Out of every 10 patients who are referred to Manish Gunjan, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at Gurgaon's Medanta Medicity, at least three are below the age of 40. He recently performed angioplasty on a 36-year-old man, a successful working professional. "Smoking and work stress are turning out to be major causes of heart-related problems among working professionals in their 30s," he says. While smoking is a big cause, workplace stress is no less of a killer. Heart diseases are hitting professionals much earlier than before.
Lifestyle experts will tell you that a certain amount of stress can enhance performance. Stress triggers a rush of adrenaline, which helps you cope by making you more focussed and efficient. But what happens when you are constantly chasing deadlines? You then acquire bad stress.
In an article on the Harvard Business Review website (www.hbr.org), Judith Ross explains the relationship between stress and performance. Ross cites a study done a century ago by Harvard researchers Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson, in which they calibrated the relationship between increases in stress and performance. Their finding: As stress goes up, so do efficiency and performance. But once stress exceeds a certain level, they noted, its benefits disappear and performance declines. Mental flexibility, concentration, and mood all take a hit, Ross says.
It's a vicious cycle—you are working long and skimping on sleep. Your body reacts by pumping more adrenaline, which can have an adverse impact on the kidneys, heart and brain, says Gunjan. The first warning signal is deterioration in cognitive functions. Reasoning and judgment go awry; irritability sets in; inter-personal relations at work and with friends get affected; and the person has difficulty remaining calm.
If these warning signs seem familiar, it's time to act. If you have been working furiously and experience these symptoms, step away from your work. If that's not an option, try to consciously stay calm and quiet at the workplace and at home. You will start focussing better. Beyond work, the most important antidote is exercise.
"There's no substitute to exercising. Go for a swim, walk, do yoga. Get an exercise routine," says Gunjan, who is a stickler for morning walks.
Diet is important if you are trapped in a cycle of continuous work and resultant stress. Red meat is said to increase adrenaline so it is best avoided. make sure that you get sound sleep; dozing off in front of the television will not help.