Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body's defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight-or-freeze” reaction, or the stress response.
By Dr. Mercola
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that stress costs American businesses $300 billion a year; and a Workplace Survey done by the American Psychological Association reported that many Americans suffer from chronic work-related stress.
The effects of our increasingly 24/7 work environments have gotten so bad that 38 percent of employees in one survey said they can’t stop thinking about problems related to emotional, health, financial, and job concerns.
If you ask those around you – your co-workers, friends, neighbors, and family – what they’ve been up to lately, there’s a good chance you’ll get a chorus of “busy” responses, a rattled off list of obligations and to-dos that we all scarcely have time for.
Yet, such busyness is valued in many cultures, including in the US where workers are increasingly expected to be on call both day and night. The implications this has on family life, leisure time, and personal health is immense, a topic that was recently explored in an intriguing Atlantic interview.
Why Are US Workers So Overwhelmed?
In an interview with the Atlantic, writer Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, explained that birth rates are actually declining in the US, as young people simply don’t see how they can juggle both work and family life, with the latter being ultimately sacrificed.
Busyness and “living a fast-paced life” are increasingly being viewed as signs of status. The more e-mails you have to check in a day, the more important you are. The more meetings you attend, phone calls you receive, and lessons your child attends, the better. On the work front, especially, extreme hours are valued and overwork has become the norm.
This has a tremendous impact on your quality of life outside of work, of course, as many are unable to fully disconnect from work, unwind and pursue valuable leisure pursuits. As Schulte explained:
“…overwork has really become pervasive. I’m not talking about hard work. I’m all for hard work that we find meaning in. But overwork leaves us burned out and disengaged butts in chairs at work and fried at home without the energy to do much more than flop down in front of the boob tube.
Not quite the leisure the ancient Greek philosophers had in mind when they said pure leisure was that place where we both refreshed the soul and become most fully human.
…Against that backdrop comes technology and the ability to be connected 24/7 – which leads to a feeling of constantly being ‘on call,’ that you can never quite get away from work, that the boundaries that used to keep work more contained have bled and spilled over into the hours of the day that used to be for family, for self, for leisure, for sleep.”
It's important to learn how to recognize when your stress levels are out of control. The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feel familiar, even normal. You don't notice how much it's affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll.