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Take a deep breath - stress on the job a health risk

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Hamburg (dpa) - The right approach to stress could save your life. Medical experts warn that sustained psychological pressure over many years is a major cause of heart and other problems.

Stress at work will double your risk of falling ill from heart disease in the next five years, experts say.

In Germany, although the number of people failing to report for work because of a sickness is declining, stress-related illnesses are increasing, says Ralf Kremer from German health insurers DAK.

"In principle stress is nothing bad," says Dietmar Krause from the German Green Cross. The body is designed to mobilise all its energy reserves in certain situations.

"During a life-threatening situation this can be decisive and does not harm the body. We seldom use all our potential," Krause points out.

But pressures have increased as firms reduce costs by cutting staff. Then it can be helpful to establish the factors that trigger stress.

"It might be many things like noise, bullying or self-induced stress," Kremer says.

Much also depends on the individual. Krause says stress for one person may be insignificant for another. What makes stress positive or negative depends a lot on whether effort is rewarded.

People working constantly under high pressure without ever receiving recognition from superiors while at the same time fearing the loss of their job will always experience stress as negative rather than positive, he says.

"The result of negative stress is often a headache and migraine but also heart problems and depression," Krause says.

Coaching expert Nicole Truckenbrodt from Munich says that "stress is often an attitude" and a matter of how problems are approached.

"It is difficult to do one thing while at the same time thinking of what to do next and always having the feeling that time is running away," she says.

Body arts such as tai chi, qi gong or yoga can help people slow down and relax.

According to most of the experts, reducing stress at work also means examining what you do in your leisure time.

"It starts with simple things like eating healthy food, getting enough sleep and exercise," Truckenbrodt says. "The more you work the more important it is to watch these things," she adds.

Krause says it is important to make time for relaxation during leisure hours. "Time for yourself must be a necessity," he says.

Truckenbrodt also recommends a programme of contrasts during a time of real stress. Then, she says, it could be just enough to "go out into nature and take a deep breath".

Copyright 2004 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH


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