Money equals joy?

not enough

Money equals joy?

Ten years ago, Catherine Salway was brand director at Virgin, jetting between LA, New York and London in upper class, making a six-figure salary, flicking through property magazines and considering upgrading to a larger home in West London. By most corporate executive standards, she was living the dream:

a high-flying, high-status career at a riotously successful company, accompanied by a jet-set lifestyle of copious champagne, canapes and transatlantic flights. The trouble was, it didn’t feel as good as it seemed. “I was overweight, I drank far too much and my moods were up and down, oscillating between stressed and depressed,” she says. “I was cash-rich but time-poor, rarely seeing my family and friends, eating and drinking far too much.”

After 17 years as Richard Branson’s ‘brand guru’, leaving Virgin was a wrench, but three years ago Catherine quit to set up her own alcohol-free bar, Redemption, in Notting Hill. This sidestep out of the corporate world transformed her health. “I had been propelled by ambition and didn’t realise just how bad the lifestyle was, until I popped out the other end. “I haven’t had a manicure for three years, but I’m down to a healthy size 12 from a 16, I book yoga into my schedule three times a week and I see my dad twice a month instead of a few times a year, at best,” she says. “At 42, I look and feel so much better than I did 10 years ago.”

One of our most deeply-held notions as a society is that the executive lifestyle is something to aspire to; that 75-hour working weeks are the key to success; that
success equals happiness; and that money — while it might not buy said happiness — certainly helps. But there is mounting evidence that the executive lifestyle is not all its cracked up to be. A major new study showed that employees who work more than 55 hours per week have a 33 per cent increased risk of stroke, compared with co-workers who clock up 35-40 hours.

The dark side

Around the same time, researchers at the University of Surrey and Linnaeus University in Sweden warned of a ‘darker side’ to business travel, observing that a supposedly glamorous jet-set lifestyle puts frequent flyers at risk from serious physiological, psychological, emotional and social damage. While we are all familiar with the short-term consequences of jetlag on our mood, energy and concentration levels, it seems it may also ‘switch off’ genes linked to the immune system, raising the risk of heart attack or stroke.

A new research into the pressures on British women found that four in ten “are on the brink of burnout”, with nearly half of the 5,000 respondents feeling “moderately or extremely stressed”. This perhaps accounts for the fact that “women experience something like 20 to 40 percent more mental ill health than men,” according to Daniel Freeman, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Oxford, and co-author of The Stressed Sex: Uncovering The Truth About Men, Women and Mental Health.

But women are also better at recognising when they’re under too much mental pressure, and getting help. Working men, worryingly, suffer higher rates of alcoholism, drug and anger issues — Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures from February show the number of men taking their own lives has reached its highest rate in more than a decade, triple the number of women, with those aged 45 to 59 most at risk. Against this backdrop, there’s a palpable sense that the current corporate landscape — and the lifestyle it breeds — is wholly unsustainable. We have surely headed towards a burnout revolution.
It may already have begun. ONS figures, last month, indicate that self-employment is higher now than at any point in the past 40 years — perhaps as a growing number of workers decide they’re sacrificing their health and relationships for insufficient reward.

Particularly given research from career site Glassdoor suggests that happiness rounds off at £55,000, with pay rises beyond that on a scale of diminishing returns. Instead, the freedom to work flexibly is being prized far higher: “The way we see work is changing,” says consultant and speaker Julia Hobsbawm of Editorial Intelligence. “The big corporates are having serious difficulty recruiting the brightest and best — because these
candidates are demanding life-balance packages, not just money.”

Top five ways to avoid stressBe active: Physical activity can get you in the right state of mind to be able to identify the causes of your stress and find a solution. Exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it could help clear your thoughts and approach your
problems calmly.

Avoid unhealthy habits: Don’t rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. In the long term, these crutches won’t solve your problems, they’ll just create new ones.

Help other people: Evidence shows that people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient. If you don’t have time to volunteer, try to do someone a favour every day, however small. Favours cost nothing, and make you feel great.

Be positive: Look for the positives in life, and things for which you’re grateful. Write down three things at the end of every day which went well. If you’re naturally pessimistic you may have to work hard to change this, but it can be done.

By making a conscious effort you can train yourself to be more positive about life.
Accept the things you can’t change: It isn’t always possible to change a difficult situation. If this proves to be the case, accept things as they are and try to concentrate on everything that you do have control over.


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