Fri, Feb 09, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Sniff an armpit, lower your stress levels

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Sniffing a colleague's armpit, booking nap time in a "sleep pod" and sneaking out to rub a cat's tummy at lunchtime have emerged as the latest stress-busters for workaholics.

The unorthodox suggestions are included in a guide to a stress-free career, compiled for the New Scientist magazine by researchers investigating the causes of anxiety in the workplace.

According to Jacqueline Vischer at the University of Montreal, just having the wrong working space can make people stressed. The flow of colleagues through an office can break down communication and a sense of belonging, and even vague worries over the "feel" of a room can affect worker's attitudes.

"There's a hidden productivity cost of trying to make do with space that doesn't work," she said.

One of the most successful ways of cutting stress is to climb the ranks, according to the guide. A study of thousands of civil servants found that the lower a man's status, the more likely he was to die young. Researchers believe having little control over work life leads to chronic stress that eventually triggers a range of medical problems including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a related increase in heart problems. If promotion is a distant prospect, the researchers suggest taking control over working hours, bonding with those around you or raising your level of education.

Hanging out at the water cooler, lunching with colleagues and confiding in one another have also been found to reduce stress. Civil servants who had moral support from colleagues and encouragement from supervisors were healthier and less stressed. Being too sociable can exacerbate stress though, said Gloria Mark, a researcher at the University of California.

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