Who’s In Charge? You Or Stress?

(Note: first published on my stressarrestman blog

Stressed Davinci ImageIf you don’t have a stress management plan think again because…

The figures of stress related illness & deaths are really quite alarming and only seem to be rising.

In the UK teaching is the profession with one of the highest rates of stress related suicide. Statistics reveal that suicide rates among teachers average a third higher than the national average.

But the negative affects of stress are not limited to any one profession, they cut across all sectors of life from the self employed through teaching, the army and big business and even schoolchildren.

I was teaching a seven year old to speak English in China a few years ago and he started to have a nervous breakdown in front of me. He was a bright lad and both his parents and teachers were pushing him too hard.

Everyday, after regular school, he had extra classes which only finished around nine o’clock then he still had to finish his homework before going to bed. Weekends followed a similar pattern. He had little to no time to play or be a ‘regular kid’ - his parents didn’t think it was too much of a problem either. They took him to KFC or out for a pizza once a week as a break and had the view that he could take it easy once he had a good job and a good life.

In fact, this type of thinking is quite common in Asia where high stress & 12 hour workdays are the norm for schoolchildren.

In reality though, stress is not something to be trifled with. As Jenny Gould, executive coach and life coach with Oxford-based stress management and coaching company STP Consultancy stated recently:

“Stress is something that’s very insidious — you can deal with it for quite a long time before you then begin to find yourself burning out from it…”

Let’s take a look at just a few alarming examples of how stress can take charge of you and ruin your life:

  • In 2008 Christopher Foster, a successful UK businessman facing severe financial difficulties succumbed to the enormous stress he found himself experiencing, slew his horses and dogs before murdering his family and committing suicide
  • In 2011 Lloyds Bank (UK) president was hospitalised for 2 months after collapsing due to severe work pressure & 5 consecutive night without sleep…
  • Paul Juljich, chairman of a multi-million dollar organic food company listed on the New Zealand stock exchange, suffered a total nervous breakdown due to stress

He states: “I thought I had the perfect life at 40… I built a grand mansion, had a Ferrari in the driveway, a 25-yard indoor pool, tennis courts, a personal trainer, and I traveled the world free as a bird… However, he says that due to stress and making poor lifestyle choices, he lost everything. Over a period of years, I worked very hard and focused on many issues. But one day I couldn’t get out of bed. I was lying in a foetal position in total darkness thinking I’m afraid of the world and don’t want to talk to anyone… Stress was controlling me - I wasn’t controlling it!

  • Many schoolchildren suffer from so much stress they feel compelled to jump out of the window or turn to drink and drugs to get by
  • A senior sales executive (name withheld for privacy reasons) I worked with told me:

“I Was Successful At My Job But My Private Life? IT WAS HELL! I hadn’t slept properly for over a year… I was alone in a foreign city, with no friends or family… I came back from the office after 10PM and sought solace in the bottle. That was the only way I could relax and perhaps get a little sleep…But even that stopped working after a while and I had to resort to sleeping tablets prescribed by a local physician. I knew I was in a bad way but there seemed no way out…”

  • Carsten Schloter, the chief executive of telecoms group Swisscom, found the pressure too much and killed himself in 2013
  • Zurich Insurance Group’s Chief Financial Officer Pierre Wauthier was found dead at his home in Switzerland at the end of August 2013 in what police said appeared to be a suicide. Mr Wauthier’s widow, Fabienne, is said to have accused Zurich’s top management of driving her husband “into a corner” and that the “tough management style” had placed him under intolerable pressure.
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch said it would review the working conditions for junior employees after a 21-year old intern, Moritz Erhardt, died after allegedly working 72 hours without sleep in the summer of 2013
  • And in Japan where working 300 hours a month is quite common, the Japanese have a name for the phenomena whereby overstressed employees simply drop dead at their desks - it’s called Karoshi.

Think about your life for a moment, everyday you are assaulted by any number of stressors. They silently attack you, continuously building up until you are at your most susceptible and then strike viciously without warning…

If you are lucky the result may only be a sudden outburst of rage but it could be much worse.

Stress is often caused by a lack of control and a lack of support so it is imperative that you start to develop a stress management plan and implement it right away..

Stuart

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