stress control

  1. Too much email can cause heart problems

    You've got email-related heart problems!

    You know that sound email makes? If you're in a room full of people and a single iPhone makes that telltale chime, everyone jumps up to check his or her messages.

    Doesn't matter that it's a weekend. Doesn't matter that it's late at night. Doesn't even matter that you're on vacation.

    Thanks to email, we're on the clock everywhere and at all times.

    It's great for your boss, who now has a small army of 24-hour employees. But it's not so great for you or your family, because along with intruding into your private time all those emails are actually bad for your health.

    You've probably already suspected that, but a new study confirms it as researchers say people who check email all the time have higher levels of stress, and less focus.

    The researchers asked 13 civilian workers at the Army's Natick Soldier Systems Center near Boston to wear heart monitors as they went about their normal routine for three days.

    And sure enough, the monitors picked up on what you've probably experienced yourself -- that little bump in your heart rate with each new message.

    Then, they were told to take a five-day email vacation. They could use computers and do their jobs as usual, but without email. And in that time, the volunteers had more constant and natural heart rates.

    They also reported less stress, fewer interruptions (naturally), and more of an ability to focus on their work than when they were constantly checking and replying to email.

    The study participants were recruited from nearly every level -- including managers, administrators, scientists, and customer service. And at the end of the study, only the customer service worker said she had a hard time doing her job without email.

    The rest said they didn't realize how unimportant most emails really were.

    Of course, no one's going to give up email completely. But you might want to give it up at least some of the time -- maybe even set aside certain times of each day for checking email, and lay off it the rest of the day.

    Especially when you're at home.

  2. Happiness is good for the heart

    A good friend of mine used to complain all the time about his stress and frustration at work. Every time I saw him, he'd tell me how much "worse" it was -- yet he never did a thing to make his situation better.

    Then, one day, things really did take a turn for the worse: He suffered a heart attack.

    He was only in his mid 40s.

    Luckily, it was a mild heart attack, so it was more of a wake-up call than anything else. But if you let too much stress and negativity get hold of you, you might not get off as easily as my friend did.

    Attitude and good stress control are almost as important to heart health as diet and exercise -- and a Harvard analysis of more than 200 studies confirms that an optimistic outlook can cut your risk of a first heart attack in half.

    One of the studies even found that happiness can cut your risk of a stroke by 26 percent. And in another, which looked at 300 bypass patients, optimism reduced the risk of a return trip to the hospital or surgery complications by 50 percent over six months.

    Naturally, optimistic people were more likely to lead healthier lives in the first place. They ate better, got more exercise, and were even more likely to get the right amount of sleep.

    All of these things on their own will lower your risk of heart problems, of course, but the Harvard team wrote in Psychological Bulletin that the benefits of a positive attitude held even after adjusting for all that.

    It's not hard to see why, since there's a clear link between the body and the mind.

    As my friend found out the hard way, stress can help bring on a heart attack. So it only makes sense that the opposite of stress -- real happiness and positive energy -- can have the opposite effect.

    And sure enough, the researchers say the benefits didn't go to people who simply weren't unhappy. They went specifically to people who were happy, satisfied, optimistic, and always hopeful for a positive outcome.

    So if you're making changes to make yourself healthy, don't forget to make some of the less obvious changes. Along with a better diet and better habits, give yourself a better attitude, too.

2 Item(s)