January 19, 2011

What price do we pay for our money?

I have this friend (let's call her "Susie"). She works for a private company and is pretty much the "second in command" and a respected subject matter expert in her field. Like many of these jobs, with responsibility and high levels of education comes a very good salary.

When she isn't physically present at work, she is attached to her Blackberry. She answers calls day and night and stays up until the wee hours of morning to get her work done (and her work is never done).  After her family goes to bed, it isn't uncommon to see Susie up until 2-3 am trying to get through the pile of work she can never catch up on during the day. Susie relies on caffeine to get her through her day and sleeping aids to get her through her night. She's attached to the cell phone and is a self-proclaimed Blackberry addict....not without notice by those who love her.

I sit back and watch Susie working day and night and wonder what price she is paying for her position of influence and status. Sure, we all accustomed ourselves to the salary we make and probably couldn't fathom taking a cut in pay just so we could enjoy at least 7 hours of quality sleep a night and never have to answer a phone on the weekend (at least most wouldn't). We all have mortgages, car loans, and credit cards to pay.  Unfortunately, the research suggests that those that live this go-go-go lifestyle do pay dearly in the end...with their health.

I have witnessed many people (including Susie) wave off the thought that their high paced, constantly charged and connected lifestyle would ever effect their health. And then the chronic disease hits them in the face and stops their body in its' tracks. Dr. Gabor Mate, a medical doctor and addictions specialist working in the downtown east side of Vancouver, has written a brilliant book on the subject.  "When the Body Says No" examines lifestyle (i.e. the fast paced, go-getter vs. the "take it as it comes" personality) and how it relates to chronic illnesses such as cancer, Parkinson's, diabetes, and the like.  Let's just say, it ain't lookin' good for the "Type A".

Not only is Susie removing herself from family situations (even though she is physically present, she's not really there) but her lack of sleep, reliance on caffeine, and work-work-work way of being WILL end up biting her in the butt. Is any job or salary worth that? I understand that overtime is a part of life...but, like anything, it best in moderation (or something like it). When it becomes "normal" to take work home and work until 2am for the sake of playing "catch up" it may be time for a job overhaul...for the health of it.

Maybe I'm way off base here, and maybe there are people out there who can live on 3-4 hours of sleep a night and still be happy, healthy, energetic, and vibrant. I have only met the ones who have told stories of their feelings of invincibility only to learn the hard way that they are human like everyone else. Case in point, Susie is a ball of energy and feeling fine until she takes a minute to relax on the couch and then she's out like a light. Wanna know the tell-tale sign of sleep deprivation? Someone who falls asleep as soon as their head hits the cushion.

I guess I'm not offering suggestions of what to do if this is your situation, but just an awareness of the fact that nobody can avoid the effects of a high paced lifestyle. Everyone has their breaking point and everyone runs the risk of acute and/or chronic illness in the long run.  Perhaps Susie could renegotiate her position, perhaps she could find an assistant, perhaps she could create hours of operation for the Blackberry? All I know is she does have choices, everyone does. The question is, will the money and status win over health?

The way I see it...you only get one life (I guess that depends on what you believe about life after death). Why would you risk it or live it always stressed, sleep deprived, and/or with a phone in your ear all the time?  I'm just sayin'........

Another irritating message from the health promoter....


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