Studies show that work stress can lead to an increased risk of heart attack. Though the link was associative rather than causal, the researchers behind the data suggest that 3.4% of study subjects could have prevented a cardiovascular event if they had reduced their workload or practiced stress management techniques prior to the incident.
Levels of job strain among European men were analyzed over a 20 year period. Of the sample group (which included tens of thousands of men), 15% reported experiencing significant levels of daily stress related to work responsibilities.
Though we cannot extrapolate beyond this initial research, one can imagine that American workers (who spend, on average, longer hours at the office and take fewer days off than their European counterparts) experience this effect even more strongly.
It can be difficult to find a moment to relax when work picks up, but it’s absolutely crucial to do so. Despite our type-A tendencies to power through obstacles and work around the clock, we actually put ourselves at a disadvantage when we try to do too much. Working under stress leads to decreased productivity, lowered morale, and a depressed immune system. You’re much more likely to get sick and compromise your efforts entirely (and those of your coworkers!) if you try to do too much, than if you take short breaks to clear your head and focus on specific tasks ahead.
Try some deep breathing exercises, a walk around the block, or a quick tabata session to blow off some steam at your desk. If your corporate culture is not conducive to exercise breaks, try closing your eyes and focusing inward for one full minute at your desk.