Your career and stress can be a funny thing.
When you’re younger, you might long for more challenging assignments and a higher title. When you finally achieve them, you find that all that responsibility comes with its own set of bigger stresses. Here are ways to manage your stress at every stage of your career.
Work stress in your 20s
In your 20s, it can be tempting to burn the midnight oil, show up early to the office and be the last one to leave in an attempt to show the boss that you’re serious about your career. In addition, you may be financially responsible for yourself for the first time in your life and may have recently moved to a new city without family or a lot of friends.
Take action: After a hard week at work, it’s also pretty tempting to hit happy hour and drink until you forget your problems. But binge drinking can have serious health repercussions that go beyond a hangover, even in your 20s. Research has shown that those in their early 20s who binge drink have an increased risk of high blood pressure. Instead, stop after a glass of wine and try other, healthier ways of relaxing, such as exercise or meditation.
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Work stress in your 30s
In your 30s, it can be harder to maintain a work-life balance as your responsibilities on the job may be increasing as you’re settling down with a partner, buying a house and possibly even having kids. You may stay in a dead-end job or one you hate, because you feel you have no choice and need the paycheck.
Take action: Make finding a new job a priority. Research suggests that those who hate their jobs in their late 20s and early 30s may have more health problems, including depression and sleep problems — well into their 40s. In the meantime, it can be empowering to write down what is causing you stress at work and develop an action plan for each specific issue.
Work stress in your 40s
As you enter your 40s, you may become increasingly more worried about your financial situation. You may worry that you’re not making enough or about your long-term job security. A 2015 American Psychological Association Survey of Stress in America found that 76 percent of 36 to 49 year olds reported money is a somewhat or very significant factor of stress levels.
Take action: Look on the bright side. A study that included 70,000 women found that the most optimistic women in the group had an almost 40 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease, stroke or respiratory disease, 52 percent lower risk of dying from infection and a 16 percent lower risk of dying from cancer. Not sure how to find the silver lining? The study’s authors suggest keeping a gratitude journal or writing down acts of kindness you do for others.
“Review what you are grateful for,” suggested Carolyn Kaloostian, MD, MPH, clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and a primary care physician at Keck Medicine of USC. “It doesn’t matter if you do it in the morning, at lunch or in the evening. All that matters is you are specific when you do it – and that you do it once a day. This will help you set your attitude towards a state of abundance and attract more happiness into your life.”
Work stress in your 50s
Money, and not enough of it, continues to be the top stressor at work, according to a Harris survey of 55 to 64-year olds. Rounding out the top four on the list are an unreasonable workload, a demanding commute and annoying coworkers. The effects of stress are more immediate as you enter your 50s. The more stressed you are, the greater your risk for high blood pressure, chronic disease, memory loss, weight gain and the accompanying health problems associated with being overweight.
Take action: It’s more important than ever to exercise. Even if you weren’t as active as you could have been in your youth, you’ll experience less stress if you start now. Make time for your friends — studies have shown that those with a supportive social network are less stressed and are happier overall. Lastly, meditate. It helps you relieve stress and calm your mind and your body, not to mention help you get some shut-eye.
“Mindfulness meditation appears to have clinical importance by serving to reduce sleep problems among the growing population of older adults, and this effect on sleep appears to carry over into reducing daytime fatigue and depression symptoms,” said David S. Black, PhD, MPH, corresponding author of a Keck Medicine of USC study on mindfulness and sleep in older adults, as well as an assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School.
By Anne Fritz
If your stress is getting to a level you are unable to handle and nothing else is working, reach out to your primary care physician for help. If you are local to Southern California and are in search of a primary care physician, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment to schedule an appointment.