Health Zone: Stress - Working Yourself to Death?; THREE WOMEN REVEAL HOW THEIR HEALTH HAS SUFFERED AS A RESULT OF PRESSURE IN THE WORKPLACE

The Mirror (London, England), August 2, 2001 | Go to article overview

Health Zone: Stress - Working Yourself to Death?; THREE WOMEN REVEAL HOW THEIR HEALTH HAS SUFFERED AS A RESULT OF PRESSURE IN THE WORKPLACE


Byline: SHERRON MAYES

YOU'VE got deadlines to meet, email to answer, the phone hasn't stopped ringing and your boss is screaming at you to get a move on.

Suddenly, you get the familiar twinges of a sore throat, swollen glands and runny nose. You know you're coming down with something.

Most of us have become ill when we've been stressed. But now scientists say there really is a link between ill-health and pressure at work.

A new study shows that workers in stressful situations have lower levels of antibodies and so are more likely to come down with coughs and colds.

The research was carried out by Dr John Schaubroeck of Drexel University in Philadelphia, USA, who studied a group of office managers.

His findings were backed up by Professor Cary Cooper of the University of Manchester.

He says: "If you panic or feel out of control in the workplace, your immune system will be suppressed. Catching colds or flu can be an early warning sign that you are not coping well."

Health Zone put these findings to the test by asking three women in very different careers - a high-flyer, a teacher and a gardener - how stress in their careers was linked to illness over the past year.

Read on for their fascinating insights into how our bodies react under pressure.

THE TEACHER

JULIE Simpson, 39, works as a primary school teacher and is married to Graham, also a teacher. They have three children: Amy, 13, Sam, nine, and Millie, two. They live in Bristol.

SHE says: "As well as being a teacher of seven and eight-year-olds, I am also a manager of the junior department.

"My working day starts before 8am, then after school I mark books and prepare classes. After that I have my management work which keeps me busy until 9pm."

August 2000

QUIET - school holidays. No illnesses.

September 2000

TRYING to meet local authority literacy and numeracy targets - lots of testing the children, trying to get them up to standard. Incredibly stressful. Children are tired and teachers get tetchy - everyone needs a break. Off work for three days with flu.

December 2000

AFTER school, have to rush off to rehearsals for the nativity play then rush home to feed the family before marking books and planning lessons for the next day.

Constant throbbing headaches, streaming nose and sore throats. Dosed myself up with paracetamol and went in as usual. Having time off means the school has to pay for a supply teacher.

January to April 2001

EASIER as I haven't had as many additional activities besides the normal marking and management. Felt much healthier.

May 2001

ONE of the children's mothers has just died. Work is extremely stressful as we have to provide counselling for children with difficult home lives. Had constant sore throats and felt achey.

June 2001

QUIETER and able to juggle my work. No illnesses.

July 2001

END of school year means parent evenings, writing end of term reports and taking the children on educational trips. Suffered from headaches and terrible sore throats.

EXPERT'S VERDICT

DR Roy Bailey says: Julie is the classic `accommodator' type - she takes everything on and has too many roles to perform.

If your different roles are complementary that's fine, but Julie is overloaded with roles. She's trying to be too many things to too many people.

She's not just wrecking her health but sending out a signal that she can juggle everything - which means everyone will continue to pile work on her shoulders.

HOW TO COPE

JULIE should accept that other people can play a part in helping. She could also look at areas where she's saying `no' to her kids, but `yes' to all these other aspects of her life.

She needs to look at all the roles she's performing. …

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