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Waging war on work stress

A few items at your desk can reduce daily battles

By Kate Lorenz

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Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Come on, admit it. You've fallen victim to workplace stress at one time or another. You've probably even called in sick because of a stress-related illness.

Turns out that anxiety, stress and neurotic disorder cases are involved in the highest amount of long-term work loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than half of employees report working under stress, according to a recent survey. This finding comes as no surprise to Americans who are all too familiar with growing job dissatisfaction, heavy workloads, poor work/life balance and no mandatory vacation time.

Stress and worry on the job can be harmful, causing problems that damage your health and performance. Signs of work stress can include headaches, loss of morale, lack of concentration, upset stomach and short temper.

In his book "Office Spa" (Chronicle Books), relaxation expert Darrin Zeer suggests some common items you can keep at work to fight your daily battles with job stress.

1. Water bottle: Water is essential and comes only second to oxygen for survival. Furthermore, experts recommend drinking eight glasses of water a day for optimal health. Keep a water bottle at your desk for a quick refresher. Fatigue and sluggishness are signs of dehydration.

Water also makes you fuller and keeps you from eating when you're not hungry. Many people turn to mindless snacking when they are working; the ever-present water bottle will deter snacks and save you some calories.

2. Portable snacks: You shouldn't starve yourself just because you are at a desk all day. If your energy is zapped, you might need to eat something. A headache may indicate the need to eat, too.

Keep imperishable food at your desk for emergencies. Microwaveable popcorn, cereal bars and dried fruit are good options. If you're going low carb, try an Atkins bar or trail mix with raisins, nuts and seeds. And pudding, graham crackers or fruit juice are nutritious choices that may help satisfy your sweet tooth.

3. Tea: In addition to long-term health benefits, teas can also provide immediate relief to work woes.

Peppermint tea is fruity, refreshing and aromatic. Chamomile tea helps promote relaxation and is great for unwinding -- reducing tension and stress and calming the nerves. Ginseng tea is an energy booster and mental stimulator.

4. Tennis shoes: Take a walk. Breathing the fresh air and feeling your body move are natural stress relievers. And walking benefits brain power, stimulates circulation, improves mood and helps ward off depression. You don't have to work up a sweat to feel the results.

Even 10 minutes can help. One sales rep puts on her tennis shoes every day to trek more than a mile round trip to get her lunch at a nearby store. "Getting away from my computer and walking helps clear my brain and stretch my legs," she said. "It's a great way to jump-start my energy before the afternoon blahs kick in."

5. Golf ball or empty bottle: Keep a golf ball or empty bottle nearby for quick massages to relieve arch strain or foot cramps. This can be extremely soothing whether you work on your feet or at a desk. Foot massages are known to relieve tension, mental and physical stress, fatigue and headaches.

6. CDs and headphones: Unwind by listening to your favorite tunes. Most computers today have earphone jacks so you can listen to music without disturbing your co-workers in neighboring cubes.

Keep a variety of your favorite CDs at your desk for different moods or situations -- if you need to concentrate on a project, generate some comic relief or escape briefly. You also can see if your favorite radio station broadcasts over the Internet, too.

Of course, if burnout continues, headaches become more frequent, and you still yearn for an escape, it might be a sign of a deeper problem. It may be time to consider changing jobs or careers or even seeking the help of a professional.

Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

© Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
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