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Learning something new could help lower on-the-job stress: report

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Ann Arbor, MI – “You learn something new every day,” an old adage suggests. And people who apply that saying at work may be more effective at dealing with stress than their co-workers who take coffee breaks, walk or listen to music to relax on the job, according to researchers at the University of Michigan.

The researchers conducted separate, complementary studies of workers in various industries, including finance, health care and education.

For the first study, 103 participants completed two daily surveys on job stressors, learning and relaxation at work, and negative behaviors. The second study involved 221 worker-supervisor pairs filling out surveys. Workers filled out a main survey on workplace behaviors, while their supervisors completed a survey on individual workers’ negative behaviors.

Results showed that workers who sought on-the-job learning opportunities combated stress more effectively than workers who participated in relaxing activities.

“When an individual comes out of relaxation activities at work and realizes the stressful situation hasn’t changed, it may generate frustration and reverse the benefits of relaxation,” Chen Zhang, report co-author and U-M doctoral student, said in a Sept. 27 press release. “When it comes to addressing negative emotions and actions in stressful work environments, building positive resources by learning something new at work could be more useful than relaxing.”

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