There’s been a lot in the media the last week about this, with some typically sensational and misleading headlines such as the Daily Mail - "Working more than eight hours a day raises the risk of heart disease by 80%". All the noise has resulted from the publication of two studies, one in the American Journal of Epidemiology focusing on working hours, and the other in The Lancet concentrating on general job strain and not ‘feeling in control’.
Having looked at the excellent explanations on the NHS Choices site, the general conclusion seems to be that, even when other factors are taken into account, workplace stress can have a significant effect on a person’s risk of having a heart attack. However, this effect is less significant than other lifestyle factors such as smoking or lack of exercise.
So, what can you do about workplace stress?
Take a hard look at what’s causing your stress. If you’re working long hours – could you improve your time management or are you doing it just because everyone else does – and is that a valid reason? If you feel you’re struggling with the tasks you’re asked to do,
| |look at what additional skills might help you to cope better and look at training options. If you feel bullied, or you have no control, check how your colleagues are feeling and consider approaching your boss with a proposal on how to change things. If none of this works, then look hard at your values and consider whether you are in the right job – or at worst do everything else you can to reduce your risks.
What else can you do to reduce your risks?
There’s plenty of advice around – smoking is the No 1 risk factor. Maintaining a healthy weight, keeping your alcohol intake within the recommended limits and taking regular exercise are all very important. Easier said than done?
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So, a new term starting amid what seems to be interminable uncertainty for parents and young people. Who really understands the education system now!? What are free schools? And academies – and how come they seem to be able to opt out of things like feeding children according to nutritional standards? How will your child get on if you didn’t get your first choice of school? Are they going to change the A level system again? Were GCSE results a disappointment?
What about the Young People?
It can be difficult for parents to understand and cope with changes and new Government initiatives – but what about the young people? I was one of a ‘guinea pig’ generation – the first year group to take SATS at every age group, the first to take AS levels etc., and particularly as I got older, I found the uncertainty of having new qualifications tried out on me quite stressful.
Young people pick up very quickly on Mum’s, Dad’s and their teachers’ anxiety. If they didn’t get the results they wanted or expected they will be naturally disappointed. They may also feel they have let parents/themselves down and be worried about what happens next. These sorts of concerns can damage fragile adolescent confidence and may lead to low self esteem. If feelings of failure and disappointment aren’t dealt with well, they can carry on into adult life and sometimes impact on future achievements.
So What Now?
Whenever I talk to concerned parents, I focus on communication, or more importantly listening. When adolescence sets in, the onset of grunting, swearing and moping from young people can often lead to a complete lack of communication, and a lack of desire to communicate on the part of the parents.
However, communication is what will enable anything your young people are struggling with to be aired and if necessary, dealt with. Sometimes just sharing concerns and realising that you understand is enough.
Here are my top tips for communicating with your young people:
"If feelings of failure and disappointment aren’t dealt with well, they can carry on into adult life..."
- Choose your time – if you know that there’s a programme they love watching, or that they’re hungry when they get home – that’s a bad time to communicate!
- You know your child – put yourself in their position. How would they want to hear from you?
- Get on their level – if they’re sitting down, sit down etc., don’t stand over them – how would you like it?
- Rapport – don’t expect to get the topic round to things that you wouldn’t normally discuss straight away. It’s the classic ‘sex chat’ thing. How would you like it if you bumped into someone and they went straight for the difficult questions? Gain rapport first, choose easy topics and things that they enjoy (even if you don’t). Then once you are chatting comfortably, lead the subject.
- Ask questions, and LISTEN to the answers. Avoid giving answers, avoid ‘telling’ and listen, understand and respond – you’ll be amazed what you learn.
What if that’s not enough?If you think that there’s something your child’s not coping well with, and you’re concerned, confidential, impartial coaching may help.