Links between cancer, stress, and overwork: why I’m cutting my hours

Too much to do
Too much to do
I’m here to tell you that there is no medical journal article currently available on the long-term physical effects of writers working ten-to-seventeen-hour days seven days a week for for stretches of up to seven months. (Either with or without a healthy diet and exercise.)

However, there is a breadcrumb trail I’m following:

Crumb one: The cellular changes in my tongue arose because of a decreased immune response to mutations.

Crumb two: I am clear of internal (viral) agents that cause decreased immune response.

Crumb three: There is a strongly correlative link between external factors, such as grief, anxiety, or exhaustion, and immunosuppression.

Following those breadcrumbs, then, and doing a ton of searching for details, I have come to the conclusion that there is enough evidence to suggest the following two hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: Working stupid-long hours every day and living in a constant state of stress because I am constantly missing self-imposed deadlines could be the cause of the dysplasic changes in my tongue cells.

Hypothesis 2: Continuing with my current schedule and working habits has a higher than acceptable chance of creating an environment susceptible to dysplasic recurrences even after the clean removal of the existing lesion, or even the occurrence of cancer.

In plain English, I’ve been working too hard for too long. While the science (referenced below) is not in agreement, and there are sources that state there is no relationship between cancer and stress, I come from a family with non-existent cancer history (hell on wheels for alcoholism, diabetes, obesity and stroke, though). I have no personal risk factors for cancer other than stress. And I developed a condition that is known to lead to cancer.

Plan of action:

After you develop your hypothesis, the next step is to formulate your plan of action.

Mine is as follows:

  • Work a maximum of six hours a day and a maximum of five days a week (the standard eight-hour workday includes mandatory breaks, killing time doing non-work tasks, and generally includes much less work than the eight paid hours) My six hours is six hours of straight work, just as my seventeen hours was seventeen hours of straight work.
  • Focus on doing the work that only I can do: creating my nonfiction courses and writing my fiction
  • Eliminate website work completely.
  • Move to a secondary role in the Help Desk, and eventually move out of that entirely
  • Move all blogging and newsletter activities into OneStep, so that I can accomplish these WHILE creating my fiction and nonfiction.
  • Beat my great-grandmother’s 103 years of alert, cognizant, functional life, but skip the soap operas in favor of creating cool stuff.

The actual putting of this into action starts with keeping my promise of six hours a day. A timer is going to be running from now on. I’ll pause it for food and bathroom breaks, but when it hits six, I’ll save my work and close the office.

Checking the outcome will be the work of the rest of my life.

My references (all sources open in new tabs):

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66 responses to “Links between cancer, stress, and overwork: why I’m cutting my hours”

  1. Margaret Avatar

    Adding my best wishes for you Holly. I’m glad to read you’re cutting your hours. I originally wrote “slowing down” but you won’t be – those 6 hrs will be as full on as ever I imagine. Look after yourself.

  2. Elle Clouse Avatar

    I’m glad you are recovering. Stress does some aweful things to the body. I hope your new game plan includes some physical activity like walks or swimming.

    Oh and knitting, that’s proven to relieve stress. 🙂 Best wishes! <3

  3. Neil Avatar


    Your website was one of the main places that got me interested in writing in the first place. You have done a fantastic job of helping authors everywhere, and I think you have done more than enough to deserve a bit of break! Best of luck with everything, I hope cutting back on the hours improves your health.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Thank you, Neil. Hope I’s still adding to this place for the next half century.

  4. Angela Chen Shui Avatar


    I’m also very grateful that this was a health scare and heads up. And that you’re now creating the support system needed to allow you to work only six hours.

    Thanks for setting an example in this important matter. It’s so easy to abuse our body temples.

    Just this morning I got an idea that would require a third layer of intense work activity added to an already loaded schedule for the next six months and beyond.

    Reading your post above, I realize that I simply can’t accomplish all that I wanted and still transition to a healthier six hour work day.

    Working overlong hours has been a concern for some time now for me.

    You are the only person that would cause me to consciously decide to cut back and your post has accomplished that. Thank You. Let’s all keep each other company to 103 and beyond.

    Bless You and Angel Hugzzz,

    PS I also endorse EFT as suggested by Judy. It’s been keeping me sane and helping me release stress and stay clear on prioritizing results for the past few months. Can’t now go a few days without tapping.

    I recommend Brad Yates as a beginning watch-video tapping teacher. I used to attend his weekly (now monthly) EFT tapping telephone group sessions a decade and a half or so ago. Loving, inspiring, purposeful, authentic, intuitive.

    When you want to get into more impromptu tapping, Robert G. Smith, developer of FasterEFT, is amazing. I use his technique for heavy duty clearing and releasing.

    Both have loads of free videos on Youtube and support programs via their sites.

    As an energy healer and consciousness evolution catalyst, these are two of the few stress/energy clearing facilitators I use every week, several times a week.

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