I’ve been a bit frazzled lately. Yesterday, I realized that my refrigerator was full of condiments but empty of real food. But the idea of going to the grocery store was almost overwhelming. I’d have to make a list, first off. And then, even after I had the food, I’d have to prepare it and clean up after myself. Sounded like a lot of work and, being already frazzled, I wasn’t in the mood for all that. So, instead of dining on ketchup, I called a friend and met up with her for dinner downtown.
We went for Italian, one of my favorites. We shared a bottle of wine and, finding myself relaxed for the first time in a while, I decided to indulge in pasta with a rich, decadent sauce. We even split dessert afterward. The bill was probably close to what I would have spent at the grocery store buying a week’s worth of food. When dinner was over, I was uncomfortably stuffed. It was early but I was ready for bed.
Now, this isn’t altogether “common” for me so I’m not beating myself up. But for some people, this is just a part of the daily routine. That frazzled feeling leads to all kinds of bad choices, many of which come at a very high cost.
Whether you realize it or not, stress is a habit. When you fall into it, you create patterns. You justify unhealthy decisions; you choose the easy road; you give in to temptation because you’re looking for some kind of comfort and because fighting it off takes energy you just don’t have. The habit of stress is slowly sucking away your money, your productivity, your energy and your health.
Stress Costs Money
How much money do you spend as a direct or indirect result of stress? The answer may surprise you. Review your spending for the past week and analyze the motivations behind each purchase. Did you head to Starbucks one day because the office was driving you nuts and you just had to get away? Did you buy that fabulous pair of red shoes because you were angry with your boyfriend and a little retail therapy seemed in order? For some, spending money is a helpful distraction from stress. Others spend money for convenience and comfort: two things that become exponentially more appealing when under stress.
Stress Kills Productivity
How much time do you waste being stressed? Do you find that stress makes concentration more difficult? What about your interactions with others? Stress causes strain on even the healthiest relationships. You may end up arguing over little things because you’re so frazzled; your patience and temper are on a short fuse. Stress can truly kill personal and professional productivity as time and focus are wasted on unnecessary bickering and worry.
Stress Uses Energy
Ultimately, stress is a huge energy suck. It absorbs your mental, physical and spiritual vitality leaving little to put towards achieving your personal and professional goals. When you’re stressed, you’re exhausted all the time. Your body is in “survival mode” and using all of its energy to fight some perceived threat—whether real or imagined, it’s all the same to your body and mind.
Stress Harms Health
When all of your strength is being used in the stress experience, your body has nothing left to fight off disease. It literally shuts down all processes that aren’t immediately necessary for survival in order to deal with the stress. Plus, those unhealthy decisions we make as a result of stress can come with some very serious consequences.
Medical problems are the ultimate high cost of stress. The American Psychological Association says that two-thirds of office visits to family physicians are due to stress-related symptoms. Medical researchers now estimate that stress is the underlying cause of over 80% of all illnesses. These numbers are staggering. It’s clear that far too many people are ignoring the incredibly expensive habit of stress.
So, how much is your stress really costing you? Your money, your productivity, your energy and your health are all at risk.
Photo Credit: Programwitch (Flickr)