As early as 2011, I wrote about the perfect storm of too much work, stress, and exhaustion. In my blog, Lying Down Therapy, I talked about the push/pull of too much work and the need to rest and relax:
I had several clients recently who are suffering from adrenal exhaustion but the very cause of their condition…too much work and stress makes it difficult for them to accept the therapy…which is REST.
When one client, who is on the health program I laid out for her, emailed to ask what else she could do or take to get over her fatigue, I said REST.
I am a great fan of Dr. Malcolm Kendrick who wrote The Great Cholesterol Con. In his book he discusses an alternative reason for heart disease — stress, not cholesterol. He states:
Everyone has always known that stress kills. The medical profession, which has a horrible aversion to accepting that there is any connection between the mind and the body, has tried to crush this ‘knowledge’ using western scientific methodology as its weapon of choice, ‘We can’t measure stress, so it doesn’t exist.
But, that’s not necessarily the case. As I said after reading his book,
However, stress can be quantified by measuring the hormones produced by the HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) axis. Kendrick and a few researchers say that stressful overstimulation of the HPA axis creates all the messed-up biochemistry that causes arteries to clog up and hearts to fail. When you look at cortisol, one byproduct of stress, and what it does to the body when it runs rampant, the association becomes clear.
If you want to read more of my post on his book, click here.
Too Much Work
One of my staff told me an interesting story that I think perfectly illustrates the issue of too much work that Americans, particularly women, face. Her nephew’s wife is an architect who was born and educated in Asia. She moved to the United States after her marriage and continued her work as an architect. Shortly after starting her new job here, she found out she was pregnant. My assistant visited her nephew and his wife one day and found the young woman in tears. The overwhelmed lady said, “This is supposed to be the American dream. All your women do here is work. Back home, as an architect, I worked perhaps an 8 hour day. But then I came home and had help to take care of the rest. Here, I’m working in the office all hours and then at home all night long.” The Puritan ethic of working from dawn until dusk is so conditioned that it takes someone from outside this culture to even notice that Americans work too much!
Then, we wonder why the next generation of workers are self-medicating their stress away with alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, and sex. This endless cycle of stress followed by self-medicating is the perfect recipe for poor health and a short life cycle. It’s really too bad, because common sense tells you that there is an easy simple solution – REST.
How Can I Rest?
Just like any other conditioned habit, you can replace chronic overworking with a healthier mixture of activity and rest. The easiest way to add rest to your day is to change your habits a little at a time. If the firm you work for has two 15 minute breaks a day, use at least 5 minutes of each of those breaks to find a quiet place, perhaps even outside, to just close your eyes, turn off your thoughts, and breathe deeply. A good alternative is to put relaxing music on your music app and listen to that music for five minutes. Another choice would be to go to a park near your office and just listen to the birds sing.
Then, when you come home from work, don’t go into hyper-drive cooking, cleaning, washing laundry, etc. Take 20 minutes away from it all. Put on some loose clothes, lie down in a dark room, and listen to your favorite quiet music. Let every thought you have about your day just drain away, as you breathe and listen.
By just adding these three small breaks in your day, you are going to see your body revive and you will be more focused and productive when you do work. Taking the time to rest will create more long term health, too.
Dr. Carolyn Dean