These days, it can be extremely difficult to keep both your health and your career in balance. Although automation in working procedures, increases in technology, and health and safety procedures have made most jobs safer over time, there are still plenty of ways that your career can have a negative impact on your health, whether it be physical or mental.
In addition to this, medical advances may have made many different health issues easier than before to prevent and to treat, but health issues as a result of working are still common. Sometimes this is a direct result, such as when injury at work or poor working conditions cause health problems, and other times the result is more indirect, such as when long working hours lead to a lack of time to do the things that that you need to do in order to look after your health.
Sometimes it can feel like there is nothing that you can do to balance your health and the success of your career without neglecting at least one of these important aspects of your life. However, there are some steps that you can take to make sure that both your health and your career are in order without either one jeopardizing the other. In this guide, we will look into some of the different things that you can do to live a healthy and successful life.
Speak Up About Any Potential Issues at Work
In some cases, there may be direct issues that you have at work that are negatively impacting your health. Many workplaces have become much safer over the years, and this could not have happened without workers speaking up about their concerns. For example, the use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) in many different workplaces, from factories to hospitals to grocery stores, became widespread practice due to organized campaigns from people working in these industries.
This does not mean you have to mount an organized, large-scale campaign to force systemic change across the entire industry that you work in. A lot of the time, your concerns can be expressed simply and informally through chatting to your co-workers and supervisors. It may be the case that issues can be solved pretty easily and quickly, but they simply haven’t been mentioned or expressed before.
If the idea of going to your boss to ask for a change in working conditions or operational procedures seems intimidating, you may be able to use your company’s HR (Human Resources) department. HR managers are trained to liaise between employees and management, and in many cases, this can even be done anonymously. After all, it all boils down to the common saying: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
Spend Time with Your Loved Ones
One of the crucial aspects of looking after your overall mental health and wellbeing is spending time with the people that you love. Studies show that strong interpersonal relationships play a huge role in our happiness and health. Unfortunately, our working lives can often be an obstacle to our ability to spend time with our friends and family. This may be due to long working hours (more on that later) leaving little time for socializing, or it may be due to work-related stress resulting in an increase in domestic arguments or a decreased ability to relax when spending time with others.
It is important to remember that work is not everything. If you have a partner, are raising a family, or have any other relationships that are important to you, the chances are that your work life is to some degree a means to an end—that end being the ability to enjoy a comfortable life with your family and friends. Make sure that you set aside time in your schedule to spend time with the people you love, even if it is just to go for a walk or watch your favorite TV show together.
The importance of a healthy and balanced diet when it comes to your overall health cannot be stated enough. Unhealthy ingredients such as saturated fats and processed sugars can not only result in weight gain but can also have effects on your sleeping patterns and concentration. On the other hand, vitamins, protein, fiber, and healthy fats are all important elements of a balanced diet that can enable you to perform most effectively at work. While work can have an effect on your diet, the reverse is also true!
Not only is it vital to get the right nutrients for your physical health, but also for your mental health. Many scientists believe that the health of our gut significantly affects our mental health, energy levels, and sleeping patterns.
Unfortunately, our working lives can often impact our diets in a negative way. For example, if your workplace has a cafeteria, your diet may be significantly dependent on what foods are on offer. If you want to have more control over your diet and are not impressed by the meals on offer at your workplace, why not pack your own lunch the evening before and take it into work?
Another issue that often presents itself is that of long working hours resulting in a lack of time to prepare healthy meals. This often leads to quicker meals such as fast food, takeout or TV dinners, which are typically much less healthy than home-cooked alternatives. When it comes to long working hours, we will cover this issue shortly!
Avoid Self-Medicating to Cope with Work
Think about how important the coffee break is to so many workers—this caffeine boost is often exactly what we feel we need in order to provide the energy needed to keep up with the expectations of productivity that our workplaces have of us. Unfortunately, this can be pretty unhealthy for us. Caffeine is linked to an increase in anxiety issues as well as trouble sleeping at night. Other stimulant medications that are sometimes used by workers to increase productivity and wakefulness include amphetamines such as Adderall, which is commonly prescribed but also frequently used illicitly off-label. The negative side-effects of caffeine can be even more extreme when it comes to these drugs.
Often, depressants are used at the end of a working day to wind down or to counteract the energizing effects of caffeine or other stimulants. One of the most common depressants used by workers after a hard day’s work is alcohol, yet benzodiazepines such as Xanax or opioids such as Percocet or Vicodin are also often abused, either illicitly or on prescription.
Not only can using any form of mind-altering drugs be harmful to mental and physical health but can also lead to addiction in many cases. If you are suffering from a lack of energy, a high amount of pressure at work, or work-related anxiety, it is usually better to consult a doctor or therapist than to go straight for the chemical route. Other relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness, can also be helpful (as well as free). If you feel like medication may be beneficial for you, make sure you consult a doctor and obtain a prescription, and stick to the stated dose. You can also try natural, over-the-counter remedies such as vitamin supplements, Theanine, and CBD, all of which are believed to have medical benefits.
Get Plenty of Exercise and Fresh Air
One of the most effective, natural methods for preserving your physical and mental health is to get outdoors. Natural sunlight is a great source of the essential Vitamin D, as well as melatonin, which helps to regulate your sleeping patterns. Exercise is also an effective natural method or anxiety relief, as well as looking after your general physical health.
This does not mean that you have to get into lifting heavy weights or running grueling marathons (although, of course, you can do if that works for you!). Even simply making sure that you go for a short walk each day can have a noticeable positive impact on your health. If you have the option, you can use your lunch break at work to go for a quick walk. You may be surprised at just how much better this makes you feel!
Limit Your Working Hours
You may have been reading all of these tips and thinking “that’s all well and good, but my problem is that I just don’t have time for this stuff!” Of course, when you are working long hours it can often be tricky or even impossible to find the time to spare to cook healthy meals, spend time socializing, or go for a walk.
If this is the case, it may be time to consider reducing your working hours. If you work shifts, this may mean arranging new shift patterns with your boss. You may also be working overtime that may not be necessary. When considering if you are able to financially afford a reduction in working hours, think about expenses that you may be able to cut back on. After all, what good are luxuries such as streaming subscription services or a brand-new car if you are unable to find the time to enjoy them?
If you are working hard just to make ends meet and have no luxuries that you can cut, you may want to move on to the next step …
Consider a Change of Career
Sometimes it may be your career itself that is causing you health problems. In some cases, these may be mental health problems such as stress or depression, and in other cases they may be physical health problems such as back problems or arthritis. Working in construction or other forms of manual labor is well-known to cause physical health problems to many workers over time, although more sedentary work such as working in an office can also cause similar problems (for example, incorrect posture while working at a desk can cause back problems, and fast typing can result in repetitive strain injuries or carpal tunnel syndrome).
While you may be able to reduce the chances or lessen the impact of these health problems while working, it may also be worth considering changing your career in order to preserve your health. Although changing your career can be initially stressful, it may actually have long-term benefits on your health. Consider what is most important in your life—if your career is not top of the list, think about swapping it for something new that fits more neatly into your life and has fewer negative implications for your health.
If you’re interested in learning about mental health and teaching mental health tips to other people, perhaps a career in this field may be right for you? There are many different careers available that involve helping others with their mental health, from a school or college counselor to a trained life coach to a psychiatric nurse. If you are more interested in sharing what you have learned about physical health, then becoming a trained nutritionist, dietician, or physiotherapist could be a great choice for you. Getting into nursing can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding career paths out there. If you are interested in enrolling in nursing programs, sites like Marymount University Online can help you to study for these qualifications online from the comfort of your home. Alternatively, you can consider voluntary work at your local hospital or healthcare provider.
Be Kind to Yourself
Sometimes, the causes of work-related stress come not from our work itself, but from ourselves. Many of us set unreasonably high expectations for ourselves, such as making a certain salary by a certain age or winning a particular award. Society often encourages us to set ourselves these expectations and to compare our achievements to the achievements of others.
This can have devastating effects on our mental health and on every aspect of our lives. While exercise, socializing, and a healthy diet are all important forms of self-care, perhaps the most important thing that you can do is to be kind to yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat a friend or loved one, and you may see every other aspect of your life fall into place.