The rat race is turning us all into laboratory rats. Therefore, we should all take to heart The Lancet report last week about the connection between stress and coronary problems. Now is the time for action.
The odds are that almost everyone reading this article has a tendency to overdo things. It goes with being an accountant and feeling the constant obligation to impress colleagues and clients (or merely keep them off our backs), not to mention the difficulty of foraging for work in the middle of a recession.
The most interesting additional factor thrown into the mix this time around is the idea that overworking is not too much of a problem provided that you have control over your destiny. The problem here is that very few of us have the final say in critical situations.
Unless you are running your own business, inevitably someone higher up the food chain can potentially make life difficult. Even if you are a sole trader or principal, clients, bankers or those lovely people at HM Revenue and Customs might well be making demands that are impossible to meet.
In this light, there are a number of ideas that we should all be considering as a way of prolonging our lives and increasing our enjoyment of work and leisure.
It is not all bad news. The first thing to realise is that while stress is a key risk factor leading to strokes and heart attacks, others are more significant. Unfortunately, smoking, drinking and eating imprudently are all activities that can be tempting for those of us in the profession, or for that matter industry.
Immodest ingestion frequently combines with a lack of exercise due to elongated working hours and a not unreasonable desire to take things easy at the end of a long day or week.
Entertaining clients can be great fun but frequently entails rather more alcohol than we might expect at the start of the evening and the kind of rich, lavish meals that we would never consider eating en famille, other than on special occasions. Very few of us can resist an expensive wine/port/malt whiskey or the quadruple chocolate mousse that it accompanies.
However, perhaps it is now time to take stock and make it your mission to get healthy. Skipping dessert, the second bottle of wine or that third packet of cigarettes could save your life. So could joining a gym, but that might achieve little more than staving off its owner's bankruptcy for a few additional months, if there is never time to go there.
Escaping stress is quite another matter. Telling clients or the boss to take a running jump might be deeply satisfying in the very, very short run but will almost certainly lead to even greater pressure.
Being more organised can be helpful and trying to prioritise so that those last-minute disasters happen far less frequently should not be beyond any of us. Further, cutting down on working hours by being more focused might also be within reach without causing offence to anybody.
In addition, this columnist is a big fan of leisure activities. Whether it be writing this column, paying constant visits to the theatre, whacking a little white ball around a golf course, reading, listening to music or watching episode four of Parade’s End fun, there is more to life than adding up numbers and selling services.
Please, please, please take a few minutes out to consider the best way of de-stressing your life. It could make all the difference. Remember, being an accountant should be enjoyable, as well as lucrative.