Get out of bed, go to work, eat, sleep, and repeat. Does that routine sound familiar to you? For whatever reason, the demands of work, children, friends, and family seem to be increasingly intense and unrelenting. If you are not careful, the demands of others can be all consuming, leaving little time for you to take care of you! It seems that most of us are programed to give up the activities that we enjoy, like exercising, cooking healthy foods, or time with friends and family, in order to take care of the needs of those around us.
Unfortunately, you are not alone. Millions of people are now experiencing serious health issues, including obesity, diabetes, inflammation, heart disease, anxiety, depression, and metabolic syndrome as a result of the dangerous cycle that focuses around work and pays little attention to the important roles of exercise, diet, and social activities in a well-balanced life.
Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, “Why?”. There is a great saying, “Who heals the medicine man?”; in other words, who takes care of the person who takes care of everyone else? If you ask me, the answer is simple – you do, and you get a spot at the front of your line.
Dangers of a Life Focused Around Work
Most people need a steady job. Employment not only provides income for family, and when included as a part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle, your career also provides a sense of purpose and satisfaction. However, when the demands of your career start to take priority over other important areas of your life, such as your family, relationships, or health, significant problems can quickly occur. Currently, the average full-time employee works nearly 50 hours a week; 40% of people work at least 50 hours a week. Research has demonstrated that people who work average of 10 to 11 hours a day are at an increased risk of:
- Cardiovascular Disease (including a 60% increase* in the risk of heart attack or heart disease)
- Blood Sugar Levels
- Mental Decline
The More You Work, The Less You Sleep
Researchers and medical professionals recommend sleeping an average of 7 to 8 hours each night. Working 10 to 11 hours a day leaves little time to meet the demands of a family, maintain a regular exercise program, and get a good night’s sleep. However, research has clearly demonstrated that getting less than the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep is directly related to an increase* in diabetes, heart disease, unwanted weight gain, and anxiety.
In addition, the lack of sleep does not allow your brain to properly rest and recharge. An exhausted brain often sends mixed signals to the rest of your body; these signals often make you think you are hungry (when you are really not); lead to impulsive and compulsive decisions (like drinking too much or eating an entire gallon of ice cream); and negatively affect both short and long term memory.
Signs You Need Less Work and More Down Time
Life has a way of letting you know what is going on, often the answers to our problems are right in front of us. If you are to busy working, you probably haven’t taken the time to look for signs that you need a break from the constant demands of the 50 to 60 hour work week. Here are a few signs that could indicate that you might be working too much:
- Inability to Complete Tasks While at Work: Spending the most time at work does not make you the most valuable employee, especially if you are not able to meet the demands of the job. In fact, research shows people who spend the most time at work actually complete less work than their efficient co-workers.
- A Change in Eyesight: Staring at a computer screen or reading complex or small text for hours on end increase* the risk of nearsightedness, making it difficult to clearly see objects in the distance. Vision issues may start gradually and progress to cause significant problems over time.
- Missing Important Family Events: Missing dinners, anniversaries, children’s birthdays, sporting events or other important events not only causes conflict within your family, it also makes you feel guilty, resentful, and frustrated.
Stop and Enjoy Life, That is What It’s Here For
While difficult at first, striking a healthy balance between the responsibilities of work, family, and your own health is possible; start by following these tips:
- Commit to At Least 30-Minutes of Exercise a Day: Exercise releases endorphins, burns calories, and relieves stress. 30 minutes of brisk walking, cycling, tennis, yoga, or weight training build muscle; improve* cardiovascular health, and decrease* stress and anxiety. If your work schedule is unpredictable, commit to developing a morning exercise routine and complete it before leaving for work.
- Eat As Healthy As Possible As Often As Possible: Let’s face it, a busy work schedule makes eating healthy all the time a near impossible feat. However, eating healthy most of the time is not impossible. In fact, it is probably the best way to approach a sensible eating plan. Focus on eating fresh fruits and vegetables combined with low-fat proteins as often as possible, but always during breakfast and at least lunch or dinner. Stock your briefcase, desk, car or purse with healthy snack options like nuts, seeds, nut butters, or granola bars to fuel your energy between meals or during meetings. Eating like this as often as possible makes splurging on the occasional business dinner or pizza on the go the rare occasion – and suddenly not that big of a deal.
- Establish Healthy Sleep Patterns: Go to sleep and get out of bed the same time every day – even weekends. Your body established routines, even for sleeping. Sleeping in on weekends or staying up late 2 to 3 times a week confuse your body’s natural circadian rhythm, leading to restless or poor sleep. It is also important to sleep in a dark room without interference from television, computers, or cell phones.
- Make Time For Your Family a Priority: We work hard to provide for our family. Make sure you strike a balance with work so you are not missing the times that matter – you will never see your kids grow up again and you never want to say “I wish”. No matter how hard you work, you can not turn back time. If you are finding it difficult to fit exercise and family time in, consider combining the two; ride bicycles as a family, go for a hike with your spouse, spend a day swimming in the ocean or lake with your kids.
Whatever you decide to do with your life, make sure that you take care of you – there are a lot of people counting on your success!
Now will you break this eat, work and sleep cycle?
Still if you cross your finger on this question… You surely need to stop this and break that vicious cycle to enjoy your life.