They call it karoshi in Japan: death from overwork. But even in Japan, most people don’t die from overworking, they just get sick and suffer. And suffering, year after year, can be a recipe for professional disaster…
We get stressed when we work too hard or under bad circumstances, and it’s not news to anyone that this stress can make us sick. But there’s one detail that gets overlooked in the discussion of stress and health: Not only can an overly stressful career make us sick, but once we do get sick, our low energy levels affect the quality and quantity of work we can do. do, and sooner or later, our poor performance can in turn ruin our careers.
Excess daily stress is something that unfortunately is very common for many people. And for many, it has already resulted in a variety of health problems, ranging from the merely annoying, embarrassing and mildly painful, like cold sores, acne, neck pain, headaches and hair loss, to obesity. heart attacks and even death.
Sometimes things can get so bad that karoshi can seem like a merciful way out. But let’s focus on the kinds of health consequences that result from stress that won’t quite kill you, and the impact they can have on your career in turn. If the stress is ongoing, and it usually is, you may end up suffering for years, alive but not so well.
We know that when the body experiences stress, it releases adrenaline and cortisol as part of our primitive fight or flight response. These important hormones help increase the level of oxygen in the blood and increase blood sugar, preparing us to fight or flee.
That reaction may have been useful at a time when fight or flight would have been considered reasonable options. But if your boss is yelling at you, neither hitting him with the kiss nor running away screaming qualifies as appropriate behavior. Instead, there you are, a sitting duck, awash in stress hormones with nowhere to go and no purpose other than to wreak havoc on your well-being.
What havoc? For example, the immune system is suppressed or damaged, compromising the body’s ability to resist infection. So you are the first to catch a cold in the office and the last to recover. And then there are a number of chronic health conditions that are caused or made worse by stress, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, migraine headaches, and heart disease. Some research suggests that stress can even cause cancer, or push the body past that critical hurdle where our immune system is no longer strong enough to fight it off.
There are also slightly less obvious conditions, less obvious at least to the outside observer: depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and adrenal exhaustion.
They all have in common that it will drain your energy and make it very difficult to do much work. Come to the performance review, you’ll have some explaining to do. And if anything, that will make your stress levels even worse.
Can you see where this is heading? Stress can harm your body, but it will also harm your career if you can’t control it. Reducing your stress levels has to be a top priority, because it can cost you not only your health but also your job. And then what are you going to do for health insurance?