At least that’s the view of co-author of a Relationships Forum Australia report, “An Unexpected Tragedy: Evidence for the connection between working hours and family breakdown in Australia”.
In a recent Australian Financial Review article, Paul Shepanski said the findings in the Report showed that more than 20% of employees work 50 or more hours a week, and more than 30% work regularly on weekends.
With these statistics it’s not surprising that, as another person put it: “I got to a point where I became anaesthetized to life…I created distance between myself and my family and I became addicted to the adrenaline of business, and couldn’t exist outside it.”
Even if you are not addicted to the job and would much rather be doing non-work things, the long hours inevitably take their toll on relationships. A friend, already feeling guilty about being a single working mum, recently told me that she was devastated when her 2 year old daughter said to her, in an admonishing adult tones: ‘Mummy you just work too much.’
It’s The Almond Effect® Again
Philomena Tan, author of ‘Leaving the Rat Race to Get a Life’ feels the same way.
She says: “People often don’t realise they’re fraying at the edges…There’s a lot of brain research now that talks about the cortisone and adrenaline coursing through our bodies all the time with work stress and deadlines, which leave many in ‘fight or flight’ mode for long periods. That’s always going to be detrimental to others.”
The Almond Effect® is when we are in the fight or flight mode for the wrong reasons. We are primed by our brains to survive at all costs and ‘fighting or flighting’ from things that could kill us is natural.
Our challenge is that unless we train it, sometimes our amygdala just gets confused by what’s a real life or death situation and what is not. And usually events are work are not.
Learn to Manage The Almond Effect®
Work can be stressful – we know that. But how stressful we let it become, and how it affects us, really is up to us.
The key is self awareness – and catching ourselves when we are stressing out and doing something about it. We need both physical and mental activities to get The Almond Effect®, and the hormones it sends rushing through our bodies, under control.
Start by answering these questions:
- What are your hot buttons/triggers?
- What are the physical clues that indicate you’re getting worked up?
- What are some of your general stressors, e.g. noise, loud TV, etc?
- Think of a time when you experienced The Almond Effect ®. List the preceding events that may have shaped your mood, and your reaction.
- Taking all your answers to the previous questions into account, what could you do when you know that you’re in a situation that makes you feel vulnerable to increased stress?
Now take the next steps
You can train yourself to take considered action, even when your amygdala has triggered massive hormonal and chemical reactions in your body in preparation for either fight or flight. This skill won’t come by accident, by chance, or just because you’d like it to. It takes deliberate, and sometimes demanding, effort on your part.
Keep saying this to yourself: “It’s easier to change the way I react, than it is to change the way others think, or what they do.” It really is true. I have a friend I’ve known for over 20 years who’s married to a man who considers himself an artist. Any other kind of work is absolute drudgery to him. Unfortunately, he’s unable to obtain work as an artist. Because he isn’t working as a professional artist, and is therefore unfulfilled, he’s stressed, and often gets sick. He sits around reading books and watching television all day.
When she married him over 35 years ago, my friend found this ‘arty’ man’s personality and approach to life highly attractive, in fact she loved him for his different view of the world, and his gentle, laid back approach to money, responsibility, and work. But for the last 20 years, his ‘artiness’ has only served to make her frustrated and upset. She tells me: ‘I have to keep pushing him and pushing him’. The result? She too, is constantly stressed, constantly worried, and constantly sick.
I have a great deal of empathy for her, but realistically, is he going to change now? What’s the only thing that can change in this relationship? What’s the only thing she can control?
What you see is what you get
If you’ve seen the film ‘The Secret’ you will know that there is a lot of talk about the ‘Laws of Attraction’.
Whether you are convinced or sceptical about these ‘laws’, there is a strengthening view among neuroscientists that the way to change the way you respond to situations and your neural patterns that are responsible is to give real attention, undivided attention, total focus, on processing the new ways you want to act.
You have to enable your brain to create new neural connections but that takes time and effort. The existing patterns of behaviour are laid down in long term memory and the brain finds it much easier to rely on those rather than create new ones. But new patterns can be made – we do it all the time. Attention and focus allows our brain to shift what we are thinking hard about – the new behaviours we want – from short-term to long-term memory so that they can become our new automatic behaviours.
Here’s how to start
Here’s an extract from Where Did That Come From? How to Stay In Control in Any Situation Proven Tips To Manage The Almond Effect® that will suggests what can do:
“The more you ‘see’ in your mind what you want to be and do, the more likely you are to achieve it. What is it that powers our sports heroes to their victories? There’s usually little difference in the physical capacities of elite athletes that sets them apart. The key factor is their mindset – how much they want to win.
A major strategy used by competitors is to visualise what it looks and feels like to achieve their goal: to have the gold medal, to wear the yellow jacket, to see ‘world record’ against their name, to win the title.
It’s the same with any goal that we set ourselves, including how we want to live our lives, and the quality of the relationships we want to have with our partners, children, friends, work mates, customers, bosses, and bank managers – everyone with whom we interact.
What does success look like for you? What does happiness look like for you? What does ‘no stress’ look like for you? You get the picture. Here are some thought-starters:
Consciously and deliberately prepare yourself by visualising:
- Arriving at work each day in a happy and positive frame of mind;
- Getting through each work day calmly, without getting wound up;
- Getting home from work ready to spend meaningful time with people you care about;
- Seeing family and friends after a tough day.
If you still have something that is bugging you, try this. Write what’s bugging you on a piece of paper. Then write your answers to these questions:
Can I do anything about what’s bugging me now?
- If the answer is yes, great: do it – as long as it’s rational, and you’ve thought it through, i.e. you’re not experiencing The Almond Effect ® at the time. However, if you’re still emotionally wound up, go to step 2.
- If the answer is no, I can’t (or shouldn’t) do anything about it today – I’ll do it later; fold the piece of paper, and put it somewhere where ‘later’ is – e.g. in your briefcase to take to work tomorrow.
- If the answer is no, I can’t do anything about it, and will never be able to, but it’s still bugging me: take a pair of scissors, and cut the paper into as many pieces as possible. Keep cutting until you can’t cut it up anymore, then throw the pieces away (responsibly, of course) and let the issue go.”
The Unexpected Tragedy
Please don’t let yourself be part of it. The cost is too high.