“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” While this is a nice sentiment, I don’t think it’s completely accurate. No matter how much you love your work, sometimes it’s still…work. It’s hard and it’s frustrating and it might make you wonder why you chose it.
However, similar to fitness goals, if you’re connected to your why then you can push through the hard days and recognize that those tough days get you closer to where you want to be in life. Everything we do has an impact on our health, including our jobs. Today we’re going to discuss the ways that work affects health and how we can optimize this part of our life for optimal health.
- Stress: This one is pretty obvious. Often our work causes us stress and this can lead to poor health in a number of ways. When we’re stressed, we don’t make the best nutrition choices, don’t sleep as well, spend more time in a “fight or flight” state with an elevated heart rate, and more. Additionally, statistics indicate that Americans work longer hours, retire later and take fewer vacations than most other countries. As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, all of these factors affect our body composition as well as our overall well-being. They can lead to a variety of physical and mental health problems, including heart disease and depression.
- Conflicting Values: This is one that I personally experienced a couple of years ago. I was working at a job that I loved that required somewhat frequent travel. I really enjoyed getting to go to new places and perform the work we did, but it was difficult to maintain my training routine. This was okay at first; then it started to take a toll and I realized that I valued my health and fitness more than travel for the time being. This is what eventually led to me transitioning to my role at Central Athlete.
- Environment: The physical place we work can also have an impact on our health in different ways. Do you need to commute and spend a lot of time in the car? That never feels great for our bodies. Are you required to be in an office 40+ hours a week? That may not be how you do your best work and could lead to frustration. Do you work somewhere with an endless supply of snacks and junk food? It can be difficult to avoid the temptation day in and day out, which could lead to making poor food choices regularly.
- Culture: The culture at our job is always a crucial determinant in our overall mental and physical health. If your company pushes long work days, celebrates all wins with alcohol, provides feedback in a negative way, doesn’t create a supportive path for professional growth, etc., you’re certainly not going to feel your best. This can contribute to the stress discussed above and make day-to-day life difficult.
So what can be done if work is impacting your health in negative ways? There are a few options:
- Get a new job: This one is another no-brainer. If you have the ability to switch jobs, look for something better aligned with your values that supports a healthier lifestyle. If you’re not able to leave, perhaps you can be the one who instigates a more positive culture and environment for everyone.
- Shift your paradigm: While this won’t solve issues with the culture or environment at work, it can change the way you interpret and react to the stress that accompanies them. In Kelly McGonigal’s book “The Upside of Stress,” she talks about how the way we think of stress determines how we react to it. This in turn affects how it impacts our physical and mental health. By viewing stress as an opportunity for growth, we can help our body react to it in a healthier way.
- Create boundaries: Another way to support your health at work and in all situations in your life is to create and keep healthy boundaries. One example of this might be that you don’t answer emails after a certain time of day, like 6:00 pm. You could also limit the days and times that you schedule meetings to keep from overloading yourself and feeling like you don’t have enough time to actually work. If your employer offers flexible work options, you can set one or two days a week to work remotely in an environment that suits you better.
Everything we do, from work to relationships to hobbies, has an effect on our health. This is unavoidable and not inherently a bad thing, but it does require us to monitor our physical, mental, and emotional health regularly and perform an “audit” when things feel off to get at the root of the problem. Central Athlete’s holistic model of programming takes all of these factors into account and helps clients build a life that supports the sum total of their goals, both inside and outside of the gym. If you’re ready to make a change, schedule a free strategy session with one of our professional coaches below!