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There’s an old adage that echoes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”  We all need time off from work, but what really happens when we don’t? Perspiration trumps inspiration?

Prolonged work stress which leads to high rates of depression is experienced by everyone in the workplace. However, women will be swift enough to find help from colleagues, partners, or even friends, unlike men.  Men are notoriously known to bottle up their emotions. They could be at the peak of their saddest moment but will not take that easy step and open up to anyone.  The dire facts that men grow up hearing toxic masculinity phrases such as “men don’t cry, men don’t show emotions, men are not vulnerable” makes it even worse!

Data from the World Bank puts suicide mortality rates in Kenya at 6.1 people in every 100,000 – men being in the highest risk category with 9.1 men in every 100,000 affected.

There have been cases in the past where men committed suicide due to work stress, depression, and the mere notion that people would look at them as vulnerable if they dared speak out. When workplace stress is left unchecked for long periods of time, you can easily be exposed to risks of health problems such as depression, cancer, eating disorders, and sleep disorders.

It is good to work hard and put in every effort to impress the upper management. Sometimes, economic growth or poor market performance could be pulling you down, putting you under pressure to perform better. But your mental health should always be a priority. When you start having headaches, anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues, changes in appetite, or rapid heartbeat while pushing your deadlines at work or escalating your performance, it’s best to put on the brakes and take some time off.

Work stress can be caused by exterior forces such as inconsiderate bosses, toxic colleagues, or even unhealthy working environments. Sometimes the causes are from within – whereby you become the catalyst of the stress. Maybe you are disorganized, you fell into the wrong career or you fail to plan your schedules well. The difference is the same. Work stress remains the elephant in the room that needs to fit through the exit door.

In 2016, 745,194 deaths attributed to long working hours were reported worldwide by the World Health Organization (WHO.) Asia is known to have widespread occupational mortality to the extent of having a Japanese word for it “Karoshi.” The term was coined in 1978 and has been widely used since then. Karoshi death is highly triggered by heart attacks or strokes caused by stress from the workplace.

‘Work-a-holism’ is increasing day by day, even a notch higher now that technology is advancing with every sunrise.  A large percentage of leisure time is spent on emails and work calls which can easily result in greater job stress. Work stress, however, differs depending on the industry sector. In the engineering, military, emergency services and finance sectors, men appear to experience higher levels of stress in relation to risk-taking, disciplinary matters and career progression. These careers are regarded to have extensive expectations and requirements which heaps copious pressure on men – given that they are careers that are mostly men-dominated.

Even though work stress can be a hard egg to crack, there are some steps that you can take to help you ease the pressure:

  • Rubbing off the societal expectations of how a man should be is one of the major steps to deal with work stress. Find someone that you can talk to and vent on the pressure that work has piled on you. Reaching out to colleagues and friends will help big time. People need people.
  • Having a support system that comes through when you’re in the abyss of work-a-holism is very essential. However, if the stress levels have peaked to heights of mental health issues, it’s advisable to seek professional help.
  • Have a work-life balance. You’re probably a father or a husband with other responsibilities to take care of as well. Understanding that you have another life outside work is an unsettling realization.
  • Sometimes work can be so extensive – you have deadlines to meet, emails to respond to and a pile of projects to finish, but you need that switch button to also focus on the other side of life.
  • Spending some time with family helps to ease the pressure. Family needs you, just as much as you need to accomplish your career goals. Having a work-life balance will save you from sinking into Karoshi.
  • Every once in a while, it’s good to take some time off. Take that vacation, go for a road trip or go camping with friends and family to just cool off.
  • Thinking about work all day, all year round can be a bit toxic, not only for you but the people around you as well.
  • As Winston Churchill said, ‘He who fails to plan is planning to fail.’ Time management is a major skill that can save you from the claws of workplace stress.
  • Setting time for every task that you need to do will help you meet deadlines, and accomplish your goals on time. It’s better than flowing plan-less throughout the day.

With the advancements in the work landscape, it’s easy for work to follow you home. Our phones and laptops can keep us chained to the office if we don’t set clear boundaries, which can be a major cause of stress. Logging out of your work email or having a specific phone number for work that you can turn off at the end of the day gives you a chance to recharge.

Stress can sometimes be caused by low salaries especially when you have financial responsibilities. You may opt to look for greener pastures. Apply for jobs that fit your skills and a salary that will meet your financial goals. The majority of people agree that work is a significant source of stress in their lives. Before workplace stress brings you down, look out for the aforementioned symptoms. Don’t be afraid to speak out – after all, real men seek help!

Article written by:

Ian Elroy Ogonji

E: theogonji@gmail.com

T: @ianogonji

IG: @ianogonj

Ian Elroy Ogonji is a journalist with published work in The Star Newspaper, The Standard Media, Business Insider South Africa among other publications.

He mirrors the society through the lenses of a creative - from writing relatable articles to creative stories that resonates with the new world.

His vast experience has allowed him to amass a wealth of knowledge which he now uses to effect positive change in the society.

When not writing, Ian enjoys traveling, taking photos and watching cat videos on YouTube.

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