Do you work to live, or live to work? Working long hours takes a toll on our health, but there are ways to fight it and live a happier, healthier life.
If you’re like most people who are married to their jobs, chances are, you’re spending most of your time in the office, giving you hardly enough time to spend with your family or friends.
Aside from less quality time, long work hours mean less quiet time, postponed, or worse, cancelled travel plans, study ambitions go unfulfilled and dreams of fitness dissolve.
Pushing our body to work and not treating it well often backfire. Our body is stressed and reacts in a negative way. It slows down. We sleep less and become irritable.
Marissa Vicario, board-certified health and nutrition coach and founder of Marissa’s Well-being and Health in an e-mail interview with DiabetEASE magazine said that stress is very personal and affects people in different ways – mentally, physically, emotionally, and behaviorally.
“Some signs that a person is stressed could be visible – rapid weight loss or gain, excessive absenteeism, changes in behavior like mood swings, decline in motivation or performance, or an employee becoming withdrawn,” said Vicario.
Vicario enumerated common causes of stress which include anything from tight deadlines, long working hours, lots of travel, physical demands or extended periods of time on one’s feet, unhealthy or unsuitable working conditions, harassment by fellow employees, or the fear of losing one’s job can cause stress in the workplace.
If left unmanaged, stress creates an acidic environment in the body and a buildup of inflammation, the main cause of all disease, she said.
“So the worst thing that can happen is that someone becomes very ill with a life-threatening disease or in extreme cases a person can take his or her own life or someone else’s because of an inability to manage stress,” explained Vicario.
Let the numbers speak
According to WebMD, 43 percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress, and it can play a part in problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, anxiety, and diabetes.
Diabetes, for one, is among the top 10 causes of death in the US according to the Center for Disease Control. It’s a disease that used to only affect adults, but is now also impacting children and entire families.
“Since we spend most of our lives at work, as much as the employer can help make this information available by providing resources, then they can ensure happier, healthier employees which mean fewer sick days, less turnover, and also lower insurance premiums,” said Vicario, thus the need for a corporate wellness program.
A survey conducted by Virgin Pulse, a hub of consumer-focused strategies and innovative tools that set the foundation for a company’s engagement efforts, in collaboration with Workforce magazine, found that 87.4 percent of employees state that wellness positively impacted work culture, an increase of 10 percent from 2013.
The report entitled, “The Business of Healthy Employees 2014: A Survey of Workplace Health Priorities”, surveyed 362 organizations and 3,822 employees.
Among other key findings include, 52.6 percent of employees report that wellness programs increase engagement and 64.2 percent report an increase in productivity directly related to participation in wellness programs.
“Engagement comes when employees feel supported by their employer, when their needs are being met, and when companies are embracing a culture of health and wellness,” said Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse.
“Our culture of health is something we do for our associates, not to them, and if we offer the best, we will attract the best,” the report further said.
Vicario develops a customized health and wellness programs from her training in holistic health and wellness at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City and also from her training in Nutrition for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the University of California in San Francisco.
She enumerated several ways to control stress without the use of medication, which include a proper diet, regular exercise, and surrounding yourself with positive people.
“First, eat a diet with plenty of vegetables and drink lots of water. The better nourished and fueled our bodies are, the better we feel and more adept are we at handling stressful situations,” said Vicario.
Caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and drugs and packaged/processed foods are not also helpful said Vicario.
“Think of it as what you put in is what you get out. At least 30 minutes daily of cardio and/or weight training exercise is a wonderful way to relieve stress (even if it’s just a 30-minute daily walk – do what you can!),” she suggested.
Yoga is also on top of her list, as it not only relieves stress, it also helps practice deep breathing which clears the mind and brings the focus to the body.
“Surround yourself with supportive, uplifting people both at work and in your social life. The power of friends, family and connection shouldn’t be overlooked!” Vicario said.
But for a wellness program to be effective, Virgin Pulse report said that it should be robust and allow for individual interests and needs.
“Regardless of anyone’s age, gender, health status, or any factor, these programs have to be appealing and attainable for everyone,” said Boyce in the report, and smoking cessation remains a popular offer.
The top wellness choice for employees is physical activity programs (68.9 percent), followed by healthy on-site food choices (39.9 percent). Employees are also utilizing weight management programs (28.9 percent) and financial wellness offerings (26.3 percent).
We are all prone to becoming too attached to our work, leaving no more room for our family or personal lives, but remember, our work should not define us. Working longer is not working smarter.
Life outside of work is huge, and you shouldn’t miss that.
Marissa Vicario is a New York City-based board-Certified Health and Nutrition Coach and Healthy Living Expert and the founder of Marissa’s Well-being and Health. She shares her own health secrets, get-fit tips, and the cooking expertise that has inspired countless women to change their relationship with food and turbo-charge their health. No diets required. Visit her web site at www.MWAHonline.com and follow her blog at www.WhereINeedtoBe.com
This article was originally published at DiabetEASE magazine August-September 2014. Republished with minor edits