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My dilemma about stress

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Meadow says:
30 Sep 2010 | 11:53:49
Hi all



Since the age of 26 I have been focusing almost my entire life on my career. I'm ambitious and I don't want to settle for less than I can get. Now I'm 42 and I have a attractive job in a big investment banking firm in London. Things are going well and I'm still looking to move forward in my career. The thing is that I work approximately 80-90 hours a week. I usually get up at 4 AM to be in the office at 5:30 AM and usually stay there for the entire day (i leave at around 8-9 PM). I have had the same work load for the last 10 years, but it seems it might be starting to get to me!




A couple of months ago I started having some "incidents" at work. I could suddenly, out of nowhere, feel unwell. I'm not talking about a little headache, no what I'm talking about is severe chest pain and dizziness. The first two or three times it happened I just reckoned that it was nothing, but then the frequency and severity increased! In the end I realised that I had to go see my GP.




My GP did some blood tests, asked me some questions and what not. After a couple of days I received the terrible message from my GP: The strokes are probably caused by your heavy work load and your long hours. You have to make a choice right away: Quit your job or end up dying.




Now my dilemma is: I definitely don't want to die, but I don't want to quit my job either. What do I do?
 


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Kasper - Mentaline says:
5 Oct 2010 | 09:46:33
Hi Meadow,

I can imagine that it is a big dilemma for you. Giving up something that has been a big part of your life and also very important to you must be... difficult - to say the least.

In my opinion you do not have a choice though, you have to choose your health over your career. How much is having your career worth if you are ill? No, what you have to try to do is either to quit your job and find something similar that is less demanding or take a break from work and see how it goes.

Important: I am NOT a professional therapist, so please only treat my post as a mere suggestion or comment

- Kasper
 

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Sharon says:
5 Oct 2010 | 14:04:39
Hello Meadow, I am so sorry to hear that your 'dream job' is causing such problems with your health. Time to do some hard thinking about what needs to change and it may not have to be so black and white as leave your job and perhaps feel unfulfilled or stay at your job and severely risk your health. What about looking at compromise? Employers have a duty of care for their employees, so perhaps you could explore your options with a trusted manager and work out how things could be improved, also remember that you cannot be made to work 80-90 hours per week, you are putting that pressure on yourself. So, why not start to be kinder to yourself by working on compromise (perhaps decide today to work 8 - 6 for one week and just complete the real priorities, see if the world comes to an end, if it doesn't, you will know that you are able to make some choices regarding your future work pattern. I wish you luck with your challenge, but nothing will change unless you decide to make it happen. Regards - Sharon

Meadow wrote:
Hi all



Since the age of 26 I have been focusing almost my entire life on my career. I'm ambitious and I don't want to settle for less than I can get. Now I'm 42 and I have a attractive job in a big investment banking firm in London. Things are going well and I'm still looking to move forward in my career. The thing is that I work approximately 80-90 hours a week. I usually get up at 4 AM to be in the office at 5:30 AM and usually stay there for the entire day (i leave at around 8-9 PM). I have had the same work load for the last 10 years, but it seems it might be starting to get to me!




A couple of months ago I started having some "incidents" at work. I could suddenly, out of nowhere, feel unwell. I'm not talking about a little headache, no what I'm talking about is severe chest pain and dizziness. The first two or three times it happened I just reckoned that it was nothing, but then the frequency and severity increased! In the end I realised that I had to go see my GP.




My GP did some blood tests, asked me some questions and what not. After a couple of days I received the terrible message from my GP: The strokes are probably caused by your heavy work load and your long hours. You have to make a choice right away: Quit your job or end up dying.




Now my dilemma is: I definitely don't want to die, but I don't want to quit my job either. What do I do?
 

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Neil Stacey says:
5 Oct 2010 | 15:43:13
Meadow




I understand your situation having been there personally and seen friends and colleagues in a similar position. So the good news is that there are ways forward if you don't want to give up your job. However you will need to make changes and urgently.




Techniques in the areas of Importance vs Urgency and Delegation can help. It will also be good for you to find an interest outside of your career.




Regards




Neil









Meadow wrote:
Hi all



Since the age of 26 I have been focusing almost my entire life on my career. I'm ambitious and I don't want to settle for less than I can get. Now I'm 42 and I have a attractive job in a big investment banking firm in London. Things are going well and I'm still looking to move forward in my career. The thing is that I work approximately 80-90 hours a week. I usually get up at 4 AM to be in the office at 5:30 AM and usually stay there for the entire day (i leave at around 8-9 PM). I have had the same work load for the last 10 years, but it seems it might be starting to get to me!




A couple of months ago I started having some "incidents" at work. I could suddenly, out of nowhere, feel unwell. I'm not talking about a little headache, no what I'm talking about is severe chest pain and dizziness. The first two or three times it happened I just reckoned that it was nothing, but then the frequency and severity increased! In the end I realised that I had to go see my GP.




My GP did some blood tests, asked me some questions and what not. After a couple of days I received the terrible message from my GP: The strokes are probably caused by your heavy work load and your long hours. You have to make a choice right away: Quit your job or end up dying.




Now my dilemma is: I definitely don't want to die, but I don't want to quit my job either. What do I do?
 

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Meadow says:
6 Oct 2010 | 16:00:22
Neil, you mention that you've been in the same situation. How did you go about it? It's so annoying! I can't handle this any more so i need a solution soon.

Truly you must have done other things than just delegated and prioritised tasks? no?
 

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Neil Stacey says:
7 Oct 2010 | 11:45:59
Meadow

The key decision you need to make, and that I needed to make, was to change behaviour. Doing that is not easy. You have lived this lifestyle for 16 years and everyone around you expects that is how you will continue to behave. So you will need to think how your going to start the discussion. Tools like analysing how you use your time, delegation, prioritisation, saying no and others are vital to support the change and make it permanent. I would suggest the following first steps:

1. Start the dialogue with your employer. A good employer will want to help and will have the means to do so.

2. Give some thought to the lifestyle you want. Change needs to have a goal to drive it.

Regards
 


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Nigel Lewis says:
7 Oct 2010 | 22:25:20
Hi Meadow
I know someone who was in your position. He continued to work at such an unsustainable rate that he ended up being forced to take early retirement when his body gave up on him because he refused to listen to it. Without going into to it too far he also invested all his life savings into a retirement home in Europe and the builder went bankrupt so his money has been frozen for the last five years and still remains uncertain. He now struggles to make ends meet. He can often be found in his dressing gown at midday and still cannot see that he neglected relationships, health, fitness, spirituality, finances, family, etc. all in the pursuit of success. He still refuses to accept that balance/peace are the keys to a happy life and that success is a journey to enjoy not a peak to attain. He constantly talks of falling from his perch in that he believes he has not long to live despite being in his fifties. My thoughts are that your body is telling you something that you cannot ignore. Maybe you need to take stock of where you are in your life , who matters to you, what beyond work is there to life, do you love your work or do you love the Kudos it provides? Can you really stay in that job and not be tempted in to falling back into living at what is essentially twice the pace that is generally accepted as reasonable? Have you used work to avoid other areas of your life? In your post in September you told of your having received a lot of coaching surely that has revealed a need to find more balance? You in another post state your confidence in certification, the problem with that is that a coach can achieve a certificate with a relatively few hours of coaching. Maybe with your interest in coaching and many hours of experience in business you would be a great coach yourself. Maybe you have lots of skills that can be employed in areas that you have ignored because you have been so focused?
 

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Meadow says:
11 Oct 2010 | 12:08:31
Neil, I've decided to talk to my boss because of your message. I set up a meeting for this week to talk about my health. This has definitely not been an easy decision. I feel that I am giving up by doing this, but at the same time I do realise that I cannot continue like this

The last week has been horrible in terms of pain and I can't handle it anymore. I had to take friday off and I've even taken this entire week off. The weekend was good. I forced myself to do two things only:

1 - Relaxation, relaxation, relaxation

2 - Planning how to handle this...

I've planned to not only talk to my boss, but also take this week off to figure out what to do.
 

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Cathy Summers says:
11 Oct 2010 | 15:08:11
Hello Meadow,




I feel for you, it must feel like a very stark, 'all or nothing' decision and all the more difficult in such a short time frame. My thoughts:

  • Am I hearing an assumption that keeping your job means keeping the same hours and working patterns - and that's the only way for you to achieve success? I appreciate that investment banking has a long hours culture but do you really need to work all those hours, or have you got into a habit that's now all tangled up with your sense of professionalism, dedication, identity, fitting in with the culture etc. A tough question for you - are you perpetuating this long hours pattern for a reason(s) other than the work has to get done? I echo Sharon's advice on this. Firms are becoming increasingly flexible about how work gets done as long as you still get the results you're paid for. Are you assuming that scaling down, or leaving, your job means ending your career and your ability to achieve success? Not the same!
  • Is this job the only way of getting what you need from your life? When you started, what were you looking for then? More importantly, what is it you're looking for now? What are you ambitious for? What is it you really want and how will you know when you've got it - and is this the only way for a high achiever like you to get it? I wonder if there are more (and less self-destructive) ways of getting your kicks, feeling alive, fulfilling your potential and making your mark on the world.
It seems you are seeing only 2 options. Stay in your job and risk ending your life - or quit your job (your words) and settle for less than you can get. In terms of making a good decision on such a high stakes issue (your life), that doesn't sound like an inspiring range of options! So my advice is - go back to first principles and redraw your vision for the rest of your life, what you want your life to be like as a whole (not just your working life). Explore as many options as you can for achieving your life's ambitions. Get help on this if you're out of ideas or inspiration. Then make your decision. However, you're working an 80/90 hour week - so your first challenge is to carve yourself out time and space to think. Proper thinking time, not squeezed in between other tasks.




Best of luck, Meadow.






Meadow wrote:
Hi all



Since the age of 26 I have been focusing almost my entire life on my career. I'm ambitious and I don't want to settle for less than I can get. Now I'm 42 and I have a attractive job in a big investment banking firm in London. Things are going well and I'm still looking to move forward in my career. The thing is that I work approximately 80-90 hours a week. I usually get up at 4 AM to be in the office at 5:30 AM and usually stay there for the entire day (i leave at around 8-9 PM). I have had the same work load for the last 10 years, but it seems it might be starting to get to me!




A couple of months ago I started having some "incidents" at work. I could suddenly, out of nowhere, feel unwell. I'm not talking about a little headache, no what I'm talking about is severe chest pain and dizziness. The first two or three times it happened I just reckoned that it was nothing, but then the frequency and severity increased! In the end I realised that I had to go see my GP.




My GP did some blood tests, asked me some questions and what not. After a couple of days I received the terrible message from my GP: The strokes are probably caused by your heavy work load and your long hours. You have to make a choice right away: Quit your job or end up dying.




Now my dilemma is: I definitely don't want to die, but I don't want to quit my job either. What do I do?
 

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Cathy Summers says:
11 Oct 2010 | 15:12:14
Meadow - have just seen your latest post as I posted mine - you've already taken the week off. Good luck with thinking things through.

Cathy
edited by Cathy Summers on 10/11/2010
 

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Neil Stacey says:
12 Oct 2010 | 17:25:05
Meadow



This first step is never easy and there will be more challenges ahead as you change your life. If I can help you meet any of these challenges I would be very happy to do so.




Neil













Meadow wrote:
Neil, I've decided to talk to my boss because of your message. I set up a meeting for this week to talk about my health. This has definitely not been an easy decision. I feel that I am giving up by doing this, but at the same time I do realise that I cannot continue like this

The last week has been horrible in terms of pain and I can't handle it anymore. I had to take friday off and I've even taken this entire week off. The weekend was good. I forced myself to do two things only:

1 - Relaxation, relaxation, relaxation

2 - Planning how to handle this...

I've planned to not only talk to my boss, but also take this week off to figure out what to do.
 


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Susan Boggon Smith says:
15 Oct 2010 | 09:45:34
Meadow wrote:
Hi all



Since the age of 26 I have been focusing almost my entire life on my career. I'm ambitious and I don't want to settle for less than I can get. Now I'm 42 and I have a attractive job in a big investment banking firm in London. Things are going well and I'm still looking to move forward in my career. The thing is that I work approximately 80-90 hours a week. I usually get up at 4 AM to be in the office at 5:30 AM and usually stay there for the entire day (i leave at around 8-9 PM). I have had the same work load for the last 10 years, but it seems it might be starting to get to me!




A couple of months ago I started having some "incidents" at work. I could suddenly, out of nowhere, feel unwell. I'm not talking about a little headache, no what I'm talking about is severe chest pain and dizziness. The first two or three times it happened I just reckoned that it was nothing, but then the frequency and severity increased! In the end I realised that I had to go see my GP.




My GP did some blood tests, asked me some questions and what not. After a couple of days I received the terrible message from my GP: The strokes are probably caused by your heavy work load and your long hours. You have to make a choice right away: Quit your job or end up dying.




Now my dilemma is: I definitely don't want to die, but I don't want to quit my job either. What do I do?


Hi Meadow, I understand where you are coming from with this. It does not need to be a 'Do or Die' Decision just yet. You have become addicted to work, producing your own adrenaline keeping you on permanent alert. It's great when you love your job, however we not only produce adrenaline from the adrenal cortex (or noradrenaline) we also produce cortisol. Research from UCLA/Effros Lab shows that telomeres in cells (tiny 'cell life clocks') are smaller when we are under continual stress because cortisol suppresses the immune cells ability to activate telomerase, and the immune cells life expectancy shortens. Thus we are more susceptible to illness as a result of long term stress.

I suggest that you see your G.P as soon as possible, and go on sick leave due to stress. You need not give up your job at this stage, but you do need a rest, and a complete break from work. Wait until your blood pressure and other tests are back to normal levels and you are feeling completely better, both physically and mentally, before making any decisions about work. I do not think you should be making an 'either/or' decisions at this stage until you are feeling well. Perhaps take a holiday.

Whether you or your G.P choose a path of talking therapy is another matter. But set an objective to get yourself feeling truly well first, and then look at a possible return to work on a part time basis in the future, with more 'Work/Life Balance' Your employers should not allow you to overwork, even if you have opted out of the 'Working Time Directives', and they have a duty of care for your well being at work. Your HR department may be understanding and helpful in this case, so long as you bring the problem to their attention. I am sure they would rather help you, than lose a valuable member of staff.

Good luck and best wishes to you. Sue
 

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Dennis McCarthy says:
23 Oct 2010 | 09:55:32
Its about finding time for you, you just seem to be operating and functioning on on a high level, yet not finding your own space and nurturing you. It's about altering your perspectives even slightly and you will see a difference.

Take your time
Dennis
 

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David Bredin says:
25 Oct 2010 | 08:48:00
Hello Meadow,

Well done indeed for taking the first steps to identify and acknowledge an issue - they are the most difficult. There has been lots of advise, and many have said that it need not be 'one or the other'. This is true and compromises can be made. However, the most important thing to understand is that the decision must be yours.
My personal view, and Neil hinted to it, is that you might try identifying what is important to YOU in life and this amounts to clarifying what your CORE VALUES might be. Having done this you are then able prioritise what you must do to fulfil those values and therefore what needs to be done. Any good coach should be able to help you with this.

Good luck and keep working at it.
David
 


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Hayley Daniels-Lake says:
27 Oct 2010 | 14:22:47
Hi Meadow,

This isn't a quit your job or die situation. There is a middle ground that you need to find. Prioritise, find some time for yourself.

You already seem to be taking steps in the right direction by talking to your boss and taking a week off. The next step is finding a way to keep your job and at the same time value your health.

Try some relaxation therapies, destress, schedule your life so that you plan for some 'me time'. These things really do help.

Good luck!
Hayley

Meadow wrote:
Hi all



Since the age of 26 I have been focusing almost my entire life on my career. I'm ambitious and I don't want to settle for less than I can get. Now I'm 42 and I have a attractive job in a big investment banking firm in London. Things are going well and I'm still looking to move forward in my career. The thing is that I work approximately 80-90 hours a week. I usually get up at 4 AM to be in the office at 5:30 AM and usually stay there for the entire day (i leave at around 8-9 PM). I have had the same work load for the last 10 years, but it seems it might be starting to get to me!




A couple of months ago I started having some "incidents" at work. I could suddenly, out of nowhere, feel unwell. I'm not talking about a little headache, no what I'm talking about is severe chest pain and dizziness. The first two or three times it happened I just reckoned that it was nothing, but then the frequency and severity increased! In the end I realised that I had to go see my GP.




My GP did some blood tests, asked me some questions and what not. After a couple of days I received the terrible message from my GP: The strokes are probably caused by your heavy work load and your long hours. You have to make a choice right away: Quit your job or end up dying.




Now my dilemma is: I definitely don't want to die, but I don't want to quit my job either. What do I do?
 

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Alternative4u says:
4 Nov 2010 | 20:32:38
Hi Meadow
Well done, you have taken the first steps to wellness. Here is a very simple technique that will assist you in relaxation instantly. Good news is you have been breathing all your life. Learn to breath a calm breath now. Place your hand which ever is most comfortable on your chest or abdomin, and take a slightly longer breath in than you normally would to the count of 4 slowly , pause and release to the count of 8 slowly. Breath all the way down to your toes.This instantly drops the level of adrenalin , will allieviate symptoms such as dizziness and chest pains. By changing the rate and depth of your breath , and relaxing the facial muscles especially around the eyes , mouth and neck area you will instantly relax all the major organs in the body. Blood test show that the platelettes are not oxygenated, with high levels of cortisone. You might consider a Tai Chi or Yoga class to reduce the stress levels.
Alternative4u
 

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Meadow says:
10 Nov 2010 | 12:00:38
I'm sorry that I haven't responded lately.

Unluckily I experienced quite a set-back after I went back to work. After my week off, I felt much better and thought that I could take over the world again, and because of that I fell back into my old work routine.

Approx. two weeks ago I passed out in the middle of the day, at the office. My colleagues called an ambulance and I ended up getting hospitalised. I've been forced to take time off since then, to get better.

It's extremely tough to realise that I can't do this anymore, but I guess I have to accept it. I appreciate all your suggests and advise, but right now I just don't think I'm ready to move forward...
 


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Hayley Daniels-Lake says:
10 Nov 2010 | 12:30:13
Hi Meadow,

I'm sorry to hear that. Take care of yourself and focus on getting better for now.

Hayley
 

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Simon Tarry says:
25 Feb 2012 | 20:46:03
Sounds like there is a lot of stress in your life and you may be having some form of disassociative episodes-
Stress can manifest itself in various physical presentations- from what I have read all the tests have come back negative although you say "these strokes"
No matter how hard you work stress builds up and if you do not find a way of discipating it
then it will build up and cause physical conditions- too much cortisol can have a big effect on your imune system etc.
As a mental Health professional I work with a lot of people who have high pressure jobs and high levels of stress all "too busy to relax" however some stress managment techniques and breathwork helps
Please contact me if you would like some help
"Stress is who we think we should be relaxation is who we are"
 


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Ida Falk says:
27 Feb 2012 | 21:10:44
Hi Meadow
You are definately on a path to self destruction and I am concerned.

My advice to you is that you need to deside for yourself what you are willing to do in order to keep yourself alive. Do you want to be helped?

I think you need help balancíng your life better and to learn to listen to what your body is telling you is essential.

Normally I would ask people like yourself to tell me about their familylife their hobbies what their interests in life is besides work, what kind of sports they are into, where they go on vacation and so on. But Í have a bad feeling that if I asked you those same questions, you might not have these things in place in your life at this time at all, as time simply does not permit them. One could then ask why, and wonder if you would like your life to be different and balanced with the elements before mentioned in it.

I think you would greatly benefit from talking to a therapist or coach about all of the above and if you feel up to it you are welcome to contact me.
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