The industrial diseases of the 19th and 20th century, such as asbestosis, are thankfully on the way out, but another insidious hidden problem has taken their place; stress.
The mines and pits have been replaced by the call centre and the trading floor and so serious has the problem of stress and mental ill health become in the streamlined, downside workplace of the 21st century, that there is a growing call for the Health and Safety Executive to introduce specific legislation to manage it.
Stress is the result of perceived excessive demands, overload and overwhelm which can stimulate the fight, flight or freeze response, a primitive response that was intended to ensure safety during survival situations. When however you are constantly under pressure, your body will not be able to maintain homeostasis (a state of ease and balance) and dis-ease can result; negatively affecting your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your health. If you find yourself frequently overwhelmed, it is important to take action and bring your nervous system back into balance.
Complementary therapies such as massage, kinesiology, Bowen technique and reflexology for whom our anatomy and physiology courses were created work with the body to maintain and restore homoeostasis. They gently get the body back into balance so that the body can heal itself. If that seems far-fetched then think of a broken arm. An orthopaedic surgeon may manipulate a fractured bone to straighten it and set it in plaster to protect it and hold it in place, but it is the human body that mends the fracture by laying down new bone tissue.
As therapists we need to understand the insidious effect of stress on the body as many diseases and disorders are caused or worsened by stress. This is part one of a three part article about stress and how using the knowledge gained from our anatomy and physiology courses we can help our clients.
There is no doubt that stress in the workplace has increased. The facts speak for themselves;
“Stress in the workplace may be costing businesses £12 billion a year” -The Health Education Authority 1999
“Stress is likely to become one of the most significant risks to businesses and employers in the short term” says a big insurance company quoted in a recent survey. British Safety Council 1999
“A survey of more than 300 organisations showed that one in five companies, with more than 1,000 staff, described stress as a major problem”- Gee Publishing 1999
“30 times more working days were lost as a result of stress-related mental illness than industrial disputes” - C.B.I 1995
“80 million workdays are lost each year through emotional difficulties” - Department of Health
“70% o f GP visits are for stress-related complaints” - International Stress Management Association
“Two thirds of trade-union health and safety officers said stress was their biggest concern” when surveyed by the TUC in 1996. The TUC is currently quoting 470 union-backed cases related to stress currently being pursued.
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