You’d need to be a fly on the wall of my secluded little exam room at WholeHealth Chicago to realize how thoroughly day-to-day stress contributes to chronic physical and emotional ill health. Stress occurs when some force to which you’ve relinquished power controls your life. The source might be work, money, relationships, caregiving…or some grim combination of these. You know the list. In fact, you may even be aware that stress is affecting your health, but you’re stuck and feel powerless to change your situation because you lack the time, energy, or both.
The phrase “circling the drain” crosses your mind.
Work stress guts joyfulness from our lives
In recent years, the culprit most responsible for gutting joyfulness from our lives seems to be work stress, including job loss and the new job hunt. Every day I hear you, the employed: your work is joyless and draining. You’re working longer hours or adding a second job to make ends meet. Your supervisor (probably just as fried as you are) is behaving like a psychopath. You feel unfulfilled, you’re bored to tears, you’re commuting two hours every blessed day, and your company, school, or institution is about to announce more lay-offs. Your health benefits have been cut…again.
I also hear you, the unemployed: you’ve sent out hundreds of resumes and drawn nothing but blanks. You’ve been reduced to living on savings, draining your IRA. And you, the just-barely employed, filling empty hours at minimum wage, bringing in such a pittance you need a roommate or a move to a smaller apartment.
A new series of self-discovery workshops
This health tip announces a series of workshops on self-discovery, the first of which will (not surprisingly) deal with workplace stress. But let’s pause to ponder exactly why we’re suffering over this as we never have before.
Any economist worth her salt will tell you that while your work stress miseries are personal, the forces behind them are blandly impersonal, that as a result of them you’re caught in a Cuisinart dodging the spinning blades of poorly considered government and business economic policies.
Let’s make one fact clear: all the statistics show that when an American can get an affordable education, when she goes to work, is paid fairly (yes, I’m sadly aware that women’s wages were 76.5% of men’s in 2012), and is a productive worker, she’s at the top of her game. She–and you, and you too—are all part of the American workforce, the most productive on the planet. You all have drive, initiative, and a work ethic that’s unmatched in Europe or Asia. The real source of your workplace stress is the result of our fractured economy, which has allowed the middle class to become all but squeezed out of existence. You should be able to work one job, do it well, and earn a living. But to need a 60-hour week, or two jobs totaling even more hours (for some it’s even three), to maintain the same standard of living as 20 years ago, that’s crazy.
Inequality for All
You might want to catch the recently released documentary “Inequality for All,” which follows former Clinton cabinet member Robert Reich on his lecturing and teaching circuit, his quest clear: to illuminate the damage wrought on the American economy by our obscene income inequality. The widening gap between the mega-millioned CEO and his perennially laid-off, benefit-free, minimum-wage, part-time employees. In addition, see how the consequences of allowing government-sanctioned malnutrition and illiteracy are leading us into the status of a third-world country.
From the film I learned this interesting tidbit: look at your smartphone and guess where most of it comes from. You’ll answer (as I did) China. Wrong. Only 3% is from China. Most of it (34%) is made in Germany; it’s only assembled in China. Why is this important? Because Germany spends a fortune educating and training its young people to become the most skilled–and well-paid–workers on the globe. We should be right there beside them, or even ahead.
You are fried…but you are not alone
In other words, although your work-related stress is genuine, it’s not a “you” issue. Seeing the impact stress is having on everyone, WholeHealth Chicago has partnered with Deniz Professional and Executive Coaching and is initiating a series of workshops with the theme Self Discovery for Greater Well-Being. Our first session shapes up like this:
Coping With Work Stress in Today’s Uncertain Job Market
6:30 to 7:45 pm
Wednesday Oct 23, 2013, at WholeHealth Chicago
We realized that people were spending a great deal of time (and money) in psychotherapy seeking help for issues they think are some fault of their own. What’s really needed is a sort of reality check, a self-discovery moment, a ka-bang to the side of your head to jolt you from your slough of despond (so to speak). You need to tap into some of that old inner wisdom, identify your real values, and transform your goals into action.
Given a choice between renewing your antidepressant and using a workshop to lift you out of the wet cement of same old/same old, consider attending. I’d like you to shed the victim mentality, stifle the negative chatter, and shift perspective. Nobody hammered a rivet into the back of your neck. If you try, you can turn your head and get a new view of things.
The entire series consists of six workshops. These are neither group psychotherapy sessions nor a replacement for counseling. The workshops will definitely be interactive and engaging, though, with about 20 minutes of educational content followed by individual and group exercises, including invitations for one-on-one, in-front-of-the-room (gasp! but, hey, this is the fun part) coaching.
The workshops are conducted by professional life coach Tonya Deniz, who earned her credentials at the Coaches Training Institute and International Coach Federation. We want these sessions to be affordable and thus each workshop, limited to 18 enrollees, costs $20. So step up, maybe designate that $20 you were going to spend on yet another round of drinks with your co-workers complaining about your boss.
Seats are limited (we’re using the Dragon’s Way meeting room), so please call and register today. Read much more about this workshop here.
David Edelberg, MD