(STAR) By Don Robespierre Reyes, MD T- The workplace can be a stressful environment whether you’re an employer or an employee. Stress is simply an inevitable fact of life that must be acknowledged then subsequently managed if we expect to thrive in the modern workplace.

Workplaces in various parts of the world share a common way of dealing with stress — the universal ritual called “the coffee break.”

In more ways than we realize, coffee has been our silent partner in coping with the demands of the workplace.

Apart from the ordinary stress we endure at our jobs, all of us experience “oxidative stress.” This is a natural part of breathing the oxygen we need to live. Unfortunately, oxygen is also involved in the formation of harmful substances called free radicals which can damage our body’s cells.

Oxidative stress comes from other sources aside from oxygen. Environmental pollutants and even radiation from the sun can also produce oxidative stress, encouraging the formation of more free radicals.

Once formed, these unstable molecules start a toxic chain reaction which damages our cells. This, in turn, can have varying consequences such as signs of premature aging, cardiovascular diseases, degenerative diseases, cataract, cancer, immune system decline, and other health problems.

Antioxidants have been linked to a number of potential health benefits. Research has linked antioxidant-rich coffee with reduced incidence of gallstones, liver cirrhosis and type 2 diabetes. Increasing evidence also indicates coffee to be protective in model cancer studies.

What exactly is stress? More particularly, what is “workplace stress?”

Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary defines “stress” as “the result produced when a structure, system or organism is acted upon by forces that disrupt equilibrium or produce strain.”

For the most part, a little stress can be beneficial, as when it is perceived as a “challenge” that motivates us to do our best. But when stress occurs in such amounts that we feel unable to cope, both mental and physical changes may occur.

“Workplace stress” then is the harmful physical and emotional responses that can happen when there is a conflict between the demands of the job and the amount of control an employee has over meeting these demands.

In general, the combination of high demands of our jobs and a low amount of control over the situation can lead to “workplace stress.”

Antioxidants at work

Our jobs can be a landmine of stress. Navigating the demands placed on us at work can be tricky business so it’s always best to be prepared. And while there are some things we have no control over, there are simple things we can do, such as drinking a cup or two of coffee during the workday to take charge of our lives.

For instance, our appearance plays more of a role in the workplace than you might imagine. A growing body of research supports what many have suspected all along: In the workplace, an employee’s physical appearance matters and affects his success at his or her job.

Simply put, looking older than we really are is not good for business or careers. Aging is a natural process but oxidative stress combined with garden-variety stress can compound the situation and make us look tired, haggard and unprepared to take on the responsibilities of our jobs.

At the very least, we can do what we can to minimize the effect time has on all of us by making sure we take in enough antioxidants to ward off premature wrinkles. That’s one less thing we all need to worry about.

Another key stressor in the workplace is fear of being sick and consequently perceived as not being able to perform one’s duties. A healthy lifestyle, coupled with a proper diet, can do much to help us perform at our peak.

Research suggests coffee has been found to be a significant daily source of antioxidants even in highly developed countries like the United States, where all too often, workers in a rush to get back to their jobs skip meals that provide needed nutrition and antioxidants.

Antioxidants are most often found in abundant quantities in vegetables and fruits. This has led several countries to recommended daily consumption of vegetables and fruits.

Studies have shown that coffee actually contains the highest amount of one kind of antioxidants called polyphenols, in a per serving basis. Green coffee beans, in particular, contain many different types of antioxidants and have twice the amount of antioxidants found in green tea. Furthermore, the brewing process creates its own set of helpful compound which are unique to coffee alone.

Certainly, we shouldn’t look to coffee alone to dealing with stressful lives at work but it’s good to know that enjoying a coffee break can actually help us remain healthy and more productive at work.

Finally, let us not underestimate the value of coffee breaks in general to overall productivity. Short coffee breaks spaced at regular intervals during the workday can create a pleasant work environment that allows people to feel good about their jobs, and reducing “workplace stress” even further.

It can also facilitate much needed socialization between people at work, forging them into a more cohesive unit working toward common goals.

Some studies have also associated coffee with improved alertness and memory.

This, in addition to the social act of drinking coffee together is probably why it’s a good idea to offer coffee during meetings. Not only is the general mood lighter, but also your brain becomes more receptive to new ideas.

All in all, work is still work but with coffee as a social lubricant, work tends to get done with less stress and that’s definitely good for business.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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