Don't Die Before Your Time. Say Goodbye to Stress Before it's Too Late
In the biggest survey of its kind in the UK, a YouGov survey for major health insurer Bupa has revealed just how stressed we are here in Britain.
With 44% of the 10,000+ surveyed believing they're currently stress sufferers, and nearly one third of these saying that they've felt this way for more than a year, the headline findings make far from relaxing reading.
Extrapolate these figures and it means nearly six million adults are more than feeling the strain.
Worse still, over a quarter of those stressed often think they are close to their 'breaking point'.
With today (November 6th) being National Stress Awareness Day, it's well worth asking; 'why are these numbers are so high?'
Perhaps not surprisingly, the single main cause of stress seems to be money worries, something identified by 20% of respondents. This is obviously a particularly severe problem if you're out of work - anyone who has suddenly been made redundant knows the extraordinary pressure that comes from trying to 'manage life and lifestyle' without any real income going into your bank account.
But money worries don't necessarily go away, even if you're employed and working for a large corporate organisation. Though you are being rewarded for your efforts, the pressure to keep hold of what you've got can still leave you with sleepless nights thinking not only about everyday bills, but also school fees and how to maintain the long-term lifestyle your family's come to expect.
The anxiety can become even worse when you're 'worrying for two' because you are dependent on the second income of a partner or spouse which can be so easily lost through redundancy.
For many who hope to achieve the results they hope will spare them from redundancy, much of the 'waking week' is spent either commuting or 'at work'. And with the relentless pressure to produce all too often 'seeping' into the weekend, this leaves British men in particular, already burdened by the longest working hours in Europe, deprived of even the restorative power of any 'me' time.
This is particularly so if you work for a corporate organisation where continuing waves of redundancies have heaped additional pressure on those left behind', who are then expected 'pick up the slack' and achieve more with less.
In such an unreasonably demanding environment, stress thrives, heightened by 24/7 connectivity that means we can never switch off.
Bupa's survey also shows that the strains of 'day-to-day working' sit only just behind 'money worries' - the biggest cause of stress for 18% of those surveyed.
For some, these time and money pressures can come together in a toxic mix as, with finances tight they're unable to pay for the holidays and socialising that would in the past have provided much needed opportunities to 'let off steam' and recharge batteries.
Even though the economy is now in recovery mode, many hard worked professionals and executives just can't see any light at the end of their particular long black tunnel. No matter how far ahead they strain to look, the future appears to be just more of the same ... or even worse ... a demotivating picture that all adds to the accumulation of stress.
Unfortunately, and especially when redundancies are still mounting, this darkness can become part of organisational culture with everyone feeding off the all-pervading sense of negativity that's sunk into the company's DNA.
With all these drivers of stress, physical and mental symptoms can easily manifest themselves.
However, most of us aren't best equipped to deal with stress because we're unwilling to make the fundamental changes necessary to improve our lives. So, we stick with what we know through fear, and end up trapped where we are, not able to make a career change, or career transition, worried about the 'uncertainty' doing something might bring.
Eventually, we become adept at absorbing the pressure, even though in many cases it's quite literally killing us through stress-related illnesses.
Of course, if you're feeling under real strain, then it's imperative to do something about it. Using de-stressing techniques such as deep breathing and exercise, and avoiding 'unhealthy' lifestyles and behaviours can go a long way to making you feel better. But of course, it should go without saying, that if you're still feeling 'overwhelmed' after trying these methods, you must seek help from your GP or an appropriate healthcare professional.
However, often only one thing will really remove the pressure that you're under ... and that's to escape the city corporate lifestyle, keeping on trying to 'make it work' is just papering over the cracks and the real reasons as to why you're feeling so stressed in the first place.
That means, everyone should periodically review their situation and reflect on whether it perhaps really is the moment to make a career transition. Just because you've pursued a particular career path for your many years, doesn't mean that your future should be defined by that past. You are free to do what you want.
Of course, that doesn't mean you should make precipitate decisions, quite the reverse since doing so is just likely to just add to the stress you're experiencing.
However, the sudden realisation that you don't have to keep on doing what you've always done, can be one of the greatest antidotes to stress, immediately lifting a crushing weight from your shoulders.
This very act of considering other future possibilities brings a new lightness to your life and if you involve your partner in this new future, then you could soon be creating an exciting adventure for both of you.
For more and more disillusioned 40+ professionals, that adventure lies outside the corporate world as independent business owners, consultants, freelancers and entrepreneurs. And for those who want to pursue this particular path, the rise of 'niche marketing' and new technologies, means that there's never been a better moment for 'getting out' and going it alone.
Of course, you might think that without the security of a regular salary, starting a business is the route to even more stress. But remember this ... research has shown that stress increases as the degree of control your feel over your life decreases.
And ... how much control over your life do you have in the corporate world where stress is continually imposed on you by the actions of others?
There's no contest.
So, if the prospect of enduring your current stress levels for the foreseeable future seems a dismal, remind yourself that it doesn't have to be that way, you can do something about it.
By Maite Barón 'author of 'Corporate Escape: The Rise of the New Entrepreneur'. You can download 'The 5 Keys To Help You Take Control Of Your Working Life™ - Leaving Uncertainty, Confusion and Fear Behind' HERE
Original BUPA Report can be viewed here