Bulimic Work…..

You know the term – Bulimia.  The disorder where someone binges on food and then induces vomiting to compensate for it.  As horrible as it sounds, I see people who display the same characteristics in their work.

Rob is a layout editor for the local newspaper.  His cell phone never stops ringing:  reporters are demanding deadlines that are impossible to meet, journalists are furious their stories have been bumped, a national news story breaks 15 minutes before press time, he knows that his chest pain is more than just indigestion, and once again he’s missed his son’s baseball game.  But he sucks it up – knowing that in just 10 more days he can leave for his annual two week vacation.  He’ll unwind and get rid of all this stress.

But we know that plan doesn’t really work.  This bulimic way of handling stress – letting it build to a boiling point and then stopping work completely for several days doesn’t work.  It is dangerous and destructive.  That daily accumulation of stress doesn’t just go away in a few days of relaxation – it tears down as it occurs in ways from which you will never recover.  It clogs arteries, raises blood pressure, reduces concentration and creativity, and saps our spiritual and emotional energy.  The ongoing effects are that it makes us more vulnerable to colds and more serious diseases.  It sets us up for weight gain, facial wrinkles and strained relationships.

We have to have a process of “breathing” in our work.  Just exhale and you will eventually turn blue and pass out.  Can you allow yourself time within your workday to inhale – and exhale?

I actually had a physician mention recently that he had considered sticking his hand in a meat grinder, so he could collect disability and escape the daily demands of his position. It may have been said partly in jest, but the pressure felt is not uncommon among workers at all levels. A dentist told me he had an ultralight plane – specifically because he was preparing to make a socially acceptable exit from the life of stress he had created.

Here’s a better plan: learn to deal with the stress daily rather than letting it build up to a boiling point. When you feel tension building, take a deep breath, pull your shoulders back, take a walk around the block, drink a full glass of water, eat a couple of carrots, let your phone take messages, or spend 10 minutes in silent meditation. Come visit my work area – we’ll take a walk and see the bunnies, the deer and try out the new zipline I just installed.  Drive a different way home tonight, check out getting an ergonomic chair, remove agitating music from your work area, and include small “Sabbath” times of positive reflection and anticipation into every day.

Do you have healthy habits at work or are you showing signs of bulimia?

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