Workplace Wellness

Is Your Job Making You Sick?

A lot of people are grinding it out in jobs that make them sick. They are so unhappy or overworked or stressed that work actually makes them physically ill.

Related: 4 Ways Startup Employers Fail at Work-Life Balance

There's actually a word for it: Psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology is a field of medicine that deals with the physiological manifestation of psychological stress. In other words, the word describes how stress can really mess up the body. It’s hard to distill an entire field of medicine (not to mention a 13-syllable word) into a single sentence, but that’s it in a nutshell.

Maybe you weren’t familiar with the word psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology before today? (And I swear that that’s the last time I’ll make you read it). But I’d bet that based on your personal experience, you already know a thing or two about the link between stress and health. Am I right? Consider:

  • Maybe you battle debilitating exhaustion when you think about making major life changes.
  • Maybe your eczema flares up when you think about applying to grad school.
  • Maybe you get strep throat like clockwork every time the busy season rolls around and you’re overloaded with too much work. Again.
  • Maybe your digestive system goes haywire when you think about keeping up with the Joneses at your office.
  • Maybe, like me, your back goes out every time you push yourself to the limit.
  • Maybe you should complete the following sentence: I always get sick or injured when I ___________.

I hear you, my friend. Don’t you think it’s possible that your body is trying to tell you something? Perhaps it’s time you examined the link between your mental and physical health.

Obviously (but I’m going to go ahead and say it anyway), you should see a doctor for any health-related concerns. Please do that. I don’t want an angry letter from someone who thinks I’m suggesting that some deep introspection will heal a bleeding head wound. 

Seriously, consider all of the things that are going on with your physical health, especially any recurring issues. Only you and your doctor can determine what might be causing these symptoms. But if you have an unresolved chronic issue, or recurring health issues or multiple health issues, it’s possible that some of that is rooted in some neglected stress. Don’t you think?

Related: Why Your Workplace Wellness Program Is Unhealthy

Consider what some of your root stressors might be. They may include fear about the future, financial strain, a crappy job, uncertainty, perfectionism, fear of judgment, unhappiness in your relationship, the feeling that you have to "people-please," overanalysis of every situation, overwork or any number of other things.

The question you've got to answer is, what is my body trying to tell me? 

Maybe your body knows that you need to quit your job, or start your own business, or reenter the corporate world, or move across the country, or leave your relationship, or have a child, or stop trying so hard to be liked, or slow the heck down, or start your MBA, or quit your MBA and go to film school instead.

Whatever personal insight you glean from your body, resist the urge to push it back down. There’s nothing more painful than realizing an uncomfortable truth and then trying to repress it. That genie won’t go back into the bottle.

Now, knowing what the problem is and knowing how to fix it are two different things. Figuring out the fix will likely take some time. But, if you know exactly how to make that happen, do it. If not, that’s okay.

Baby steps. The important thing is that you listen to your body and do something about it.