Is Your Job Killing You? How To Take Care of Your Health While Balancing the Demands of Your Job

 Is Your Job Harming Your Health?

Is Your Job Harming Your Health?

After putting in three years of 50-60 hour weeks at my job, along with an hour long commute each way, I found that I had gained 25 pounds, my blood pressure had skyrocketed, I wasn't sleeping well, and my stress levels were through the roof.  I was eating on the run most of the time.  I was missing out on family activities and reconnect time with my hubby.  And I had forgotten what exercise was.  I felt like I was constantly in firefighting mode:  putting out everyone else's fires except my own, which was raging out of control.  I wasn't taking care of myself.  I came to the conclusion that my job was killing me.  Killing me slowly, but killing me nonetheless.

Do you work long hours and feel that your work is negatively impacting your eating habits, physical activity, sleep, stress levels and overall health?  You're not alone, and you're not wrong.  

Studies have shown that women who work long hours do, in fact, face a raft of negative health consequences.

One study conducted by researchers from The Ohio State University and Mayo Clinic tracked the work and health histories of 7,492 men and women over the course of 32 years.  This study found that women who worked long workweeks experienced much higher health risks than men.  Women who worked 60 or more hours per week over the course of three decades tripled their risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.  Women who worked 51 to 60 hours per weeks also had a higher risk of high blood pressure and asthma.  (National Longitudinal Survey of Youth)

Another study of 7,065 Canadians tracked over 12 years found that women who worked more than 45 hours per week had a 63% greater risk of diabetes than those women who worked 35-40 hours per week. (BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care)

A 2010 study by the European Society of Cardiology found that working 3 or more hours over a 7 hour workday increased the risk of  heart disease, nonfatal heart attack, and angina by 60%.  A subsequent 2017 study found a correlation between long working hours and an increased incidence of atrial fibrillation, the most common cardiac arrhythmia, which can contribute to stroke, heart failure, and stroke-related dementia.

Other health risks that can be experienced by women working long hours and demanding jobs include musculoskeletal disorders (especially for women working in manufacturing and assembly) and mental health issues including stress, anxiety, and depression.

In addition to our work, we women often engage in significant "unpaid labor", such as chores, childcare for our own children and grandchildren, and caregiving for spouses, elderly parents, or other relatives.

Demanding schedules and the costs of health care place many women at risk for delays in receiving their own health care. Caregivers, working mothers, and single mothers shoulder additional responsibilities that can make it harder for them to meet their personal healthcare needs.

Kaiser Family Foundation

With long work hours, long commutes, and family responsibilities, we have less time for self care, we eat what we can when we can, we put off exercising, we experience significant stress, and we lose sleep due to stress and higher rates of insomnia in midlife.

The risks of working long hours are clear, but there are ways to gain balance between the demands of your job and your health.  More employers are recognizing the importance of work-life balance and they are creating wellness plans for their employees.  

When I figured out that my job was negatively affecting my health, I knew something had to change.  Here are some strategies you can use to improve your health while balancing the demands of your job:

Eat Healthier

One of the perils of working long hours is eating out, eating fast food, and eating on the run.  Making the decision to substitute healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats, can improve our health.  You can begin to make changes by packing a healthy lunch, bringing healthy snacks to work, and meal prepping healthy dinners for the week.  (If you need help learning to add more fruits and vegetables into your diet, join the Bunny Trail Challenge.)

Exercise - Schedule a regular exercise time

Treat your exercise time as an important meeting on your schedule.  You wouldn't skip out on that important meeting, so don't skip out on your exercise time.  Just 30 minutes a day is all you need for walking, biking, jogging, swimming, body weight exercises, or some other physical activity that you enjoy and can commit to.  Schedule a time of day when you have no other obligations (I find early morning is the best time for me.)

 

Set Aside Time for Self Care

I know time is hard to come by, but if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of the other important responsibilities in your life.  You have to make yourself a priority.  Self care is your pampering time, the time you use to make yourself feel valuable and cared for.  Don't willingly give this time up!

Schedule regular check ups and request the days off well in advance

When you visit your doctor regularly for well woman checkups, you will establish a baseline of your health markers so that if something goes off trend, your doctor can catch it early.  If you can catch a potential health problem early, you have a better chance of treating it before it becomes serious.  In addition, your physician can be a valuable partner in your plan to improve your overall health and wellness.  Don't miss those checkups!  Put them on your calendar and request the days off so you don't forget when life gets hectic.

Discuss with your employer if schedule flexibility is an option

Some employers are beginning to offer flexible work schedules and work-from-home arrangements.  Employers and employees are finding that such schedules can improve productivity while increasing employee satisfaction.  If your employer is open to the idea and you feel a more flexible schedule would improve your health, ask if this would be an option for you.

Set Limits on your work availability

If you find yourself answering work emails and texts at all hours of the day or night, and that this availability is increasing your stress and decreasing your emotional engagement with the important people in your life, it's time to set some limits.  Notify your manager and your co-workers the hours you will be available and then stick to the limits.  Create a clear dividing line between work and personal time.  Just because you are answering all those texts and emails after hours doesn't mean you are more productive.  Most of those communications are not true emergencies and can be dealt with during your normal working hours.

Cut back on hours

If you are consistently working over 45 to 50 hours a week, consider if you can cut back.  If your employer requires mandatory overtime, this may not be an option, but if the extra time is not mandatory, consider rescheduling your day or delegating tasks so that you are able to work fewer hours at least some weeks.

Go to bed earlier

Getting adequate sleep is extremely important both for your health and to manage stress.  Schedule your bedtime so that you can get between 7-8 hours of sleep a night.  Many people find that going to bed earlier and getting up earlier in the morning helps them to feel more energetic and calm the next day.

Stand up and walk around frequently

Don't be a victim of sitting disease.  If you work a desk job, it's easy to sit for several hours without moving around.  Set an alarm on your watch or on your desk so that you get up and walk around the office every hour.  And consider walking meetings or a lunch time walk to get in those extra steps.

Desk Exercises

Speaking of sitting at the desk, adding a few desk exercises throughout the day can help to improve your strength and mobility as well.  Here are some desk exercise suggestions to get you started.

In Conclusion

It's is important to understand that you do not have to sacrifice your health to your job.  However, you will have to make choices to actively promote your health, to stand up for your health, and to prioritize your health.  You will have to set aside the time for healthy eating, healthy physical activity, and stress management.  You will have to set clear boundaries between work and your personal time.  When you put your own health and welfare first, you will improve the odds that you will be a happy and productive worker, either in someone else's business or in your own, and you will be better able to care for those around you.

 Sharing is Caring - If you like this article, please share!

Sharing is Caring - If you like this article, please share!

How Can I Get Results in My Wellness Program?

I often see the question asked:  "Why am I not getting results?"  A better question to ask would be, "How can I get results?"

If there is any "secret" to achieving the results you want in your wellness program, whether it is weight loss, lower blood pressure, better blood sugar control, improved physical fitness, or any other goal, it is simply this:  Consistency in execution.

The secret sauce to achieving amazing results is consistency in execution

What do I mean by that?  

You have to be consistent in executing your plan.

It's that simple.  

You start by setting SMART goals:  Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-limited.

Once you have established your goals, you then create an action plan for each goal with very specific actions you will take over a period of time to achieve that goal.

You then follow your action plan with consistency (performing the actions 80-95% of the time).  That means you consistently do your exercise when you say you will exercise.  If you plan to walk every morning at 5 AM, you walk every morning at 5 AM - you plan for it, you plan for contingencies and you make it happen. 

You consistently eat foods that are good for you, and if you are trying to lose weight, you consistently eat fewer calories than you use.  If you consistently eat a hamburger and fries for lunch you will achieve a certain result - but probably not the same result as if you consistently eat a salad for lunch.

You consistently take the medications your physician prescribes for you, you consistently don't smoke...and the list goes on.  

Why didn't I specify a consistency of 100?  Because life happens.  A friend has a birthday party and serves cake - you don't want to be the Debbie Downer that refuses to share in the fun.  You get called in to work early and can't get your walk in that morning.  Things happen.  But if you can stay on track at least 80% of the time, you will have a much higher chance of being successful in achieving the result that you want.

After a predetermined period of time, you evaluate if you are making progress toward your goal.  If not, you re-evaluate your action plan and make adjustments as needed.

So why is consistency so important?

First, you simply must Do It.  Until you take action, a goal is just a dream or a wish.  To make it happen, you have to take action.

Show up for yourself daily.png

Secondly, if you have not taken action and consistently worked your action plan, you won't be able to accurately evaluate whether or not your plan is working.  If you haven't consistently taken action, however, that may be what needs to be changed!

If you aren't getting the results you want, evaluate first if you have established specific, realistic and achievable goals, and secondly, decide if you are taking consistent action.  If you are not, what needs to change so that you can take consistent action toward your goals?  

Do you need help creating your plan for success?  I've created a special free training and workbook just for you!  Go here to get it!

Study Finds Low Carb and High Carb Diets Both Increase Risk of Mortality

Moderate Carbohydrate Diets Associated with Lower Risk of Death.png

A new study published in The Lancet on August 16, 2018 shows that both low carbohydrate diets and high carbohydrates are associated with increased risk of death, where a moderate carbohydrate diet provides the greatest benefit to longevity.

The study looked at death from all causes in a study group of 15,000 people between the ages of 45 years and 64 years (midlife) from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in four communities in the United States.  These study participants completed surveys related to their dietary habits and were then followed by researchers for 25 years.  

From age 50 on, the researchers found that those study participants who ate a diet with moderate carbohydrate intake, defined as 50-55% of their daily energy provided by carbohydrates, lived an average additional 33 years.

Study participants who ate a low carbohydrate diet, with less than 40% of their energy coming from carbohydrates, lived an average additional 29 years.  Participants who ate a high carbohydrate diet of over 70% of their diet consisting of carbohydrate, lived an additional 32 years.

The researchers also found that all low carbohydrate diets are not created equal.  Those low carbohydrate diets that were high in animal protein and fat had a higher risk of death.  Low carbohydrate diets that were high in plant based proteins and fats had a lower risk of death, as well as a lower risk of death specifically from cardiovascular disease.  The study states:

Long-term effects of a low carbohydrate diet with typically low plant and increased animal protein and fat consumption have been hypothesised to stimulate inflammatory pathways, biological ageing, and oxidative stress
— Seidelmann, et al

The researchers compared their results from this study to results from seven other studies conducted in North America, Europe, and Asia, with similar results.  The study concludes that a diet consisting of moderate carbohydrate intake is best for healthy aging.

While the study did not examine the quality of carbohydrates consumed by study participants, other studies have shown that complex carbohydrates with higher fiber and nutrient content are part of a healthy diet.  This study does lend weight to the idea that going to extremes with low-carb dieting is not the best long-term answer to improving your health any more than carbohydrate overloading is healthy.

Here at Yes I Can Health, I advocate safe, proven strategies to improve your lifelong wellness through changing habits and creating balance.

One habit to develop is simply eating more vegetables and fruits in your daily diet.  This study did indeed show that those participants who ate more plant based foods, whether low carb, moderate carb, or high carb, had longer lifespans and lower risk of death, as well as lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.  

If you would like to learn how to add more fruits and vegetables to your daily diet, I encourage you to sign up for the Bunny Trail Virtual Challenge!

Product Review: The FitBit Charge 2

(Disclaimer:  I have Amazon affiliate ads for FitBit products on this site.  If you purchase a FitBit after clicking on one of those ads, I will receive a small referral fee at no cost to you.  These ads help to support my site).

I've been wearing my FitBit Charge 2 for a little over a year now, so I've had a good opportunity to become acquainted with the features, benefits and drawbacks.

Chances are, you either currently wear a fitness tracker, or you know someone who does.  If you are still trying to determine if you want to purchase a fitness tracker, or if you are planning to replace or upgrade, then you may find this review helpful.

 

My husband decided to buy a FitBit for me when I first started walking purposefully last summer.  We went to Kohls to take a look at what they had, and I tried on the various versions.  I compared the features of each.  I liked the size and feel of the Alta, but it didn't offer all the features of the Charge 2.  The FitBit Blaze had lots of cool features but was big and heavy - a bit too manly for me and more than I wanted to spend.  The Charge 2 was, as Goldilocks says, "Just Right."  A nice fit and size, a choice of band colors (although not as many as I would like), the features were what I was looking for - steps, exercise, sleep, clock, reminders, alarm, heartrate - and the price was reasonable.  I went home with the Charge 2 and set it up.

From the minute I put it on, I have liked it.  It's not too big or heavy.  I like that it tracks my steps and keeps up with my heart rate.  I've appreciated the insights into my sleep (it reminds me when I should go to bed).  The tracker can be set to buzz on your wrist as an alarm.  The buzz seems to have lost some power since I first purchased the tracker, but it is sufficient.

The tracker syncs wirelessly with your smart phone or when you charge it.  It comes with a dongle that fits into a USB slot on your computer for charging and syncing. 

Once you have set up your tracker, you can choose other items to track on your dashboard such as food and water tracking, weight, sleep, and FitBit has recently added female health tracking and trends.  You can also participate in FitBit challenges.

Fitbit Screen.PNG

Speaking of challenges, many sites now offer syncing with your FitBit data if you so choose.  Sites like MyFitnessPal and Yes.Fit allow you to set up an interface so that they can import the data tracked by your FitBit.  Some employer wellness programs can also sync your FitBit data.  This is a nicely convenient option if you enjoy participating in challenges or programs that track your steps or your caloric intake.  (Note that you always have the option to choose whether or not you want to share your FitBit data) with these apps.  

The accessory band (sold separately, six colors available) is removable and replaceable.  I found that I had to replace my band within the first month, as the material in the original band was irritating to my skin.  I found a metallic magnetic band at WalMart for less than $20, but many options are available. 

The battery life for my FitBit is quite long - usually 5-7 days in between charges, and this number has remained steady over the past year.

Overall, I have been quite happy with my Charge 2.  The tracker has definitely helped to motivate me and to keep me aware of how much I have walked, my level of effort, and my sleep patterns.  I've enjoyed syncing it with apps like Yes.Fit for even more motivation.  It is lightweight, easy to wear, and water resistant, with a long battery life.  FitBit now has eight fitness trackers available, including a clip-type tracker for people who can't wear a wrist tracker.  Even if the Charge 2 isn't what you are looking for, one of the other styles may be.

Do you use a fitness tracker?  Has a tracker helped you to improve your fitness?  Let me know in the comments what you use, and maybe I will be able to review your tracker in the future.