Staying “fit” requires good heart health, as well as good mental health. Heart disease is often called the silent killer, and according to the CDC year after year it is consistently evidenced as the #1 leading cause of death in the US. Even with this highly credible data, I think there’s an even more prominent silent killer out there, and that is stress. A little stress can be motivating and good for us, BUT since 2008 I think many of us have started to feel surmounting levels of it. When you’re under a lot of pressure, stress does unrelenting damage. It kicks in and torpedoes its way through your life, impacting physical and mental health, including that awesome diet and fitness plan you were following. That said, you can definitely eat and exercise to reduce stress (and this is my haven), but there are other options as well. Whatever you do, it’s important to manage stress, as it impacts all other aspects of your life, from the people you interact with (friends, family, colleagues), to your body and mood, and general happiness and well being.
Stress stems from many places, but for the purposes of this post I am going to focus on one major cause that I have seen, felt and continue to hear about daily – stress from work. Too many of us suffer from workplace stress, but I would argue there is one particular generation suffering more than the others – Baby Boomers. Why them? Unfulfilled promises and expectations. Expectation setting is huge for me. If you tell me that you will not be there to help me and I have to figure out things on my own, and that the job is going to be extremely grueling and tough, and I signed up for it, then okay. Or maybe, I didn’t but you were honest and transparent enough to tell me the truth, then I’m also okay with it. Now, if you don’t tell me any of this, and my job takes over my life, or if you said the job is manageable and it really wasn’t, then I’m going to be pissed, frustrated, overwhelmed, burnt out, and drum roll please…STRESSED AS HELL!
Let me preface this by admitting that this is my opinion and experience, and I know that others likely feel and look at this from a different vantage point. So why does my heart go out to the Baby Boomers generation more than any other? For one primary reason – Job Security. They were stripped of it, impacting their long-term life plans (i.e., retirement and investment). Yeah, we are all screwed over by this, but unlike Millenials, Boomers have less opportunity, options, and T-I-M-E (no offense mom and dad) than many others. Also, for the older generation, it’s hard not to reflect back on the ”good ole days” when you could realistically balance work and life. Now they have “work-life flexibility,” meaning you still work a ton, but you can also work from home, the car, or the plane too. Um, thanks? Not really. This is nothing new to Millenials, practically born into this way of working, and many of us actually value this (I am one of those people), but it is a swift kick in the booty for Boomers. For years, they learned to separate work and life rather than merge them, and now they are being asked to independently learn how to balance the two to fit their lifestyle. On top of this, they have had to deal with changes such as advancements in technology, social media, the Internet, mobile contraptions, application mania, and the greatest change of all…dramatic increases in workload and expectations with an equal and greater reduction in compensation and benefits. In other words, goodbye secure stock options, pension plans, and health insurance and hello more work for less money.
Nobody handles change without some resistance, some people are more adaptable and flexible, but regardless I think it is harder for the Boomer generation to accept, because they are being hit with more changes all at once, and in a world they were not born or raised into. And, unlike many of us, they literally know what it “used” to be like. Back in the day, people worked one job, gave their loyalty and commitment to a company, and were guaranteed their jobs in return. As we have seen, job security no longer exists. Boomers were promised a job and retirement plans to help secure their personal and families financial future, and bit by bit these promises were taken away, to the point that now they don’t get nuttin, but a nice “retirement package” when they didn’t ask for it. This package is essentially code for, we can’t afford you anymore, you are getting older and not as productive as our younger workforce, who are also cheaper, and we are thinking about short-term profits in order to keep our shareholders happy, sooo there’s the door buddy. It’s not personal, sorry.
I, as well as Baby Boomers, understand that this is the nature of business today, and that in order for companies to continue to grow and compete, they must trim costs, capital and resources from all parts of the company, even the human variety. My problem isn’t so much with letting people go, although I do have a perspective on that as well…my argument here is that Boomers were promised one thing, and now living in a world that expects and requires something completely different from them. It sucks and it’s not easy, but for me (a Millenial) it is a bit easier to come to terms with. I entered the workforce thinking that at any moment I could and would be dropped like a fly, so I had better keep my skills in check, continue to learn and grow all my abilities, and keep myself marketable. From day 1 on the job, I was told to “build a brand, a name, a career; not a title and a job“ and that “no matter what, you are always selling yourself, so get good at it…you never know what could happen.” I don’t always like it, but the expectation was set, and that is the environment I have become accustomed to operating in.
I’m sure many of us (all ages) feel as if we have been deprived of the whole expectation setting/meeting phenomenon, but still I really feel as if Boomers have been hit hardest. I’m sure 20 years from now I’ll be faced with a similar situation myself, reflecting on “the good ole days” or how things used to be, dishing out frustrations to my fellow Millenials as we compare ourselves to whatever the newest generation is called.
Alright, alright, okay, okay…I talked a lot about stress, but what the hell do you do about it? I will say that is easier said than done, but if you are looking for tips to manage stress, I found this article, which is both enjoyable and helpful. Read when you have some free time, or bookmark it for frequent and future reference. Shout out to Tip #4! It’s my favorite and ties to the most important and practical message of the reading:
“Finding ways to manage workplace stress isn’t about making huge changes or rethinking career ambitions, but rather about focusing on the one thing that’s always within your control: you.”
YOU!!! I say this to my friends and family all the time, and it applies to far more than the workplace. There is one person you are truly ever in control of and that is yourself. If you can become the king or queen of self-awareness and self-control you have a bright future ahead of you, and those around you will benefit as a result.
If you’ve gotten this far, one last thing, and thanks for staying with me, as I know this post was long! Tip #4 is about EQ, and I am proud to say that I score relatively high in EQ! What’s EQ? It stands for emotional intelligence. Most of you have heard of IQ, well it’s similar in concept, but this is about one’s emotional ability, agility, and intelligence. I’ll likely write more about EQ in the future, but for those who are interested to know more about it now, here are a few slides from a class project I did about a year ago.