Women who work 55 hrs a week more prone to depression: Study
Dubai - Working weekends also increased depression risk for both men and women.
Everyone should take the opportunity this April, Stress Awareness Month, to understand the symptoms and take action to overcome work-related stress issues, a UAE mental health expert has said.
The call comes as a new study highlights that women, in particular, can be prone to stress-induced mental health issues when faced with consistently long working hours, especially when combined with managing other responsibilities.
While stress at work can be difficult to avoid - especially if you are stuck behind a desk - the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that women who put in 55 hours or more at work every week had a higher risk of depression.
It also highlighted how women often had to juggle work with household duties and caring for family members. Working weekends also increased depression risk for both men and women.
"In today's fast-paced and competitive workplace where long hours and weekend working have become the norm, no one is immune and, for numerous reasons, everyone deals with it differently," said Nadia Brooker, a psychologist at The Priory Wellbeing Centre.
"Women, however, are often the lynchpin of the family and, as such, can take on far more responsibilities as far as the children and running a home are concerned. When you add a full or part-time job into the mix, it's easy to understand how the associated stresses and strains of daily life can build up," added Brooker.
While women might be more prone to stress, many tend to reach out to others when confronted with it. They are far more likely to talk to friends or undergo therapy.
Men, on the other hand, often seek to escape stress by compartmentalising or distracting themselves from it, which can have serious repercussions in the long term.
Dr Hellme Abdullah Najim, a consultant psychiatrist at the University Hospital Sharjah, said that stress is reported to affect more women than men.
"This observation is very interesting as it was found that the number of women who complain of anxiety and depression are twice the number of men in the outpatient consultation. However, the number of admissions for the same problems are equal in women and men," he said.
"This can be explained by noting that the threshold of complaint in women is lower than men's. Women are more emotional as they are prepared for child-bearing and rearing. In addition to that, their physique is more prone to hormonal changes, which may lead to mood variations," he explained.
Looking into the data from Understanding Society - the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) - which was collected from more than 23,000 men and women - researchers found a few more factors that seemed to affect mental health, regardless of the person's gender.
Older workers, workers who smoke, those who earned the least, and those who had the least control at their jobs tended to be more depressed when compared with other workers.
Early warning signs of stress include becoming easily agitated, feeling overwhelmed, low energy, headaches, upset stomach, difficulty in sleeping, clenched jaw, racing thoughts, difficulty in focusing, changes in appetite, and mood swings. Prolonged stress can have serious consequences and lead to anxiety, depression and even physical health issues.
8 things you can do to manage stress at work
The Priory's team of experts has provided the following recommendations that employees can follow to try and manage their own stress. These can be carried out on the job, at a desk.
1. Do the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Repetitive finger tapping can sometimes help to release negative emotions, such as anxiety. It has been called a psychological version of acupuncture in that it involves making contact with a number of acupuncture points. The specific points to tap are the end points of the major meridians (meridians are believed to be channels of subtle energy which flow through our body).
While focusing on your negative emotion, tap on a 'meridian' point (the eyebrow, side of the eye, under eye, under nose, chin, collarbone, under the arm and top of the head) three to seven times, repeating your negative thought in your head. After each emotion, take a deep breath and exhale.
Continue this until you feel calmer and relieved. When you feel more relieved, repeat the technique while you tap through a "positive round", repeating more uplifting phrases.
2. Use guided meditation apps
Many apps like Headspace offer different types of meditation for different concerns, or simply basic meditation. These typically offer meditation as short as three minutes and up to 20 minutes.
3. Relax your muscles
The 'progressive muscle relaxation' involves tensing and releasing muscles in certain intervals, and it can be done at any time during the day. There are guided versions available online for free on YouTube.
4. Do deep breathing exercises
Take a long deep breath while counting for five to eight seconds, then hold it for five to eight seconds. Repeat several times to relieve anxious/stressed feelings. This can help re-centre you during a busy work day.
5. Eat healthy
Avoid comfort eating and, instead, choose food that increases your energy and gives you sustainable nutrients to get you through the day.
6. Plan out your week or day ahead
Prevention is key. Create a check list of things that need to be completed by priority. Give yourself enough time to complete each task and schedule regular breaks to avoid burnout. Reward yourself for completing tasks, even if it's as simple as crossing it off the checklist.
7. Accept things you can't change
Changing a difficult situation isn't always possible. So, accept what you cannot change and focus on the things you do have control over - such as looking for another job.
8. Do something that can clear your mind
Put on headphones and listening to music can have many benefits, such as helping you relax and focus on something you enjoy. Take a walk - even it's just to the water station and back to your desk. Ideally, enjoy some fresh air. Changing your environment can re-energise you.