Is Your Work Driving You Insane?

How do you feel right now? Are you stressed? Relaxed? Overwhelmed? Somewhere in the middle?

The answers to those questions may determine your mental health within the next 10 years. A recent study conducted by Charles et al (2013) found that the way you respond to daily stress-especially when the stress is “minor”-can have a serious impact on your long term health.

Let’s face it, not everyone deals with stress in the same way. Some of us internalize every little detail. Others let things roll off our backs. Up until now we knew that stress was bad, and probably had long term effects. But as more research has been done, the trend is clear: stress today takes its toll tomorrow.

In the Charles study, about one in 5 people reported problems with anxiety or depression.

It turns out that if you are the type of person who reacts to stress (even minor annoyances like traffic and computer problems) by having your mood change by those events, you’re at risk for mental health issues down the road. That’s not a good thing, considering how much stress most of us feel daily.

What this means for the Creative…

If you’re a creator, as many Upmarket readers are, you need to be aware of your daily rhythms and routines. Are you allowing yourself to become overwhelmed by your To Do list? Do you get worked up when even one small detail of a project goes wonky? When we let stress continue for days at a time, we are increasing the odds of mental illness. A simple way to address this is by getting control of your creative process. Books like The Accidental Creative are great at helping to establish rhythms that not only allow us to produce more, but also to reduce our stress.

What this means for the Entrepreneur…

As Entrepreneurs, we often don’t have complete control of our schedules. There is a sense that if we rest, business will fall apart. So we subject our bodies and minds to continued and prolonged stress. Stop! It’s not a long-term winning strategy. Instead we need to focus on rest and work rhythms. You need time off. You need time away from your business. It might seem like you’re saving money by taking on everything yourself, but you’re really just robbing the future. If you can’t walk away from your business in the evenings or on the weekends, then you probably need to find a way to hire someone to cover that time, or to set better expectations with your clients. Clients may be demanding. In extreme cases they may be selfish. But no client wants a poor product, and that’s the only type of thing you can produce on no rest!

What this means for the Boss…

If you’re a leader, then you need to take stress seriously. All too often we pay lip service to “family first” or “work/life balance” but still expect employees to drop everything and change their plans for a new priority. While sometimes that’s inevitable, all too often it’s more the result of poor planning or poor communication on our part. By setting realistic deadlines, being engaged in the lives of employees, and knowing when to push and when to be restful, you’ll go a long way toward developing employees who can produce for many years to come.

Photo credit: Johan Larsson

About Eric Barrett

Eric Barrett is an organizational psychologist who specializes in connecting the dots of work, life, and meaning. He has worked as an organizational psychologist for over a decade, and is most recently working on developing social media guidelines for a real estate company. He also teaches psychology at Xavier University. In his spare time he… wait, who are we kidding… he has no spare time. You can follow him on Twitter @MeaningToWork or his blog at Meaning to Work.

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