No one writes down on my medical practice questionnaires that they eat because they are stressed.
People say that they eat for a reward, or are lonely or bored, or are happy or angry or frustrated, or because they want to.
Scientists who study workplace health group say those feelings can mean “chronic stress.”
But senior management see those feelings as something else: as overtime pay, temporary help, quality lapses, and higher health care, drug and health plan costs.
Inside companies, health-related lost work time is barely noticed, because it is camouflaged as wanting to eat.
When you drill down and look at the science, you find that some (acute) stress is helpful in the workplace. And that learning to manage chronic stress boosts productivity and saves money.
The place between acute and chronic stress is the razor’s edge. The science of job stress tells us that individualizing help at work is part of a successful program, with evidence-based interventions.
Medical science now studies what works in stress management: behavioral therapy, exercise, relaxation and nutrition. A few examples:
Relaxation: a controlled trial of one 45 minute Swedish massage versus light touch measurably reduced cortisol levels and inflammatory markers (these levels and markers which are high in obese people too).
Exercise: a randomized controlled trial of yoga postures measurably improved mood, increased GABA levels and decreased anxiety more than calorie-equivalent walking.
Simple behavioral changes (breathing exercises) and dietary changes (chewing gum) also have scientific theory and data.
There are many excellent resources online for individuals and companies that want to manage stress well. I’ve just taped an instructional DVD on the subject, and it’s fascinating!