From Iron Man to Fragile Hands: The Hidden Cost of Workplace Stress

I drive an old beat-up hybrid car. A few months ago, the error lights started coming on frequently.

It turned out to be a battery issue that couldn’t be fixed—only replaced.

The cheapest replacement was $6.2k, so I delayed until the car refused to start.

That was a “the shit has hit the fan” moment for me.

This incident came to mind when I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while.

He could easily pose in an Iron Man commercial and look like the real deal.

Yet, he too has battled his own “error lights.”

Years ago, while serving as the GM for a tech company’s APAC office, the work stress was so intense that he developed a severe case of a frozen shoulder.

He could barely turn his head to check blind spots while driving. Prioritizing his health, he decided to quit his job, and slowly, his health returned.

Being in my mid-forties, I’ve heard many similar stories of mid-life colliding with excruciating work stress. I shared them in my upcoming book, “No More Bosses.”

From an HR Director who had an asthma relapse due to 20-hour workdays catering to Singapore and the USA, to a data scientist hospitalised for a month after juggling seven hats at a bank, their bodies started giving signs that something was wrong.

That’s why I started to take maintenance seriously.

My daily ritual includes a BFT session (Sunday is my day off), I take Xandro Lab’s Daily Essential Bundle, and I practice daily gratitude journaling and breathing exercises through the Breathwrk app.

However, no amount of gentle driving can ensure my car battery won’t die.

It’s crucial to recognise workplace stress before it hits the roof:

  1. Exhaustion: Feeling mentally and physically fatigued all the time, lacking the energy for simple tasks.
  2. Lack of Motivation: Losing enthusiasm for your work, just clearing your to-do list without finding new ways to improve efficiency.
  3. Reduced Job Performance: Falling below your monthly quota, missing deadlines, receiving feedback about declining work quality, feeling like you’re slipping at your job, and finding it increasingly difficult to keep up.
  4. Withdrawal and Cynicism: Feeling detached and cynical about your job, withdrawing from friends, experiencing diminished productivity, lowered concentration, and a sense of stagnation at work.
  5. Physical Symptoms: Suffering from headaches, stomachaches, frequent illnesses, and insomnia despite feeling tired all the time.

And take steps to prevent them from creeping in.

If there are already such biological signs, don’t create situations that would trigger them.

About half a year ago, the same friend volunteered to help his new employer fix issues in their Malaysia office. It did not take him long for him to figure out that he was the lone firefighter and the water hose wasn’t working.

This culminated in a new health condition—his right-hand trembles, and he occasionally experiences panic attacks.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to care for your health.

Any sign, regardless of how small, is a signal that something is off.

Take them seriously. Similar to a warning light on your car, these signs are indications that something is wrong.

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