Is My Job Killing Me?

Earlier this year the story of a Japanese woman who died from working too much made the rounds, and I really wanted to dig a little deeper. I wanted to not only find out more about her but also more about the whole concept of your job being able to literally kill you. But, then…I had to work. Now that I’ve found the time, I’m ready to take a crack at this.

Work Work Work Work Work

Have you ever heard the Rihanna song, Work? You know the one with the catchy, yet annoying chorus. While it may seem cool to be known as a hustler who’s always working or the important person who’s hard to get a hold of, working too much can turn the dream world you created upside down.

The story of Miwa Sado dying of heart failure due to overworking really hit home with me. I myself felt the ill effects of being overworked and stressed out a few years back.

At the time I was the manager of a big box sneaker store. Anyone who’s ever been a Store Manager in retail can tell you; the job isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

First of all, you get paid a base salary for a set amount of weekly hours (usually 40-48), but you always end up working beyond what you’re getting paid for. Sure they entice you with commissions and bonuses, but one day you’ll do a double-take of yourself in one of those full-length mirrors and ask yourself, “what am I doing with my life?”

To make a long story short, I ended up with high blood pressure and anxiety due to poor eating habits and overall work-related stress. Yea, you try eating healthy when the only “me time” you can get is “bedtime”.  Enough about me. Thankfully I’m still here. Let’s get back to this poor woman Miwa.

Karoshi

When I started the research on Miwa, I came across this interesting article by Chris Weller from Business Insider. I was amazed after just one bullet point! Here’s the one that locked me in:

Japan’s work culture is so intense, people in the 1970s invented a word that translates to “death by overwork.”

The article goes on to state that in addition to dying from heart failure and stroke, some employees are committing suicide. Wow! That’s insane. Supposedly this all goes back decades to a time after World War II when Japan was looking to boost its economy.

Corporations were asked to “offer their employees lifelong job security, asking only that workers repay them with loyalty.” Fast forward to current times and the culture lives on. For those that believe times have changed, this kind of puts a wrinkle in that theory.

Miwa Sado was only 31 years old. That’s a damn shame if you ask me. As I read on I was heartbroken by what I discovered. Check out these numbers.  “More than 20% of people in a survey of 10,000 Japanese workers said they worked at least 80 hours of overtime a month.”

In a BBC article featuring the same subject matter, the proof of this overtime culture continues. Makoto Iwahashi of Posse an organization that runs a helpline for young workers said, “It’s sad because young workers think they don’t have any other choice, but If you don’t quit you have to work 100 hours. If you quit you just can’t live.”

Work/Life Balance

After looking at a few examples of how your job could negatively affect your health, it seems like heart disease and high blood pressure (which leads to stroke) are the two main concerns.

In this article from WebMD, Christopher Tennant of the department of psychological medicine at Sydney University and the Royal North Shore Hospital in St. Leonards, Australia (wow, what a mouth full), produced on a study that had some interesting results. Check out the excerpt;

“In one study, bus drivers who worked in high intensity traffic areas were found to be more likely to die from heart disease than those whose routes were less hectic. And in six of nine studies, excessive hours also increased the risk for heart disease.”

In addition to health risks directly related to work, you then have psychological impacts and bad habits which are closely related to the job as well. Think about this.

Let’s say you have a stressful job where you bust your ass, but get little to no reward for your efforts. Add that in with a number of hours you work and you might end up smoking, abusing alcohol or drugs, and eating whatever you can find at the time just to fight off the hunger pains. So far no good, huh? So what are we supposed to do? We don’t want to kill ourselves, but we have to work.

Beyond getting rich and quitting your job, there are some strategies to help you cope with work-related stress.  I recently read an article about this very subject.  In this article, the Writer goes through what he believes are seven strategies for handling the professional overload.

He was once asked to come to work during his wife’s labor during the birth of one of his children. Just to give you a little insight into where he is coming from. Below are the titles of his strategies. If you want to get the breakdown just click here to read the full article.

Seven strategies for handling the professional overload

Strategy #1: Do Something

Strategy #2: Build an Emergency Fund

Strategy #3: Start Building Your Resume by Taking on Resume Builders

Strategy #4: Talk to Your Supervisor

Strategy #5: Walk Away from the Tasks That Make You Miserable and Focus on Excelling at the Rest

Strategy #6: Find Healthy and Positive Professional Support

Strategy #7: Focus on the Moment

I found another helpful list that goes over 8 Types of Work-Related Stress. This list is interesting because it breaks down the stress into profiles and also provides solutions. If you want the full breakdown click here to read the full article.

Which one of these stressed-out workers do you resemble?

  • Overworked underling
  • Frustrated go-getter
  • Castaway
  • Doormat
  • Tech prisoner
  • Burnout
  • Bully target
  • Wronged victim

Final Thoughts

After absorbing all of this information I’ve come to the conclusion that work-related stress is something that you can control, but it won’t be easy. Ironically, trying to combat work-related stress could stress you out more. But, there is an upside to putting up a fight. Think about it like this.

If you continue to keep working at a job that’s killing you, then it most likely, eventually will.  If you combat this initial stress, you may have a period of added stress by way of adding more on to your plate, but in the long run, it will help you find a real solution. I like to keep things as simple as possible (less stressful).

So, in my opinion, if you have work-related stress that you feel is negatively affecting your health, try some of the strategies suggested here. But, while you are doing all of that, build up that big emergency fund alluded to earlier. That fund is your secret weapon.

You see most bosses have your you know what in a sling when they know that you are dependant on your job to survive.  They know you will not quit because you can not quit. That puts you in a frustrating position. It’s like being a damn kid again.

This stockpile of money and assets will give you a power you’ve not felt since you were a teen going into adulthood.  Remember that feeling? The excitement of what lies ahead, and the freedom of choosing what path to walk down.

Get started on that fund right now. Even if it adds more to your plate. Just make sure it doesn’t add too much more. Get help if you need to. I just want you to be in ‘a position’ to walk away from ‘your position’ should you feel the uncontrollable urge to.

If you’re looking for the most effective end game when it comes to work-related check out these award-winning training programs.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of how your job can affect your health. Maybe now you come up with the answer to the question, is my job-killing me?

If this post helped you let me know. Leave a reply in the comment box below. Remember that there is such a thing as working to hard.

Works Cited

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