I asked Anurag to ponder over where it all went wrong. There is always a moment in life we can point to and say ‘that ’s where it all changed.’ For him, it was not one but two phone calls in a span of one week that changed the course of his life. The first was from his mentor, calling to congratulate him for bagging a much-anticipated promotion. He recalled that was a day of great joy and achievement for him. And, he wanted to share this special moment with his girlfriend. However, when he called her to convey the news of his achievement, the reaction was rather tepid to his surprise. Anurag said he would often have altercations with her and most of it had to do with his inability to spend enough time with her. However, he didn’t pay much attention to her complaints until he got a call one day—and that was the second phone call that changed his life.
While he was still on a high, celebrating his success at work, his girlfriend decided to call off their relationship after having felt ‘hugely neglected’ for days. This was a big jolt for Anurag as she was someone Anurag had dreamt of having a future with. The lady in question, however, felt his professional success would take him further away from her. And fearing that things would get worse, she decided to call it off.
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And so began an all-new journey for Anurag Sinha. A journey that entailed gaining 30 kilos, spending unending hours at work over copious cups of tea and coffee and bidding adieu to the healthy lifestyle that he once followed so diligently. To make matters worse, after work, Anurag would stay up nights watching television and binge eat to kill the void in his life. He took to smoking as well. The laptop/computer and the mobile phone were the elixir for killing his empty hours.
His sleep patterns began altering. So, a man who would sleep at 12:00 am and wake up at 5:00 in the morning, was now sleeping at 3:00 am or 4:00 am and waking up at about 9:00 am, barely in time for office. even though he was still getting his 5 hours of sleep, his sleep would be disturbed and he would be getting up in the morning feeling groggy. Tiredness upon waking is a usual symptom for people who do not have a comfortable and sound sleep. The hours were getting erratic too. On some days he would sleep for about 4 hours, on other days he would sleep for even 12 hours. The break-up indeed brought a lot of changes in his life.
Someone rightly said, a broken heart can make you do a lot of things — stare at the stars, binge on ice-creams, fight with best friends, cry endlessly and much more. You may think this can never happen to you, and be unprepared with the coping mechanisms. But, for all you may know, you probably have tried multiple methods to heal the pain already but are unaware of it. And in Anurag’s case, what followed should not be surprising for most of us. Anurag spent all his day at work, closeted in meetings and conference calls. He started eating, breathing and talking work. Did he actually eat anything? If you count occasional cheese slices, bread pakoras, snacks and sandwiches as food, then, yes, he ate.
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Is this the life of a corporate slave? What happened to the daily jogging, I found myself asking him one day. I remember him smirking and saying, that ritual had been replaced by a treadmill that was now gathering dust in one corner of the house. The lack of physical activity, the non-existent social life, the emptiness without a partner and someone to care and share with, the erratic sleeping pattern and the monotonous work life had left him sapped of all energy. Mental exhaustion seeped into everything he did. The disregard for personal hygiene, the indifference towards his living conditions and the growing forgetfulness that now de ned his life went unnoticed by Anurag.
Six years after joining the company, an annual health check-up brought him back to reality. Most organisations provide a comprehensive annual health check-up to their employees. One of the major reasons for this is the growing lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome and even cancer. Employee wellness programmes are gaining more importance as research increasingly shows how employee wellness adds to the growth of a company and vice versa. For instance, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) conducted a study in 2010 that suggested smoking, alcoholism and drug abuse play a large role in workplace absenteeism. Employee wellness programmes can help curb this absenteeism.
Studies by Indian Council for Research on International economic Relations (ICRIER) and Capital Line estimate that preventative healthcare costs a company about 0.28 per cent of its total income every year. On the other hand, lifestyle diseases can cost a company about 3.83 per cent of its total income. Therefore, the need for having policies that encourage annual health check-ups for employees.
Coming back to Anurag, the results from the annual health check-up made him sit up and take notice. The scale showed Anurag weighed about 107 kilos, his blood pressure had skyrocketed due to his obesity and this disconnect with his self had brought his confidence level down. No wonder so many of his subordinates/ colleagues disliked him now. How can anybody respect and like you if you do not like yourself?
The epiphany drove him to seek help to find the cause of all his problems and a way out. Though referred by another person, he soon realised how much help he seriously needed. He told himself, it was still not too late. And, that is what this book is trying to teach all of us. It is all about a process of self-realisation which causes the cascade of change to begin within. Sometimes it may happen organically when a sudden setback in health makes us realise that we need to pay attention and sometimes a concerned spouse, friend or co-worker may drag us into that process of self-realisation.
This excerpt from Stress Diaries: From the eyes of a Therapist by Rachna Khanna Singh has been published with permission from Bloomsbury India.
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