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June 1, 2000

Is Job Stress Making You Sick?

woman at desk stressed

Burning the midnight oil may seem like an obvious way to get ahead. But late nights typically lead to less sleep and poor eating habits, both of which lead to poor productivity in the long run.

Photo Credit: pidjoe/iStock

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The Breaking Point But many of us push past those mental and physical warning signs. "High achievers are the very type of people who think they can handle these feelings on their own," says Dr. Robinson. "They often don't ask for help until their stress snowballs and turns physical -- in the form of headaches, acne or indigestion." Constant stress will attack where the body is most vulnerable, he adds, which explains why some people come down with repeated colds and flus (signs of a weak respiratory tract), and others get clobbered with stomachaches and ulcers (meaning the gastrointestinal system is weakest).

If prolonged stress goes untreated, over time it can make your hair fall out, your joints ache and even stop your period. It can also lead to alcoholism, severe depression and hypertension. Eventually, chronic stress will even strip away your ability to enjoy time off: A recent study shows that people who juggle large workloads and feel overly responsible are the most likely to be plagued by headaches, muscle pain, fatigue and more when they're out of the office.

"Everybody has a breaking point," says Dr. Robinson. The goal is to realize you've hit yours long before physical symptoms set in. So listen to your body when it's tired or anxious, and commit yourself to taking breaks when those signals go off. Read on for more tips on how to get work stress under control.

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