What Is The Best Way To Cope with Toxic Work Stress?
In my last article, I wrote about the dangers of ignoring the symptoms of too much stress. Many years ago, Walt Disney paid a heavy price for ignoring his stress symptoms. In 1931, he was plagued by severe cost overruns and other problems at his studio. He was experiencing exhaustion, burnout and bouts of depression due to chronic stress and overwork. Speaking about the incident 25 years later, he said:
“I had a nervous breakdown. I went all to pieces. I kept expecting more from the artists and when they let me
down and things. I just got very irritable. I worried and
worried. I got to the point that I couldn’t talk on the
telephone. I’d begin to cry.” (The Animated Man, page 84)
Walt Disney’s doctors recommended that he take a vacation. In October of 1931 he took a month long cross-country trip with his wife Lillian. Speaking about the trip, he said, “I was a new man… I had the time of my life. It was actually the first time we had ever been away since were married.” (page 85)
As helpful as the vacation had been to Walt, he needed to incorporate healthy habits into his daily routine, if he was to avoid another breakdown. Walt Disney’s doctors recommended that he start regularly exercising and find a relaxing hobby.
Walt knew that he had to start taking better care of himself. He began going to the athletic club two or three times per week. He tried his hand at calisthenics, wrestling and boxing, none of which he really enjoyed. Fortunately, he started playing polo, which he really liked doing. He also began playing five holes of golf very early in the morning. He would eat breakfast at the clubhouse and “go to the studio all full of pep.” (page 85)
Walt realized that he needed to get more rest. Since he began his work day so early, he started taking a nap each afternoon. His secretary would hold his calls and he would lie down on the couch in his office and sleep for thirty minutes.
Walt also began building model trains. This enabled him to get his mind off work and relax during his evenings and weekends. All of these healthy habits enabled Walt to manage his stress and maintain peace of mind. He did not work as many hours as before, but he found himself being more productive and creative.
You may not be interested in playing polo, but is there an enjoyable activity you could do that would enable you to get some exercise and fresh air? Do you have any relaxing hobbies such as coin collecting or gardening that you could do for 10 or 15 minutes per day? You may not be able to take a nap in your office as Walt Disney did, but could you occasionally take a 20 minute nap in your car during your lunch break?
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