Time to take heart matters seriously

Matthew Field’s excellent column recently on burnout in the workplace (‘Mismatches’ lead to burnout, February 28) is so relevant in this day and age and one which corporate management would do well to absorb.

As far as I can tell, the bottom line is that workload exceeds manpower as companies downsize and retrench in the prevailing economic conditions.

Trying to “keep up with the Jones” can take its toll on our bodies

I read recently that more than a million Americans die each year from stress-related illnesses. The victims are struck down by diseases of the heart, the bowels and the brain caused primarily by overwork and overstrain.

An important side- effect shows that in many cases, men are pushed to breaking point by over-ambitious wives. It seems it is the little woman who wants to be in the social set which speeds her husband to the cemetery. She wants the bigger and glossier car and the more spacious house.

So it is the little man at the office who has to flog himself to death.

And that is just what he and about 999,999 others apparently do every year across the Atlantic. Comparative statistics are not available for SA, but it can be assumed that the percentage of fatalities in this country brought on by stress, which is caused by trying to keep up with the Joneses, is uncomfortably high, and as it is in America, probably mounting.

Americans have been jolted into alarm and action by the statistics of men struck down in their prime by heart attacks and similar stress-related ailments.

Many big companies insist that staff members holding senior positions be regularly examined at clinics.

Previously, where young and middle-aged men were praised and promoted for skipping holidays, they now risk the sack.

Bookstores are being flooded with volumes explaining how to live longer and stay younger. The advice is basically the same: relax and eat properly balanced meals.

That advice holds good whether one lives in New York or in East London. Most people are quite happy to co-operate when the doctor puts them on a diet but obeying instructions to relax is something else.

Work has to be done, they tell themselves. Urgent business must be attended to, the business rival has to be beaten, the journey has to be made. So faster and faster they go until something snaps.

In the case of 45% of New York’s businessmen, it is their hearts that give way – and half these victims of stress are under 50.

There is plenty of evidence that men can reach the top of the ladder without breaking down even when well past the traditional retirement age.
Winston Churchill, who had the ability to cat-nap in the heat of battle, comes to mind.

But this type of person is a master of the art of relaxation and anyone who knows this art will always beat the Joneses in the end.


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