Question: Should I change my job if I am finding it stressful after a heart attack?
Answer: Wouldn't it be nice, if when we were in a stressful job, all we had to do was to change the job, get those demands down, get our level of control up, get more reward for the energy we're investing in that job? It would be nice. Unfortunately, not many of us have that option. We need to bring home a salary, and there aren't a lot of other jobs out there that are any better than the one we already have. So, for many of us, probably I would say for most of us, as nice as this would be, it's not really an option. And furthermore, with globalization, jobs being sent off shore, I don't think it's that likely that we're going to be able to get the workplace changed. Stay in your job, but have it be better, have it give you more control, more rewards, and so forth. That's probably not a realistic hope. I think we should lobby for it, and I'm working hard for that, but I'm not totally optimistic that we're going to have much success in that area.
Therefore, what can you do? You can train yourself to be more resistant to those stresses at work. You can train yourself to be able to cope with them more effectively, so that they're not giving this frustration and anger and anxiety cascade a start. So that they're not causing you to have the stress hormones that make your platelets sticky, and so that they don't make you go out and get that extra drink or head for the icebox for that extra snack when you're really feeling down when you get home at the end of the day.
It is possible to learn how to cope with stress better. Randomized, controlled trials have shown that people learning coping skills can reduce their levels of stress and anxiety and depression and blood pressure. So that's the good news. You can learn to manage stress better. But you do have to take the steps and be active about it. It's just like diet and exercise -- it doesn't happen automatically. You've got to learn how to use these skills, and then put them into practice in your everyday life. I can tell you that the work that we've done so far tells us that when people are taught to use these skills and do use them, that the benefits are considerable.