Just Getting to Work is Stressful

In an eleven- year study of 6000 British workers, those who worked three to four hours of overtime  were found to be 60 percent more likely to have coronary problems than those working seven hours a day, or even a regular work day with a couple of hours overtime.

Over the years we’ve seen many people with stress-related physical and emotional poblems who definitely fit the description of “work-a-holic”. But despite vociferous objections and warnings from physicians and in the media, in the past decade there seems to have been a precipitous rise in the number of hours many people are working, at least the people we know–including us. No longer is it at all unusual to do business as usual on a Sunday and the weekend seems to have simply disappeared.

Is there a point at which working a certain number of hours is “good enough?” As pointed out in Malcom Gladwell’s best-selling book Outliers: The Story of Success, “smart enough” is good enough. Maybe we will discover that working “enough” is good enough, too.

It goes against our American cultural grain to think like this, for sure. We are a nation built, in large part, on the belief that hard work is good–therefore more hard work must be better. And work is good. It gives us a sense of purpose and provides us with sustenance and keeps us from hanging out all day on the sofa watching T.V. and eating chips.

But, at some point we must ask (and the “we” here is actually a pair of “work-a-holics in recovery”), if this threat to our physical and emotional and spiritual well-being is worth it. Everyone needs time off to have some space, have some fun, and “work” on the really important stuff in life, including our friendships and family relationships.

In this Huffington Post article, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote about his plan to “Turn Friday Night into Family Night”, which so far, hasn’t had much success, despite his having recently met and discussed this admirable idea with the Pope, who agreed with the premise.

If everyone did spend a few hours each day with family and friends (or even alone, when necessary) and blocked off a chunk of time with no cell phones, no Blackberries, no Ipods, no email, and simply no work of any kind, would this have an effect on stress levels (and the physical and emotional ramifications) ? Well, the facts aren’t in but it does seem like common sense.

A while ago I consulted with a mom whose family is “in crisis”.  My role was just to help her with a referral, however, I did ask when she began to notice some of the problems she, her husband, and kids were struggling with.

“Oh, that’s really easy,” she said.

“As soon as my husband took a second job and I began to go from working part-time to full-time.”

Food for thought.