Guest blog by Tim Bean and Anne Laing
Would it surprise you to know that the average person is on 14 different medications by the time they die?
What most people don’t know is that this process begins much earlier in life, and stress can play a major part in it.
In the traditional sense, stress is simply a physiological response to a perceived circumstance.
Now in situations where a physical action is appropriate, these responses are fantastic. We become able to function at a far superior level that we would otherwise be capable. But the modern dilemma is that we are now almost entirely sedentary.
Most of the stress we encounter today tends to be faced from an office chair – and the stress never seems to end. There is no real resolution, and no realistic way of physically responding to the threat.
In the modern office it isn’t appropriate to leap across the desk and strangle a colleague or your boss, and running away simply isn’t an option either. In many cases (such as time pressure, decision-making or workload) it’s a threat we can’t even see.
Physically, inside, the very responses that were programmed into us since the dawn of time to ensure our survival in a crisis now become the greatest threat to our lives themselves.
- Heart rate and blood pressure increase putting strain on our heart, blood vessels and arteries, placing us a greater risk of a heart attack, aneurism or stroke.
- Digestion suffers as the body prioritises activity to the muscles and major organs.
- Additional sugars and fats dumped into the bloodstream to use as extra energy are re-cycled and deposited as dangerous trunk fat.
- The constant unresolved stress overloads the adrenal glands, thyroid and pancreas – further compounded with the addition of coffee, cigarettes or other stimulant drugs.
Without the natural responses available to us, we become completely wired, yet worn-out. Exhilarated, yet exhausted. Fired up, but fed up. And we can be assured of one thing – it will kill us sooner rather than later.
Let’s face it; stress is already embedded in the city, and it’s a devils pact. You sell your soul to the corporation, and it rewards you very well and looks after you. But it expects you to do its bidding, and generate the money.
Your private life can at times be extremely difficult, but it often takes second place along with your health and family. Sometimes we have to remind people, “You’re going to burn out – you won’t be in a job, but in a hospital if you continue like this.”
One of the reasons that burnout is so severe and traumatic when it arrives, is that few accept that it is coming. It’s our ‘alpha’ drive that keeps the wheels of business turning. What the markets won’t allow, and what you can never admit to, is breaking down, burning out or stressing out. Failure at any level is inconceivable, unacceptable – and unforgiveable.
It seems the first rule of command at the top is NOT talking about the psychological meltdown that’s just around the corner, so you start the day with coffee to get going, use high sugar snacks to get you through the day and unwind with alcohol at night. Alcohol starts as an anaesthetic against the pain of pressure, yet can quickly become a destructive force in its own right.
Younger and younger men and women are ignoring the needs of their body and suddenly find themselves flaming out, having depressive episodes, or worse, experiencing a stroke or heart attack too early in their working lives.
Most people don’t really know what else they could do without their jobs. It’s a vocation and a profession, of which social standing and self-worth are important elements. However it’s also a lifestyle that by its very nature encourages more stress. The perpetual treadmill that keeps going faster, and faster and faster…
That being said, statistics do show consistently that top performers in business, who survive the rigors of command, share some common traits. They ALWAYS take their holidays, and they always prioritise quality sleep and time out. They never miss exercise, they feed their body high-performance foods to keep it healthy – and what’s more they don’t abdicate this responsibility to others.
It is a top-down issue as leadership behaviour influences everyone else in the organisation. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is a personal option, but there is no doubt that the behaviours of senior management strongly influence the behaviour of employees.
And the key here is visible behaviour. What a manager says or writes has limited effect, but what he or she actually demonstrates through his or her behaviour is extremely powerful.
The great physicist, Albert Einstein, said, “Leading by example is not the main means of influencing another. It is the only means.”
Companies now have to recognise the value of their cerebral capital. Their top people have to be looked after because it’s too costly when they break down.
On the face of it there are some very obvious solutions.
- Prioritise 7-8 hours sleep – without a mobile phone in the room.
- Build stress-burning physical activities into your day – like weight training and climbing stairs.
- Get an Adrenal Stress Index Test, (ASI) to assess the body’s production of the major stress hormones, cortisol, and DHEA. This profile serves as a critical tool for uncovering biochemical imbalances that can underlie anxiety, chronic fatigue, obesity, diabetes and a host of other clinical conditions.
- Supplement with nutrients, such as vitamin C, magnesium and zinc, which can become depleted during ongoing stress – causing a hyper-active brain that won’t switch off…
- Commit to eating only nutrient-dense, high-performance foods.
- Avoid alcohol during the working week.
- Commit to a lean bodyweight. Excess fat is toxic to the business body and brain.
There’s more information, discussion and strategic action points in our latest book The Wealthy Body in Business.
Pre-order your copy here.