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Tag: stress

Vacations are among the most stressful things possible, especially with kids.

If you need a vacation from a vacation, go to a park or field or camp ground.  Do it in the morning before the world is really waking up, and just listen to the birds and watch the mist burn off with the morning sun.  30 minutes of this while quietly walking will do wonders for you, from your blood pressure to countering cortisol and all of the stress hormones in your system.

30 minutes of quiet time like this has been proven to be as effective as almost 3x that amount of time of sleep, will improve your productivity, and make it so that you don’t kill someone and bury their body in the woods.

I took a little quiz on CNN.com the other day about how badly a vacation is needed.  I need one immediately.  75+ hours week after week with no down time (young kids and other responsibilities whenever I am not “working”) will exhaust the body and spirit.  And I need to re-read Tim Ferriss “4 Hour Work Week” to get back down to under four hours a day on the weekends.

One of the reasons many companies ask how long your tyoical work week is is not because they are concerned as much about whether you are at 36 or 37.5 hour per week, but rather if you are at over fifty on a consistent basis because of how it drains you.

So to make sure that I do not have a breakdown (which would not help you dear reader), I am actually going to take today and tomorrow off from working, at least until the sun goes down tomorow.  That will be 36 continous hours without work for me, the equivalent of a week long vcation for most people.

So take a bit of time off, a mental and physical health day.  Sleep in (unless your baby wakes you at 4 a.m. like happened to me), stay in your pj’s for an extra hour, and take some time to play with legos or something else you wouldn’t normally get the chance to do.  And DO NOT feel bad about it at all!  You are on vacation.

Americans are overtired, overworked, and overstressed.  I say this as I sit here writing before 5:00 in the morning because I have so much work to do, sucking down coffee like I own a plantation and need to consume the supply to keep prices up.

I found a scholarly article from the National Academies of Science Press that shows 50-70 MILLION Americans are sleep deprived.  That is a huge number, and a major productivity drag on the economy.  It can also lead to an array of personal health issues ranging from just being grumpy to mental break downs and heart issues.

Combine that with the fact that the average American is working longer hours to just financially survive, which leads to poorer diets (i.e. more “Heart Attack in a Sack” meals from fast food places), less time for physical activity, and less relaxation.

And even though they finally got Bin Laden, there is still an amazing amount of stress in our Society (especially if you have young kids and/or a business).    It is literally the perfect storm of negativity.

Luckily, we have not seen a spike in disability insurance claims like many of the experts (and actuaries in insurance home offices) feared, but we have seen somewhat of an increase.  And it will probably get worse in the future because of the interaction of these three O’s (overworked, overtired, overstressed) that will slowly be alleviated over a few years but are becoming the new normal for Society.  So what do we do about it?

2 things.  First, try to reduce the effects of them before you snap at your wife like I did last night (I apologize again Ambre).  Take a five minute walk a couple times a day to clear your head.  Squeeze in a few minutes of excercise in the morning to wake up instead of having 60 ounces of coffee.  Try to not let work overtake your life (very difficult if you love what you do).  Literally stop to smell the roses or watch a sunset, because a few minutes of calm will counter much of the crap in the world.

Secondly, hedge your bets.  Buy disability insurance to protect against the economic disruption that could happen if the 3 O’s overtake you.  But not just any DI; get non-cancellable and guaranteed renewable so that your prices are locked in.  When the actuaries tell the finance guys in the insurance companies that they need to raise prices, you will be protected because your contract will have guaranteed premiums.  And make sure that you get a policy with favorable provisions for stress related issues.  Many policies say you need to be in a mental facility to recieve benefits, and this is NOT what you want.  If you are going to get coverage, don’t get something that is filled with holes!

The overworked, overtired, and overstressed American worker has always existed, but has reached epidemic proportions that will not disappear.  There is no shot (coffee, liquor, or medical) to make it instantly go away.  So do what you can to alleviate the symptoms, and CYA with a good DI policy.

 

Today, I am not going to try to scare you with details about radiation or noise pollution or other environmental factors endangering your health. Instead I am going to talk about a major health factor that is almost directly under our control: our weight. Bigger waistlines DIRECTLY translate into increased probability of disability and drive up health insurance costs across the board.

Now I like to eat. I run marathons so that I can eat more with a semi-clear conscious (rationalization: if I run ten miles in a day I am allowed to eat or drink anything I want that day), and I certainly enjoy a Guinness or three. But I do not eat nor drink like I did at 23 when I was single, had no kids, and worked out 120+ minutes a day.

Let’s first focus on the average size of an American. According to the CDC, the average American male adult is roughly 18% heavier than their peers from 50 years ago. The average female has added about 20% to their mass, while both groups have added only about an inch in height. So we are slightly taller but much heavier than we were two generations ago, something that doesn’t surprise anyone who has seen “Supersize Me” or gone to a county fair. And our kids are reflecting this trend (too much TV, video games, and Happy Meals): the average 10 year old is 20% heavier than they used to be when Mom kicked them outside to actually play baseball with their friends.

Let’s just take a look at how this increase in mass affects individuals. Societal effects like Medicare and Medicaid and productivity decreases are just plain huge, almost too big to comprehend. So what does extra weight mean to you and your body?

  1. Extra weight creates additional stress on the body to carry it. It can cause back, knee, and hip problems via structural damage. One stat I’ve seen says 1lb of weight = 3lbs of stress on the knee, and twice that for the hip. So there is over an extra hundred pounds of stress on the average person’s joints today. No wonder hip and knee replacements are as common as political flip-flopping.
  2. Being 20% overweight “significantly” increases your risk of heart disease according to the CDC. Ironically, the average American is 20% or so overweight, meaning the ½ of Americans have significantly greater risk of heart problems than fifty years ago. Leading cause of death for females is heart disease, and it is right up there for guys.
  3. If you are overweight you are more likely to have sleep apnea, which has a plethora of not good side effects.
  4. Extra mass messes up your body chemistry in a myriad of ways, from hormone levels to blood sugar to triglycerides. So you have diabetes, and reduced immunity, and lower oxygen carrying capacity, and sexual dysfunction. None on the list of good things.

Now, do we just say “Fudge it!” and sit on the couch with a half gallon of ice cream and a spoon? Better not. There are little ways that you can slowly shed those extra pounds without going on The Biggest Loser or eating only rabbit food for the next three months.

  1. Park away from where you need to go. Parking 100 feet away from the door instead of right next to it will cause you to use up an extra five calories or so. Not big, but three times a day, every day is about a pound and a half for a year.
  2. Take the stairs. A few extra flights of stairs every day at the office can be a couple of pounds a year.
  3. Eat more veggies. They have low calorie density, so will fill you up a bit more without adding to the waistline. Americans don’t eat enough of these anyway. Can be a half a pound of fat loss a month without turning you into an herbivore.
  4. Change your milk. Instead of cream in your coffee use milk. Instead of whole milk use 2%. Making these small changes can be over 100 calories a day, or a pound a month.

These are very easy substitutions or additions that will not interfere with your hectic life. They are almost small enough to be unnoticeable. Yet the compounded effect is probably two pounds a month, enough to improve your mood and productivity. Or over a year a drastic reduction in the health effects that can and will disable you at some point.

We can not control the world around us for the most part. But we can control what comes out of our mouth, and what goes in it. And those can make a world of difference.