NEWS FLASH . . .
A new study shows that ” … people find work to be less stressful than their home lives. Work was, in fact, a haven.” (WBUR.org/NPR). That same news report cited a poll conducted by NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health found that, … “health problems, the death of loved ones and juggling busy family schedules often scored among the top sources of stress in people’s lives.”
But isn’t this counter to how most of us think about the sources of our stress? People tell me that they want more time with family and fewer work demands– that will make them happier and less ‘stressed’ . It’s rare that I encounter anyone in my professional or personal life who describes work as a place where they can relax, a place to flee to.
When questioned about this, one researcher said that she discovered that people find that work is one place where people think that they can say ‘no’ . “If you’re really unhappy, you can leave. Not so with your family — or your health.”
So then, is the message that work is actually good for you? That was certainly one of the key points we made in our book, Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend! (side note: the title was supposed to be ….” and Chronic Illness” because we believe that the same issues applied to anyone with a chronic health condition. But the publisher had a different agenda.) Our message was when your body becomes the source of pain/fatigue, creates unpredictability, and represents the loss of what you could once do, work holds the possibility of being one place where you have the opportunity to take charge. (But, hey, why don’t you buy the book and read more?)
Unfortunately for many of us, the actual work experience usually falls way short of our hopes. Too often it’s that place where you encounter pressure, difficult people and poorly managed systems. And without support and resources to maximize their potential, too many people with chronic health conditions are lucky to survive in the workplace.
It is useful to remember that the negative experiences from work pales when compared to a significant loss of a loved one, a marriage or one’s health. As one researcher remarked, “No matter how urgent something is at work, you are not as attached to that urgency as you would be to, say, a health scare or the death of a loved one, because we are emotionally entangled at home in a way that we aren’t at work.”
So why do people talk about work stress so much? Because it’s acceptable. Everyone’s got it. But if you’re struggling with unpredictable and difficult health, now that’s a much tougher thing to talk about, isn’t it?
How do these issues stack up for you?