Ever feel your heart pounding in your chest? Ever feel like you’re going to have a heart attack? I know I do. There is a term for this in Japan, they call it Karoshi.
I first learned of this term while watching “Happy”, a Netflix documentary.
Karoshi is a Japanese word literally meaning “Death by Overwork”.
I hit pause on the remote. This is a REAL thing. I’ve felt stress and I’ve felt my heart pounding in my chest when I am exhausted and overworked. But I never really paid full attention to it before – until I heard what can happen as a result.
Case Studies on Karoshi:
- Mr A worked at a major snack food processing company for as long as 110 hours a week (not a month) and died from heart attack at the age of 34. His death was approved as work-related by the Labour Standards Office.
- Mr B, a bus driver, whose death was also approved as work-related, worked more than 3,000 hours a year. He did not have a day off in the 15 days before he had stroke at the age of 37.
- Mr C worked in a large printing company in Tokyo for 4,320 hours a year including night work and died from stroke at the age of 58. His widow received a workers’ compensation 14 years after her husband’s death.
- Ms D, a 22 year-old nurse, died from a heart attack after 34 hours’ continuous duty five times a month.
TWENTY-TWO years old? 34? 37? Is this you? Stress and age do have a correlation, but don’t underestimate the toll that stress can have on you.
Causes of Work Related Stress:
- All-night, late-night or holiday work, both long and excessive hours.
- Stress accumulated due to frustration at not being able to achieve the goals set by the company.
- Forced resignation or dismissal from staff cutbacks.
- Acting as the middle man for layoffs.
This really struck me and also resonated with me – and maybe for you, too.
What can you do to not be a victim of Karoshi?
How to Manage Stress
1. Exercise – a lot, cardio in particular, to work the heart.
2. Force yourself to take breaks. Set a timer and get up when it goes off. Working longer hours doesn’t mean better results. Unwavering self discipline in practice will change your life.
3. Find a vice. Hot showers, going camping, playing guitar – do something that allows you to feel Zen.
4. Diet. What you put in your body plays a critical role in your output. Amp up your fruits and vegetables and lower your caffeine and alcohol.
5. Take walks. Apart from your exercise routine, get some fresh air during your work day.
6. Seek emotional balance. Spend time with the people who lift you up and give your heart joy.
7. Meditate. 20 minutes twice per day sit quietly with your eyes closed to calm your thoughts. Mental and emotional also effect the physical self. Meditation is proven to reduce stress.
In short, it’s just not worth it.
I had this post saved as a draft for some time. But today, I got a message from an ex coworker’s wife saying that he had passed. I spoke with him 12 hours ago and now he’s gone.
The reason, she said, is because of the first three reasons above – overworked, unachievable goals, and unforeseen dismissal for reasons not related to performance. He was stressed about work and he had a heart attack.
This message all too eerily reminds me of the phone call I got in November a few years ago. Richard was working at his desk when suddenly he had an aneurism that led to a stroke, and he instantly passed.
The saddest part of both of those stories?
They both left behind young children. Robert has a newborn baby boy, less than 6 months old, and a daughter whom he helped with homework every night. Richard had a four-year old daughter who considered her dad her best friend.
Now, because of unnecessary stress, they aren’t able to see their children grow. They’ve left their wives behind and they have become only memories.
Stress is a serious thing. No matter what path you take in life, you will always be okay. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re overstressed, get the courage to make a change for a path with more balance. You owe it to yourself and to your family, and to the lessons you can leave for future generations.
What Motivates Us to Work? … Not Stress
Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational (great book) says in his Ted talk that what motivates us – what really motivates us – isn’t money.
In several studies, he concluded that “most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose”
Extreme overworking, trying to impress the boss, getting your life out of balance – these are not heroism. Even a step beyond corporate slavery, it’s tragically fatal.
Life isn’t all about work. It’s about feeling a sense of purpose, and making an impact. When you create, when you give something of yourself, you want to see your work rewarded.
“Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort before their eyes,” Ariely says.
What can you do if you aren’t feeling rewarded? Change jobs, become your own boss. But, do not fall into the trap of overworking and giving all of yourself, leaving your family behind, only to have your work not be rewarded. It’s not worth it. Wouldn’t you rather become a case study about what you accomplished?
Stress is manageable. You have to work at it. But working at reducing stress – THAT is worth it.
Source of case studies and causes http://www.ilo.org/safework/info/publications/WCMS_211571/lang–en/index.htm