Thursday, October 20, 2011

Emotional Exhaustion versus Physical Exhaustion

Sedentary work can be as exhausting as physical work, if not more so.

Today, I had a telephone conference, and I am wiped out.  It is exhausting, sometimes, to have to think, and think on your feet.  And it has taken me the better part of 50 years to figure this out.

Most of us, today, work at sedentary jobs, where we have to do things, usually on computer screens, which are not physically tiring, but emotionally exhausting.   At the end of the day, we feel "wiped out" and complain about being "tired" - when in fact we have exerted very little physical effort during the day.

Unfortunately, this lifestyle is a sure-fire recipe for a heart attack or other illness.  Stress and tension, not accompanied by any sort of exertion, is bad for your body.  And this is one reason why driving a lot is so bad for you - your heart rate increases and your blood pressure rises, while at the same time, you sit almost entirely still.

Over time, this sort of lifestyle, if left unchecked, results in creeping weight gain, higher blood pressure, and other health issues.  So, off we trot to the Doctor for our blood medication and other "fixes" for what is an unnatural and unhealthy lifestyle.

A better approach is to get some exercise, and by this I don't mean spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars joining a health club, buying a fancy bicycle or exercise gear, or - the latest trend - walking around with little ski poles and special "walking" shoes.

Just walking is good.  And yet, so few of us do it.  Consider my lifestyle as a young law clerk at the big firm.  I would get up every morning, drive off to work in D.C. traffic (not stressful at all, of course!) and then sit behind a desk for 4 hours, taking an occasional break for coffee and perhaps a leftover doughnut in the "break" room.  At lunch, we would walk less than a block to a restaurant serving salty high-calorie food, and then go back for four more hours of sitting.  It is amazing I didn't get blood clots.

After work, I would drive to school, and then sit for three hours in class - more coffee and doughnuts, of course, and then drive home, exhausted, and watch television, eat delivery pizza (more salt, more carbs) and then fall asleep, only to repeat the process again the next day.

A horrible way to live, even if it pays so well.  And yet many people continue this process - working desk jobs and watching TeeVee at home.  I know one young Associate at a Law Firm in NYC who did this so much he actually paid someone to walk his dog (this is a big deal in the City - and if you visit there, you will probably see a professional dog walker on more than one occasion, with his collection of 5-10 dogs on leashes, like a bunch of balloons).

So, I am off for a walk today.  I was walking regularly, but like with anything else, one can "fall off the bandwagon" and say, "Gee, I am too busy today for my walk, I'll make it up tomorrow."  And before you know it, you haven't walked in days and feel like crap.

Of course, for many folks, getting exercise seems impossible.  They can't quit their jobs, right?  And they can't sell that albatross-around-their-neck known as the mini-mansion in the suburbs, right?  So a long commute and no exercise seem unavoidable.   But we all make choices in life, whether we realize it or not.  And choosing granite counter-tops and a leased Lexus over your personal well-being is a choice.  And a choice many folks today seem prepared to make.