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Depression, Anxiety, and Stress in the Workplace

Labor Day has just passed. Supposedly, Americans were celebrating the gains that workers during the last century in overcoming exploitation at the hands of powerful and wealthy industrialists. However, there are other problems at the work place that threaten worker health and well-being. Research shows us that a negative environment at work can have negative effects on high blood pressure, the ability to sleep and even vulnerability to colds and viruses. For example, a young woman was hired as a recruiter for a small tech company. When she first started working there it seemed to be a pleasant and encouraging environment, a place where she could advance her business career. Before long she became disillusioned. This was the result of the behavior and attitude of the CEO. It was not simply that he micro managed what everyone did but he was not above publicly scolding and berating people if they did not achieve the outcomes he demanded. In fact, if anyone showed any creativity in how they approached their assignments they were in for trouble. Many days she came home in tears and became so depressed that she sought psychotherapy. 

Many other stresses arise at work that can take their toll on health. A teacher, working under the new system of teacher accountability through testing, is carrying two different subjects and has six classes in a row with a twenty minute break for lunch. He does have one preparation period that staff is supposed to use to prepare lessons for the next day but he is often called away to cover classes for those teachers who are absent. In effect, he ends up having seven classes in a row. He experiences anxiety, agitation, worry and insomnia brought on by the job. He worries about how administration will view him if students do not perform well at the end of the year and if, as a result, if he will have a job by then. 

Doctors, Nurses, Police, Airline Pilots and Firemen are under particular stress because they are required to adjust to changing shifts. Having to adjust to working nights and then days is a very difficult adjustment for most people to make. Shift work accounts for loss of sleep, fatigue, depression and anxiety. Labor Day is supposed to signify the achievements and improved working conditions of the American worker. One provision of the labor laws in this country is that every worker is entitled to lunch and to a ten to fifteen minute break for every four hours worked. In addition, no one is supposed to work more than eight hours per day. Yet, in my private psychotherapy practice have been many people who do not get lunch, do not get a coffee break and who work way beyond eight hours. While it is true that these working people are not being forced to forgo lunch and the eight hour work day, they elect or feel obligated to do so in order to get work done and meet deadlines. 

Most working people do not have the power to change conditions at the work place. However, there are things they can do to protect their health and reduce the effects of stress on their bodies and minds. It is now well established that exercise and good nutrition reduce anxiety and depression. Both contribute to feeling better even for those working under ideal working conditions. Then, too, meditation has been proven to improve mental health and a solid feeling of well being. It is important to add Yoga to the regimen of meditation and exercise. It can be said without any doubt that drugs and alcohol only worsen the effects of stress on the body and mind. Ultimately, it's a good idea to write to local Congressmen to appeal for laws that will protect worker health. An additional stress busting technique is to seek psychotherapy. 

Help is available. Contact Dr. Schwartz at: [email protected] or by telephone at: 720-470-2028


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