Cracking up?

Work related stress can ruin your life, not just your job.

After three weeks of summer holidays with her family in Italy, Laura Hughes was preparing to return to her job of producing current-affairs documentaries. Flipping open her laptop, she heard her son Oscar, 6, remarking glumly to his father that “Mummy’s going back to work, so she’s going be really angry with us all again and we better stay out of her way”. It was a reminder that she wasn’t fooling anyone; managing a high-octane career was making her intolerably stressed.

“Oscar’s words hit me hard,” she says. “Although my work is demanding, I thought I’d shielded my family from the stress I was under. But he was spot-on. When I’m working hard, I take it out on my family by shouting or getting tearful, and really resenting the perfectly reasonable demands they place on me — they’re my children, after all. At a certain level, stress is exciting and motivating. But there’s another moment beyond that — and it’s hard to identify when it’s approaching — when I’m like a frightened bunny. I become paralysed with fear, waking at 4am feeling sick, which means I’m a nightmare by evening. It’s not just me paying the price: the kids do, my husband does and my employee does, too, because I know I’m less productive in that state.”

The psychological manifestations of stress that Laura describes — sleeplessness, nausea, fear — are familiar to many people. Work-related stress can be responsible for numerous physical conditions, including raised blood pressure, headaches, indigestion and increased heart rate, but the emotional toll is often the thing that is most difficult for women to handle. At its worst, acute stress can be responsible for severe depression and panic attacks, devastating for the individual, but also for society as a whole, because it is estimated that 13.8m working days are lost every year due to work-related emotional stress.

Source - Times

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