat, and two weeks later were fed a nearly identical meal, except this time it was much lower in saturated fat. The results showed that those who reported low levels of stress had a greater inflammatory response to the meal higher in saturated fat. However, in those who reported high levels of stress, there was no significant difference between inflammatory markers in response to low saturated fat versus high saturated fat.
According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 77% of adults in the United States regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. Additionally, they found that job pressure is the number one stressor in the United States.
If you are stressed out over work, try a few of these practices to help you relax and manage the tension you may be experiencing:
- Take a walk. Research shows that spending time outdoors can boost energy levels and reduce fatigue. It has also been shown to relieve stress and help improve attention.
- Practice Meditation. While meditation can go on for an hour or more, benefits can be obtained in just a few minutes. Download an app like Headspace or Calm and take a few minutes out of your day to help manage work stress and increase calmness and clarity.
- Write it down. Keep track of your stressors at work by jotting them down in a journal. Include what it is that is bringing you stress, how this affects your thoughts and work ethic, and how you react to it. This will help you to identify patterns and then brainstorm some coping techniques.