The Best Ways to Stop Job Worries

The surprising cure for job stress: Schedule one more meeting. The current daily avalanche of headlines about layoffs, mergers, plant closings, and jobs being exported to countries halfway around the world can give even rock-solid employees job jitters. What to do if you’re on edge? You can’t change what researchers call “collective uncertainty about the future,” but you can book a meeting with your supervisor to discuss the company’s goals and define your role in achieving them. Research shows that clearly defined goals make workers happier and healthier.

Then, run. Not from your job, but for the financial health of your company (and for your own health). See, gym-goers perform better at work than sedentary people. And when one study looked at entrepreneurs — people under extreme stress and time constraints — it was clear that those who took the time away from their business to run regularly were not only better at attaining personal satisfaction, but also had significant improvement in sales over companies managed by nonrunners.

Why does that work? Physically active people process data faster, and they’re more likely to have less stress or to handle it better than chair-bound types. Workouts help your mind relax, so it’s a better incubator for new ideas and solutions. As one study subject said, “Running gives me a body that performs better at everything that I must do during the day.” Even if your job is secure, why pass up the chance to be at the top of your game all day long?

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Laugh for Better Blood Vessels

Laugh your way to better blood vessel function by watching a funny flick.

Laughter relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow — the exact opposite of what your blood vessels do when you are stressed. In a small study of healthy men and women with normal blood pressure, watching a funny movie increased blood flow by about 22 percent. If funny movies aren’t your style, spend time with the people who tickle your funny bone.

Blood vessels are lined with a layer of cells called endothelium; they regulate blood flow by helping blood vessels expand and contract. In a small study, healthy men and women watched either a funny movie or an intense, violent one while researchers measured blood flow through an artery in their upper arm. Watching the funny movie caused blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow by about 22 percent. The action movie caused mental stress and blood vessel constriction, decreasing blood flow by about 35 percent. Having relaxed blood vessels decreases strain on the heart. Researchers aren’t exactly sure how mood states affect blood vessels. Different mood states may alter levels of hormones, such as cortisol, that affect blood vessel function or nitric oxide function. Nitric oxide is a chemical messenger that promotes blood vessel relaxation. Proper diet and regular exercise are the mainstays of improving blood vessel health, but laughing often is a great adjunct.

Fine-Tune Your Focus

A short attention span is a hallmark of adult ADHD. But even those with highly distracted minds can take steps to improve their focus. For starters, ADHD adults can minimize daily distractions, like cleaning up cluttered personal spaces, powering down attention-stealing digital devices, and keeping daily to-do lists to a reasonable (and realistic) length.

Beyond that, there are lifestyle strategies that have a direct impact on the brain’s ability to pay attention:

Catch more ZZZs. Lack of sleep — common in adults with ADHD — worsens daytime fatigue and seriously impairs concentration and productivity. It also messes with learning, memory, executive functioning, and emotional stability. If you have a sleep-deprived ADHD adult in your life, suggest that they talk to their doctor about sleep aids that might help.

Hit the gym. According to research, exercise is a powerful tool to boost attention in adults with or without ADHD. But in ADHD-specific studies, exercise improved impaired attention, impulse control, and executive functioning by enhancing neurological functioning in parts of the brain responsible for these jobs.

Be more Zen. Mindfulness meditation may train the brain to focus better. This ancient mind-quieting technique teaches people to reign in mental chatter and focus on the present moment. Although more research is needed to confirm its specific benefits for ADHD adults, one study did find that meditation boosted neural processes in regions of the brain responsible of sustaining attention.

Eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast leads to low blood sugar later in the day — and that means no fuel for your brain cells. Talk about a recipe for poor focus. According to several studies, eating breakfast improves concentration, mood, learning, memory, and overall cognitive functioning. But watch what you put on your plate. Choose complex carbohydrates like fruit and whole grains, which trigger a slow, steady, attention-sustaining release of blood sugar.