One of my chief concerns is the overall decline in health of the US population, and specifically the health of working America that keeps US companies afloat. All too often, I have witnessed the detrimental effects of stress on the health and productivity of key company employees and leaders. The unnecessary waste of talent in American businesses due to health concerns caused by stress is costly, and in epidemic proportions. Research shows that the workplace accounts for about 75% of the stress in someone’s life. We know that health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress.
In fact, in a study of over 46,000 working individuals, the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) showed that stress is the most costly factor in health care expenditures (even greater than tobacco use or obesity). In 1992, The United Nations dubbed stress the “20th-century epidemic.” In 2005, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NISOCH) reported that workplace stress is estimated to cost American companies $300 billion a year in poor performance, absenteeism and health costs.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to sacrifice one’s body for the job. The keys are to know how to protect yourself from the negative effects of unavoidable stress, and to avoid the impact of stresses that can be managed.
Although the body is not a mechanical device, using a car as a metaphor provides a good conceptual — albeit not entirely accurate — analogy to the body and its response to stress. When a car is maintained properly and not driven beyond what it is designed to do, it usually holds up well, meets performance expectations and lasts for a long time. However, if the car gets irregular maintenance, poor quality oil, the wrong kind of fuel, is loaded beyond capacity, or driven hard on rough roads, it starts to break down and wears out more quickly. One car may blow a gasket, a second burst a water hose, a third bend a valve, and a fourth break a spring as a result of mistreatment. This analogy holds true for any person exposed to amounts of stress the body was not designed to handle. Each body may have its own particular pattern of decline, but in most instances its systems start breaking down in the ways we have learned to recognize as the symptoms and signs of stressed adrenals. The more you ignore the maintenance schedule and the warning lights on the dashboard, the more serious the problems that develop. Once adrenal fatigue sets in and that day of reckoning arrives, your body will no longer be able to respond the way you want it to do when you push it like you are used to doing.
To continue the car metaphor, just imagine the difference between the requirements of driving of your car around town at 30 miles an hour and around a racetrack at 180 miles an hour. In a race, your vehicle needs better fuel along with better and more frequent care. Our bodies are the same. During stress your body is in a race, and to finish the race in good shape it is essential to pay attention to what your body needs and to step up your level of self care.
It is important that you take care of yourself now to not just survive, but to strengthen your health during this time so you will always be ready for whatever lies ahead.
 Goetzel RZ, et al. The relationship between modifiable health risk and health care expenditures: an analysis of the multiemployer HERO health risk and cost database. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 1998: 40(10); 843-54.
[2.] Anderson DR< Whitmer RW, Goetzel RZ, Ozminkowski RJ, Dunn RL, Wasserman J, Serxner S; Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) Research Committee. The relationship between modifiable health risks and group-level health care expenditures. Am J Health Promot. 2000 Sep-Oct; 15(1):45-52.