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Steve should have been celebrating. A 30-something entrepreneur in the Bay area, he had just closed a multi-million dollar round of Series A financing for his startup.

Instead, he found himself in his doctor’s office—25 pounds overweight, physically exhausted, sleep-deprived and with a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. This news only aggravated the anxiety and disconnect he had been feeling for months.

Steve was burned out. It’s called “burnout” for good reason—at the cellular level, our bodies are literally inflamed.

This doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a chronic condition that’s a direct response to our 24/7 “always on” work cultures—which, combined with a climate of economic uncertainty, make for a perfect storm in our physiology.

Our stress response system evolved to protect us from danger. However, it cannot distinguish between a saber-toothed tiger in the wild and a harsh email. Each time one of our three primal survival needs are not met—for safety (e.g. a company downsizing), reward (e.g. poor performance feedback) and connection (e.g. working on a team with a cut-throat “each to his own” philosophy), the “fight or flight” stress team of biochemical reactions in the body kicks into gear.

Over time, the effects of chronic stress are insidious, reflected in our lifestyle choices: we toss and turn each night struggling to sleep; use caffeine to jolt us into alertness in the morning; confront mid-afternoon slumps with a cookie or soda; and then numb and soothe ourselves at night with junk food, alcohol, social media, or medication. We wear our “crazy busy” badge of honor with pride, while sacrificing prime time with family and friends in order to keep pace with the demands at work.

– Parneet Pal

Read More: Battling The Physical Symptoms Of Stress