5 Ways Your Job Is Killing You
Could your job be killing you?
Most of us start working in our late teens or early 20’s. The average age of retirement is about 62. During those years, the average American worker spends over 40 hours per week at work. You don’t even have to do the math to understand that any place we spend such a great deal of our time and energy has the potential to impact our health.
This is probably the biggest challenge and frustration I face in my work as a health coach. Some of my clients are literally sick from working. They’re worn out, unhappy, and unhealthy. Their job is literally killing them. I wish I could tell them to quit. But ask anyone who has a family to feed, owns a car, or has a mortgage to pay…it’s not as simple as walking away from your job.
5 Ways Your Job Is Killing You (and how to fix it without quitting)
1. You hate your job
Why it kills: Stress. Cortisol is a silent killer. Spending large amounts of time in a negative state of mind causes your body to release a near-constant stream of this stress hormone. It can affect sleep, mood, and eating behavior…and will eventually lead to greater health problems like heart attacks and strokes.
Fix it: Quit your job. Just kidding…sort of. You don’t have to love your job, but remember that you’re spending a large portion of your life at work. No job is worth having a stroke over. If you seriously hate your job, it’s time to search for a new one.
2. Your commute is killer
Why it kills: Stress. There’s that cortisol connection again. Eating your Wheaties with a heaping side of road rage isn’t good for your health (neither are the Wheaties, for that matter).
Fix it: There may be several options that can make your commute less stressful. You could move so that you live closer to work, though that’s not always a reasonable option. Ask your boss if you can work from home a few days per week. Explore public transportation options in your area so you don’t actually have to do the driving. Find a new route to work. Leave early enough so that you aren’t in such a hurry. And, if all else fails, make your vehicle a sanctuary by doing something enjoyable while you drive like listening to your favorite music, a motivational audiobook, or an uplifting podcast.
3. You never take time off
Why it kills: Stress. Are you beginning to see a pattern here? I’ve worked with more than a few people who earn 3 to 4 weeks of vacation every year…and don’t take the time off. That just blows my mind. But to be clear, when I say “time off”, I’m talking about everything from daily breaks, to evenings and weekends, to full vacations.
Fix it: Everyone needs down time. Take regular breaks during the day (i.e. if you’re nearly peeing your pants at work because you’re so busy you can’t leave your desk, it’s time to re-evaluate your schedule). Set clear boundaries around work, family, and leisure time (i.e. put down your phone at dinner). Take your vacation time because you earned it and you need it!
4. The office break room beckons
Why it kills: Poor nutrition, excess calories, and weight gain. When I stopped working in an office, I dropped 15 pounds without lifting a finger. Turns out that my habit of grabbing a donut or bagel every time I passed the office break room was really packing on the pounds!
Fix it: Visit the break room less often. Better yet, stop walking past it! Ask people to put the junk food away (or not bring it in the first place). Find an office-mate who has similar goals and support each other in healthy efforts. Be more mindful of your eating behavior and have healthy options at your desk.
5. You never move
Why it kills: Poor posture, lack of exercise, stagnation. Okay, so it’s not the sitting that’s necessarily bad, but the stagnation that happens when you don’t move. Even standing at a desk doesn’t necessarily help if you’re body remains still. Humans are physiologically built to move. It’s the absence of movement and holding a relatively fixed posture that creates a problem. Blood doesn’t flow well, some muscles get tight while others get weak (including your heart), joints degrade, and fluid pools in the lower extremities.
Fix it: Hitting the gym at least three times per week is helpful. But even a 60-minute workout doesn’t cure the evils of sitting for 8+ hours every day! That’s why I love the idea of “deskercizing” from my friends at Concept Seating! You need to check out their simple workout you can do right at your desk! Interspersing a few 5-minute movement breaks throughout your day will increase your health and productivity!
How to keep happy workers…a note for employers
Sick and unhappy workers are not good for business. If you want increased productivity, you need employees who are engaged, creative, and excited to be at work. Foster a workplace culture that lets employees know you care and encourages healthy behavior!
Encourage frequent breaks. I’d love to see workplaces implement hourly mandatory movement and hydration breaks. But since “mandatory” doesn’t fall in line with politically correct, we need to say “encourage”. Your work force should view this as a bonus of working at your company: you actually care enough about their well-being to make health a priority.
Encourage eating away from the work space. Distracted eating is mindless eating, and also a huge cause for overeating and a general dissatisfaction with life. Remind employees that their lunch break is their time. They should get away from their desk and work to enjoy lunch and recharge. Your office will be less likely to incur an ant problem and it gives employees a much-needed break.
Have healthy snacks available. Instead of bringing in donuts and bagels for staff meetings and the break room, put out a platter of fresh cut fruit and veggies. If the only options in the vending machine are candy bars and Red Bull, perhaps see about adding in some healthier choices.
Offer incentives for working out. Create a workout space that your employees can use during work hours. Hire a trainer to teach group fitness classes before or after work. Give out free gym memberships to those employees who want them.
Start an office exercise challenge. Get people on board by making it fun. Give gift cards for the most steps walked in a month. Put together a 5k for charity and have groups of employees raise money and train together.
I hope you enjoyed this post and thank you for reading!
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Blog Author: Kelly Bailey, IIN certified holistic nutrition coach, and NPTI certified personal trainer
Learn more about the author here.