A call for beta-testers

Perhaps you know that feeling of lying in bed unable to sleep, with a sweaty forehead and a pounding heart? Or waking up from disturbing dreams, having headaches or forgetting simple things? Then there’s a chance you might be experiencing symptoms related to stress. We can all experience these things from time to time, but ignoring these symptoms over an extended period may result in more severe consequences than just a couple of nights of poor sleep.

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What can you do if you recognise these symptoms? Beasts of Burden (or bob among friends) is an app designed to help you deal with pressure before it becomes overwhelming. Beasts of burden can help you build a resilient mindset by calming your thoughts and building strengths that help you deal with pressure. The app builds on a research by psychologist Derek Roger, whose methods have been scientifically proven to build resilience to external pressures.
We are not expecting you to make big, time consuming or difficult changes in your life. Our aim is to offer a series of simple activities that help you train better ways of minimising the effects of pressure. We do this through a playful, game-like app for your phone.

Why do we need you?

Our vision is to build the world’s best tool for building a resilient mindset, which will enable people across the globe to deal with the pressure of everyday life. In order to succeed we are working with real people to test and gain feedback on the app. We are currently looking for people across the globe who have either experienced stress or want to become more resilient to the pressures of life. If you think it sounds good, you can sign up here.

What’s in it for you?

The beta app is currently free, and this is an opportunity for you to firsthand help shape the Beasts of Burden app. Your contribution will help people across the globe reduce pressure in their lives, and create more openness surrounding this topic. As a token of appreciation, we will award all our Beta testers with a free download voucher for the finished app together with our warmest thoughts.

How to get started?

Simply sign up via our sign up-page, and you will receive an installation link together with an invitation to join our beta tester Facebook-group, where you can share and discuss your personal ideas for improving the Beasts of Burden app.
All you need is an iPhone. As an Android user you can still sign up and we’ll send you an Android version of the app as soon as it's ready for testing.

 

We are building a global community to help each other live happier and more mentally balanced lives. We hope you want to join us!

What is a beast of burden?

When first opening the beasts of burden-app you will meet your ‘inner voice’ introducing your very own beast of burden (or bob among friends). A metaphorical beast draining your energy. The beast is a representation of specific behaviors that make it difficult for you to deal with pressures in life. Not dealing with pressure in a healthy way, can over time lead to stress that takes its toll on both mind and body. This is exactly what the app is designed to help prevent. The solution is to start taming bob. Like it is with any new pet, taming bob is going to take time and patience. But rest assured — your inner voice will guide you for a pleasant and entertaining experience. You might even have fun along the way. But let me formally introduce you to bob:

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The app is based on scientific research conducted by psychologist Derek Roger for more than 30 years of research into the effects of stress and the prevention of it.

Roger’s research into stress, together with his resilience training program by the Work Skill Centre, are the scientific cornerstones of bob.

Roger’s research shows that the triggers of stress are different at an individual level — one person might experience stress when having to move house or change jobs, while another just finds these life events exciting. This in itself is hardly surprising, but what follows is actually a game changing insight: that it is the specific behaviors and individual ways of reacting to external pressure that leads to stress. Rather than the external events themselves. This is why the first step in building resilience to stress is to “determine what kind of behaviors trigger stress in your life.”

The different beasts within the app each correspond to a type of behavior that in some way has a negative impact on the way we cope with pressures. So far, we have implemented three different beasts in the app: an avoidance beast, a control beast and a pleasing beast. Based on your choices in the app, it becomes clear what kind of behavior your beast represents.

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Each beast builds upon the psychological theory of archetypes (inherent structures of the human psyche that are often unconscious). The beasts can be seen as a representation of the archetypes that affect our behavior in our daily lives and influence the way we behave and tackle pressure. No beast is all good or all bad, some behaviors boost our energy while other behavior drains us. If we want to change a behavior that takes energy, we first need to acknowledge its existence and effect on us — for example avoiding a specific type of difficult tasks, or wanting to please everyone at the same time.

According to this theory, you can never slay your beast, but you can tame it by acknowledging its existence and accepting it as a part of yourself.

If you are conscious of what habits and behaviors that may have a negative impact in your life, you can work towards changing these habits. This can be the first step towards reducing stress in your life.
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This is also why the app adapts to your choices. It helps you identify what type of beast you have, in order to befriend it. “Taming your beast” is a helpful analogy — when you acknowledge your beast, you can begin to choose to change the behavior that it represents, and thereby reclaiming power. This means you’re actively making decisions instead of just following habits. On the other hand, if you don’t acknowledge your beast, you just give it room to grow bigger and stronger. You can only change a habit by acknowledging its existence and choosing to replace it with a healthier alternative.

Your bob is always going to be part of you in some way, but you can over time transform it through bite-sized activities from a huge, scary beast into a friendly house pet.

What kind of beast would you like to tame? Explore your own beast using our free beta here: beastsofburden.co/signup.

Could a shorter work week be the end of work related stress?

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Can we cut down stress by just working less?

In western culture, hard work is traditionally seen as something of a moral duty — we’ve been told that “idleness is the root of all evil”. But is this true? As early as the 1930s this claim was challenged by the two British thinkers economist John Keynes and philosopher Bertrand Russell.
 They both argued for the benefits of working less, and spending more time with family and loved ones, playing sports, studying or doing charity work. Keynes even predicted that in the 21st century the average work week would be merely fifteen hours[1].

What do the numbers say?

Today, almost 100 years later, Keyes predictions have not come true. And even in Denmark (one of the happiest nations in the world![2]) work related stress is a big issue. It is estimated that 1400 deaths are caused every year by work related stress in Denmark alone. Besides from costing the state a lot of money every year[3], it makes people miserable and greatly impacts people’s lives in a negative way. Everyone who has experienced stress, either their own or that of a loved one, knows that this is not something to be taken lightly.

A study from 2005, the Kelly World at Work-study, suggests that long work weeks and stress could be related. In this study only 8% of people working less than 30 hours a week reported feeling “very stressed”, whereas the number for those working 51 hours or more a week hit 32%[4]
 The country with the lowest rate of work related stress was the Netherlands (16%), a country where people on average work 29 hours a week[5].

Paradoxically, people with long work hours are not the most stressed in Denmark. They are by far surpassed by the unemployed. Currently a staggering 47% (!) of unemployed Danes are struggling with very high stress levels, a number that’s increased by 7% in just the last five years[6].

So, on the surface the solution seems to be finding a healthy balance between not working at all and working too much. But is really that simple? When diving into the deeper layers of this discussion, other aspects than just hours spent at the workplace come to light.

Is our work pseudo?

In recent years we’ve seen a flourishing in discussions topics related to the writings of Keynes and Russell almost a hundred years ago, while political parties across Europe are advocating for the 30 hour standard work week.

The most recent input to the discussion here in Denmark comes from philosopher Anders Fogh Jensen and anthropologist Dennis Nørmark, who just had their book “Pseudoarbejde” (pseudo work) published. In the book they ask themselves why we’re not working 15 hours a week like Keynes predicted? According to them, the explanation is both the traditional protestant work ethic (in which hard work is seen as a result of subscribing to the values of the protestant faith) and the fact that we build our identities around our work. In short, it’s cool to be busy. 

As a result we end up fulfilling Parkinsons law of work which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. And what does it expand with? Pseudo work, or empty labor, as Swedish sociologist Roland Paulsen calls it. This creates what Jensen and Nørmark calls “meaninglessness-stress”. Their suggested solution sound simple, but is extremely difficult to execute: we have to detach money from time. We have to remove ourselves from the idea that we have to spend a certain amount of time at work to really earn our salary. And according to the two writers, this change in mentality could very well lead to the situation predicted by Keynes: a fifteen-hour work week[7].

So maybe, the problem is not really how many hours we spend at work but rather that we have trouble seeing what our busyness is good for. People who work less, might be less stressed because they find meaning in spending more time with their families. While unemployed people might find meaning lacking all together, which could lead to stress and also other ailments like depression or anxiety. This is not something the numbers can tell us, rather that it might be an idea to spend a little less time in the office.

Here at bob we can’t make your work week shorter, but we can provide some tools to help give you a tiny mental break during the work day. Tools for building better habits and making it easier to cope with the everyday pressures of life.

Sign up here and get the app for free.

[1] Keyes: ”Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren”
[2] https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/2018-world-happiness-report/
[3] http://www.stressforeningen.dk/stress-og-statistik/
[4] https://www.business.dk/diverse/hvem-er-mest-stresset-i-europa
[5] http://money.cnn.com/gallery/news/economy/2013/07/10/worlds-shortest-work-weeks/index.html
[6] https://politiken.dk/forbrugogliv/art6390639/%C2%BBOpskriften-p%C3%A5-at-fremkalde-en-depression%C2%AB-Arbejdsl%C3%B8se-er-langt-mere-stressede-end-folk-med-job
[7] https://www.dr.dk/radio/p1/fede-fagboeger-med-adam-holm/fede-fagboeger-med-adam-holm-10

Taming pressures in Work Life

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Life is full of pressures. Some are good for us, some are not. Some pressures drive us, some drain our batteries. But let me start at the very beginning…
 

Panic button

I guess it all started sometime 8-9 years ago, when co-running a design driven consultancy in London. From one moment to the next, (literally walking down the street here on a Saturday afternoon), I thought I was having a heart attack. I was in my early thirties, recklessly living out my ambitions like any immortal. I didn’t die (hence I can write this), but I did discover that my body and mind where telling me to slow down. I had crossed an invisible threshold, and was now only an instant away from my next stress induced panic attack. Something was very wrong with the life I was pursuing.

I spent the following months rebalancing myself. Doing yoga, meditating, catching up on sleep and refocusing my priorities and values. My body and mind still felt weak, but I was deeply grateful for the wake up call.

Years later reflecting back on the experience, I remember being surprised about how “it” came out of the blue — where did it come from, and why didn’t I sense it coming? I remember keeping it to myself, and more so the embarrassment of talking about it — even years later… to colleagues, family and my closest friends.

“…and more so the embarrassment of talking about  it - even years later…”


Living in a happy nation

Wind that tape forwards 9 years, and today I live in Copenhagen with my wife and two young boys. I am today slightly wiser, and now well aware that “it” was connected to living a stress inducing life. As a result, I’ve chosen to relocate my life to a capital that mirrors the values I want to live by — and placed within a country ranking nr 2 on the “happy nations list”.

Last summer reading a book on lethal leadership (avialable in danish), it struck me hard that within this safehaven of happiness, we annually have a staggering 1400 deaths directly linked to work-related stress. Perhaps a rather abstract number for you reading this — yet it hits home harder, when realising work-stress takes a toll on human life that is 7x higher than that of traffic incidents. :(

In the same year stumbling across these numbers, I had sadly begun to experience close colleagues and friends dropping like flies to stress related symptoms — once again as a bolt of lightning from a blue sky. Now in the form of emotional break downslong term sick leaves, and even quitting good jobs over night. Curiously, in the prior three years I recall only one person being away on sick-leave — and that due to a poor back…

 

Numbers do the talking

I began to realise, that in general something wasn’t quite right with the state of work. As I started diving further into the numbers, I discovered that things where even worse than I’d even imagined. Over 1/3 of the danish workforce (remember we’re nr 2 on the happy-list!) generally experience themselves as “very stressed at work”. Add to this, that at all times there are 35k Danes taking stress-related sick-leave from work, and work-related stress is costing danish society an astounding 27 Billion DKR annually — ouch! (I can only imagine what the global numbers might look like, and then add in the element of human despair, misery and suffering…)

OK — it was becoming pretty clear to me that there is a wicked problem in play here. And evidence was also telling me, that just maybe, I wasn’t the only person in this world challenged by work-induced stress? Which made we curios about a couple of things:

Where did my stress come from in the first place?
Why didn’t I see it coming, and why did it hit me like a bus?
Why did stress in particular hit me?
Why didn’t I get external help before, during and afterwards?

“…and would it be possible to help others avoid what I so painfully had gone through?”


Too shy to say

On the surface these are simple questions. Diving deeper into the space over the recent year, I have come to realise that the real challenge is not stress itself, but more so helping people “help themselves”. The reason being, that we today live in a society that stigmatises “mental instability”. That we live in a world, where you and me are shy to admit that work-related stress is a real challenge — not just at a financial and societal level, but at a deep down human level.

Stay tuned for more blog posts coming soon. In the meanwhile: help us develop the app by becoming a Beta-tester right here!


 

Beasts of Burden is live on Kickstarte right here!

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