“Every outbreak across the globe today stems from a descendant of the medieval plague.”
To understand the costly and life-damaging phenomenon of workplace stress, it's useful to have a brief look at history. The bubonic plague was once the scourge of Europe, killing millions and destroying entire communities. For centuries, people were powerless to stop this devastating illness. Why? Because they didn’t understand what caused it. Today, we know that the bubonic plague is a bacterial infection, spread by fleas, but in medieval times, this fact was invisible to them. Medieval doctors believed it was caused by “poisoned air” (similarly, the word “malaria” literally means “bad air”, a hangover from early misunderstandings about how the illness was spread).
While there are still occasional outbreaks, the bubonic plague is largely a thing of the past. But there’s a new plague that’s on the increase; work-related stress. In the UK alone, it’s estimated that 400,000 people per year are losing time from work due to stress, with approximately 13 million working days lost (at a cost to the UK of hundreds of millions of pounds). But here’s the thing:
Modern medicine is as ignorant about the true cause of work-related stress as medieval doctors were about the cause of the bubonic plague.
The UK government’s Health & Safety Executive’s report, Stress and Psychological Disorders in Great Britain 2013, listed the following factors as the three main causes of workplace stress:
• Factors intrinsic to the job
• Interpersonal relationships
• Changes at work
But the truth is that these factors do not and cannot cause stress. Many workers thrive in the face of these same factors. So what’s the true cause of unhealthy stress?
The feeling of stress is a valuable signal, letting a person know that they have stressful thinking in that moment. When a person mistakenly believes that this valuable signal is telling them about something other than the ebb and flow of their thinking (Eg. Their job, their boss, their changing workplace etc), unhealthy stress is the inevitable result.
The widespread misattribution of unhealthy stress to workplace factors doesn’t just obscure the true cause of unhealthy stress – it makes it worse! Just as medieval doctors innocently caused the spread of plague and other infections due to their ignorance, the modern misunderstanding about the causes are resulting in a stress epidemic.
So what’s the solution? Insightful understanding. Insightful understanding into the nature of thought results in a decrease in unhealthy stress, and an increase in happiness, wellbeing and performance. Occasional outbreaks of misunderstanding seem likely to be inevitable for human beings, but we have reason to be hopeful. As we see through the outside-in misunderstanding as individuals, organisations, and as an entire species, we will transcend the scourge of this modern-day plague, as well as the misunderstanding-driven delusions of crime, war and injustice.
If you want to learn more about how you can see through the outside-in misunderstanding, and start waking up to the principles behind clarity, you can explore the materials here at www.JamieSmart.com or read my book, the #1 bestseller CLARITY: Clear Mind, Better Performance, Bigger Results.
To your increasing clarity,