The other day I heard about Karoshi. Karoshi is the Japanese word for working yourself to death. Not just exhaustion, or even mental breakdown. No, they actually die.
I hate to say it but I’m not surprised this is happening. I personally worked for a couple organizations that seemed to work to undermine my non work time. I have known several people who seem devoted beyond reason to their jobs. It’s not just about working when you aren’t at work, it’s being consumed by it, personally and professionally.
But working yourself to death requires extra effort.
I wonder what has brought us to this point. Is it that we have forgotten how to spend our free time? I ask this because I have witnessed people’s amazement when I talk about my volunteering, my music, and my sports. I read, I watch TV, I try to experience life. I know that many people’s first response is well it is different if you have kids. I agree, it is. But a lot of the people who are amazed at what I do don’t have kids. And a lot of the victims of Karoshi have kids. If they are working themselves to death, how much time are they spending with their kids?
Our bodies are not set up for permanent stress. The constant production and subsequent presence of stress hormones has a lot of negative consequences including straining your heart. Reducing stress doesn’t have to take all day. Looking at a tree has been shown to reduce stress, even when you look through a window. Exercise teaches your body how to deal with stress hormones better. We all need to do things for ourselves. We all need to make time to relax. The consequences of not doing it can be a heck of a lot worse than losing a few minutes that you normally dedicate, intentionally or not, to someone else.
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