How to keep work from killing you

Clive Palmer Picture: Gary Ramage
Photographer: Gary Ramage
Dr Linda Friedland In The Media

WE MAY joke at times that work is killing us, but for some workers in Japan is literally does. The Japanese term Karoshi literally means ‘death due to overwork’, and after several work visits to Japan I realised it was no joke. Almost everyone I encountered knew of someone who had died from Karoshi. In Australia we also have severe work — related stress, but it’s not often heard of because we don’t keep track of it in the same way. But don’t panic, if you follow these tips below you can keep healthy and avoid the dreaded Karoshi:

1. Take your health at least as seriously as you do your work!

Don’t wait until you reach middle age to begin to take care of yourself. Even in your younger years, you are not invincible. You may have best intentions for living a healthy lifestyle but, with the stress and rush of everyday life, it is easy to get detoured. There is a lot riding on your shoulders: your significant other, your children, your projects. Make a true effort to take care of your health including nutritious eating, effective workouts, and preventive healthcare.

2. Make sleep your number one priority

Sleep is undoubtedly the most powerful restorative tool we have. In reality even small amounts of sleep deprivation undermine our body’s capacity for repair. Compelling research demonstrates the effects of good quality sleep on cellular healing and optimal cognitive function. We have accepted the conventional wisdom that an hour less sleep allows an hour more productive time. This couldn’t be farther from the scientific truth. Over 95% of us require at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night for optimal recovery.

3. When you leave work ... leave work

Although it is much easier said than done, know when to stop! Your time outside of the office should be spent on you and the people you care about, not in your inbox. Much research demonstrates that there may be up to a 60% increase risk for heart disease for people regularly working more than 10 hours a day. So when work is done, get out!

Admittedly, it would be hard to de stress if you have a boss like Meryl Streep in 'The Devil Wears Prada'.Source:Supplied

4. Take a power break at least every 90 minutes

Get up from your desk and stretch your muscles. Take a short walk. The simplest way to switch off the continuous outpouring of stress hormones is by breathing. With your eyes closed, breath in through your nose for a count of four, hold for four and breath out for a slow count of four. This ultra simple exercise can dramatically lower your heart rate, your blood pressure and your muscle tension in as little as thirty seconds.

5. Go for a massage

A growing body of research suggests that a good massage is even better for you than you think. For the same reasons that a massage is relaxing, it boosts neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, possibly relieving depression. Most importantly massage is a tremendously effective method of reducing the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. It lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, releases endorphins and boosts your immune system. 

Athletes aren’t the only ones who benefit from a regular massage.Source:News Corp Australia

6. Go for a HIIT!

Exercise is essential for defusing your stress levels in demanding jobs. Any type of exercise that you do is beneficial. But in recent years HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training has been shown to significantly enhance energy sustainability as well as boost your immunity. This means you exercise at a moderate pace interspersed with brief moments (eg one to two minutes) of increasing intensity such as a sprint and then back to moderate pace.  This will use up your adrenaline and facilitate its switching off, moving your body from a stressed state to a recovery mode.

7. Power up with a small bite every 3 hours

Your brain requires a constant source of energy. A meal will only provide three hours worth of brain fuel, so make sure to eat a small snack midmorning and mid afternoon. A quick biscuit or chocolate will play havoc with your concentration and mood, causing spikes in sugar and deep troughs of energy depletion. Some good choices include a piece of fruit with some almonds, a wholemeal fibre cracker with some cottage cheese, or vegetable sticks with humus.

Dr. Linda Friedland specialises in executive and corporate health, stress management and performance. She is a medical doctor, best-selling author of five books, mother of five, and sought after international speaker.

This article was first published on

Get In Touch

To contact Dr Friedland to present a keynote or lecture at your next conference or to find out more about how Dr Friedland can help your corporate environment, fill in your details and contact Dr Friedland directly. Or connect with her via these social media links.