Channel energy away from work to cut stress

IT is a very stressful profession. According to a recent survey into workplace pressures by travel insurance provider,...

IT is a very stressful profession. According to a recent survey into workplace pressures by travel insurance provider, Journeywise, IT professionals emerged as the most stressed workers, with 71% of senior IT consultants saying they suffer from severe levels of stress, writes Roisin Woolnough.

Close behind were air traffic controllers, fire-fighters and policemen and women.

Workplace stress is a big problem for employees and employers. An estimated 500,000 individuals say they are so stressed that it makes them ill, according to research carried out by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

This translates as one in five professionals and many working days lost to stress-related illnesses.

No wonder employers are concerned - business loses billions of pounds a year because of those lost working days.

The HSE is so concerned about the situation that it has made stress-busting a priority and issues guidance to employers to help them to tackle the problem.

But IT professionals can, of course, take matters into their own hands and rid themselves of some of that angst through carefully chosen leisure activities.

One of the best ways to combat stress is to pursue a hobby that completely takes your mind off work issues. Xtra has looked at five stress-busting activities that might suit the sedentary worker.

Alternative therapy is much more accepted in the UK these days, particularly acupuncture - as long as you don't have a problem with needles, of course.

People have been practising acupuncture for more than 5,000 years, but it only really took off in the UK in the early 1970s. Developed in the Far East, needles are applied along a series of pressure points.

Acupuncture can be used to treat a variety of ailments, including back pain, injuries, stress-related illnesses and so on.

The British Medical Acupuncture Society warns that anyone can set themselves up as an acupuncturist so if you are seeking a practitioner you should consult them for a bona fide acupuncturist.

Charity work
Helping others in your spare time can be a surprisingly good way of relaxing.
There are all sorts of possibilities for volunteer work, from visiting elderly people to helping out in a youth centre, taking on a prisoner as a pen pal or restoration and environmental work.

Some people like to put their professional skills to good use - after all, doing IT in a different context, such as teaching disabled people to make music through technology, is not like the IT you do at work.

IT professionals who work in very commercial organisations, earning a whopping salary, often like to put something back into the community.

Flotation tanks
Not for the fainthearted or claustrophobic, flotation tanks are hailed by some as the ultimate relaxation.

Developed in the US in the 1950s, they are pretty much what they are called: a specially-designed tank in which you float. The tanks, which take one person at a time, are full of salt water and once you are in, you are usually left alone for half an hour or so, with the lights turned off.

The idea is that all sense of gravity, sight and sound are eliminated, allowing you to empty your mind and relax your body.

Rock climbing
Adventure sports seem to hold a particular appeal for IT professionals.

Rock climbing in particular attracts a lot of individuals, both for indoor and outdoor climbing. Across the UK, there are all sorts of centres and classes that cater for the indoor climber.

While it is not about relaxing the body or mind the sheer concentration involved can be a great stress reliever as work has to go out of the window.

Also, for sedentary IT professionals, anything that involves a bit of exercise can be good news.

Yoga is another alternative therapy that has grown in popularity, so much so that it is now widespread in the UK.

An Indian discipline, it aims to create a healthy balance between body and mind through various moves, breathing exercises and concentrating the mind. It is very good for alleviating stress and sore muscles.

Pilates, a therapy that has many similarities with yoga, has taken over as the latest craze and a lot of would-be yoga-ites are now trying pilates.

Invented by Joseph Pilates, it is again about form and postural principles, but without the spiritual emphasis.

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