Is Your Boss Killing You?

Fast Company Magazine has a recent article by this title that begs the answer to the question is, quite literally “yes”!

A study of 6,000 British male office workers over a four-year period, published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that employees who felt their supervisors treated them fairly had a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the industrialized world. Put another way, caustic, abrasive, and overbearing bosses just might be taking years off their employees’ lives.

Funny how this study concludes something anyone who ever had a boss knows. If you get a long with your boss and they treat you fairly, it makes work life a hell of a lot less stressful. Now, why the study was limited to men, I don’t know. But, for women with the need to please, having a riff with a crappy boss ranks high on the stress and burnout list. I can personally attest to knowing there is a world of difference doing the same exact job but for two different bosses. The idiot can make you want to lose your mind as your health declines while the fair boss can make going to work bearable or even wonderful.

The article goes on to talk about a program at the University of Michigan’s Cardiovascular Executive Health Program that is designed to help patients employ simple techniques on a regular, daily basis to reduce stress and manage the anxiety that comes with high pressure positions. What cracks me up most about this high brow study is that none of these techniques are rocket science. Closing your eyes and visualizing a “happy place” is not exactly the next big cutting edge technique. What I DO know for sure is that simple techniques are our best defense against any of the stress that life throws our way whether it comes from a boss, our partner, or Mother Nature. The challenge is getting people to actually practice the techniques regularly so they become habit and are readily available to tap into when that next big stressful moment shows up.

The key takeaway from the article as I see it is that only YOU have the power to choose how you respond. Only YOU can make the commitment to yourself to employ healthy habits that increase your well-being at all times, whether you have a crappy boss or not and even if that boss is YOU because you’re self-employed. You don’t have to retreat to a mountaintop for hours each morning to benefit either. Some simply habits you can build into each day include:

  • Taking a few minutes of silence alone each morning or evening for reflection, prayer, or meditation. It only takes 5-15 minutes to make a huge difference.
  • Take frequent, short breaks. Athletes take recovery time, timeouts, and half-time to rest and rejuvenate. You need to also. Even getting up from your desk for 5-10 minutes ever hour or so to walk around the office or around the block can do wonders for your mind, energy level, and body.
  • Visualize what you want, not what you don’t want. Your mind can only “see” what you feed it. You need to look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go. That holds true not only for long-term visioning but for quick personal interactions as well.
  • Close your eyes and visualize a place you enjoy. Take a quick mental vacation to your favorite spot and revel in the memories and experience of that place for 2-5 minutes. It is the next best thing to being there.
  • Honor and listen to your thoughts and your body. Whether you journal, practice walking meditation, or simply make a list of things you acknowledge yourself for and are grateful for, it builds your confidence and self-esteem so stressful events are easier to navigate.
  • Fuel your body with real food. I’m not against splurging and enjoying the finer things in life, but overall if you don’t fuel your body with energy rich, whole foods, it’s akin to putting milk in your car’s gas tank and hoping it’ll run.
  • Move your body. I admit I love to exercise. Not everyone does. Find some form of moving your body that is fun and works for you. If you love sports – play, if you like to dance – boogey on down a few times a week, if you love the earth – garden till you perspire. Nike has it right when they say “Just Do It”.
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