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You may joke at times about your job killing you, but it’s no laughing matter. In fact, there’s a Japanese term that literally means “death due to overwork”. When I first heard the word, karoshi, whilst lecturing in Tokyo, I was sure it was some kind of joke. After returning to Japan, however, I realized that it wasn’t an exaggeration. Almost everyone I encountered knew of someone who had died from overworking.
Through decades of medical practice, I’ve never encountered this phenomenon. Quite the opposite – “hard work never killed anyone” has undoubtedly been the prevailing mantra. Work is stressful, and in Japan, it may be more so. But can death occur as a result of hard work? Individuals who are of advanced age and have underlying health problems are at a greater risk of sudden death. It’s extremely rare for a young person without high risk factors, and yet, karoshi is exactly that.
In the late 1980s, when several young business executives suddenly died without any previous signs of disease, Japan acknowledged a strange new phenomenon called karoshi. These deaths were associated with extremely long working hours of 60-hour weeks and more, which isn’t uncommon in Japan. Here’s the interesting part: Japan is one of the only countries in the world that counts karoshi as a separate category for the cause of death. In the United States, severe work-related stress certainly exists, but we don’t hear about it because it’s not tracked in the same way. But don’t panic! Here are six tips to help you stay on top of your game and prevent work from “killing you”:
High stress levels at work can ruin pretty much any health goals you have. It causes your body to store more fat and makes it difficult to build and retain muscles. You’ll have less energy and a higher risk of mental illness, heart attack, and stroke. As karoshi suggests, you can literally overwork yourself to death, but it doesn’t have to be this way!
With balanced nutrition, regular exercise, and proper rest and relaxation, you can stay motivated and deliver your best performance at work without wearing yourself out. Fuel your mind and body with an energizing smoothie, made with nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables. Combine that with effective workouts and other stress-relieving activities to set yourself up for a longer, healthier, and happier life.
Dr. Linda Friedland is a medical doctor, media personality, best-selling author of seven books and sought-after international speaker. She is an authority on executive and corporate health, women’s wellbeing, as well as stress management, resilience, and performance.
With a professional career of more than 20 years in clinical medicine and over a decade of healthcare advisory and consulting, Dr Friedland is a leading authority on health and performance. She is an international advisor to many of Fortune and Forbes' top global companies, and she designs and implementshealth, lifestyle, and disease prevention programs. A highly-rated international speaker for numerous global organizationsand an author of several books, she has spoken in more than 30 countries in the past few years. She travels frequently to deliver keynotes and consult for corporations throughout Asia, North America, Europe, South Africa, and Australia. Linda consults on corporate health andwellbeing as well as women’s health, leadership and performance.
She is also advisory board member for several international healthcare companies including the Shanghai-based JUCCE (Joint US–China Collaboration on Clean Energy) and the China —A New Way to Eatinitiative: a project of the World Economic Forum.
Dr. Friedlandresides mostly in Australia and is married to Peter, a surgeon. She is a mother of five.