Staying tough – for now

One of my mom’s lifelong friends has a son my age who quit his desk job because of stress. I admit I raised a disdainful eyebrow when I heard that because I grew up in a family that emphasized toughing it out. For example, I attended grade school 30 years too early to benefit from public health officials’ calls for “social distancing” during illnesses. My mom’s policy was that if you were too sick to go to school, you were too sick to watch TV. So unless I was extremely unwell, I ended up going to school because it was better than lying in bed doing nothing all day.

As a working adult, however, “toughing it out” means more than attending class while you have a cold. Someone else I know is an assistant general manager for a service company and routinely works 14-hour days, sending out trucks, dealing with drivers and following up with customers. As someone who recently lost his father to heart disease, he’s smart enough to know that lack of exercise and a fast-food dinner eaten at 9:30 p.m. five nights a week could be putting him on a fast track to developing his own health problems. Yet, like many people who are grateful to have a job, he continues to struggle to meet the demands of his position, while telling himself things will slow down at some point.

Situations like his have led me to try to rid myself of the attitude that everyone should just “suck it up and deal.” In this month’s cover story, Associate Editor Lauretta Claussen examines workplace stress and its link to long-term health problems – and possibly even workplace injuries. She also speaks with experts who point out steps both employers and employees can take to help reduce the number of situations in which employees feel their only option is to tough it out – and deal with any health repercussions later.

The opinions expressed in "Editor's Note" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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