I see it over and over again: a patient presents with crushing fatigue, anxiety (sometimes panic attacks), insomnia, joint pain, back pain, depression (sometimes mood swings), and general malaise — the gamut of symptoms, basically — and we chase them with one physical treatment after another. They get a little better here and there, but it still feels like we’re chasing symptoms…

Until one day, the patient leaves her overly demanding job and goes and finds something she loves. Then the symptoms “magically” all disappear.

There’s something about living in alignment with our own internal value system that breeds health. – Tweet That!

Job Stress from Modern American “Sweat Shops”

If you’ve read my bio, you may have seen that my father passed away from pancreatic cancer when I was a teenager. But I’m pretty sure work stress, in large part, was what really killed him. He got called at all hours. He got blamed for things he didn’t do, and other people took credit for what he did do… and he felt he had no power, no way to fight back. At the height of the work load, he suddenly got sick. He was diagnosed and died two weeks later.

So to me, this is personal.

I can’t say I was terribly surprised to read the NYT exposé on the working conditions at Amazon. This is the culture in big business, and particularly in the tech industry: Faster. Bigger. More. Management agrees to outrageous project deadlines, committing their employees to increasingly unreasonable feats, and employees feel they have no choice but to comply.

“Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk,” said Bo Olson, formerly in book marketing for Amazon. 

“Amazon came under fire in 2011 when workers in an eastern Pennsylvania warehouse toiled in more than 100-degree heat with ambulances waiting outside, taking away laborers as they fell,” says the NYT article. “After an investigation by the local newspaper, the company installed air-conditioning.”

Noelle Barnes, former Amazon employee, says they have a saying at Amazon: “Amazon is where overachievers go to feel bad about themselves.”

This USA Today article echoes the same sentiments, only this time from Dustin Moskovitz, one of the Facebook founders. Moskovitz attributes his work load to a myriad of health problems at the time, including panic attacks and throwing his back out regularly (in his 20s).

The Take-Home Message: 

Yes, you have to make a living. Yes, you have to provide for your family. But take a good, hard look at the state of your health and happiness. Only you truly know whether your job is your “obstacle to cure.”

If it is, ask yourself: is it worth it?