Dr. Nalan Linda Fraim of Fatih University told Sunday’s Zaman that stress of any sort can result in serious health problems in the long term. “When we experience stress, our bodies secrete cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone. High levels of stress tend to produce prolonged levels of cortisol, and this can result in impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid functioning, imbalances in our blood glucose level, decreased bone density, decreased muscle tissue, higher blood pressure, lower immunity to simple infections and longer durations in wound healing, and an increase in abdominal fat, which also increases the risk for heart attacks, strokes and high cholesterol. As you can see, the stress we experience can actually have life-long damaging effects on our health, and if the stress we experience is extreme and recurrent, the consequences may be fatal,” she said.
Fraim highlighted that companies have a serious responsibility to minimize stress in the workplace. “Stress at work can be minimized through various ways. One way is ensuring that all work loads are equal and fair. Another way is ensuring that personnel have an adequate number of breaks between work hours. Companies should also provide psycho-social support or stress-reducing programs for workers in distress. In addition, the workplace should have resources both in and outside of the workplaces that are available for workers to deal with the stress they face. One personal suggestion I have for companies to reduce workers’ stress is to have an open-door policy with their workers. This way, workers can spend quality time with their supervisors or managers talking about issues in the workplace that are stressful. Of course, it would be ideal for every company to have a daily group relaxation session to help their employees deal with daily stresses and avoid build-up and burn-out, but many large corporations have exercise and relaxation facilities within their corporate compound. The same may not be available for smaller-scale businesses,” she stated.
Fraim further stated that the identification and definition of the problem are very important in tackling workplace stress. “First of all, prior to doing anything else, I would strongly recommend that people identify the key factors of what is stressing them out. Secondly, after defining the source, the person needs to define and name the feelings that they are feeling. They should never ignore this or brush it off for a later time. This is what causes the build up and other problems. We don’t do ourselves any good by repressing how we feel. Next, the person needs to choose an activity that is both relaxing and physically active, such as sport, cinema or new hobbies. This way, by doing a physical activity, the person has the opportunity to get their body working and get the negative feelings out of their system. Physical exercise has been shown in many studies to reduce stress. Finally, if the person is not able to do any of these, they shouldn’t give up and feel sorry for themselves but rather they should seek out professional help and learn new skills to deal and cope with their stress,” added Fraim.
According to data released by the World Health Organization (WHO), “stress occurs in a wide range of work circumstances but is often made worse when employees feel they have little support from supervisors and colleagues, as well as little control over work processes.”