Don’t let your work damage your health

When is the last time you had to organise a hospital discharge at short notice or skip lunch in order to type up a backlog of needs assessments?

Perhaps you’ve just come from a home visit where you spent half an hour convincing an elderly service user that they really do need a new washing machine. Or have you just had a grant application rejected, meaning you won’t be able to buy the washing machine for the SU? It could be you’re trapped in a battle of conflicting opinions with a vulnerable client’s family. Maybe you’re still thinking about your last team meeting, in which you found out about the ambitious performance targets set by the council’s central social services department.

These are all examples of typical day-to-day work pressures that can damage your health in the long run.  These pressures tend to not only affect us during working hours, but also when we go home. We drag them everywhere like a ball and chain we can’t free ourselves of and that can’t be good for anyone’s physical, mental or emotional health.

Anyone who’s been involved in this profession for a while is familiar with at least a couple of the following symptoms, even if they’re reluctant to admit that they are indeed indicative of ailing health due to the stresses and strains of their work. If I mention falling asleep on the bus between home visits; having to call in sick with a migraine; losing your appetite for days on end; struggling with a cough or sniffle for weeks; feeling constantly dehydrated; becoming easily irritated by everyone and anyone or drinking as a coping mechanism, there may well be alarm bells ringing in your head.

Whether you have experience of any of these symptoms or whether you’re aware of other signs in your life that indicate all is not well, it’s important to understand it doesn’t have to be like this. Whilst no one is going to be 100% healthy all of the time, there is no reason for your health to suffer either chronically or acutely because of your line of work.

Here are some pointers for looking after your health whilst still doing your job:

•    Eat the right foods: You don’t want to waste your precious and limited reserves of time, money and energy by buying, cooking and eating foods with little or no nutritional value. So base your diet around ‘superfoods’ such as broccoli, spinach, blueberries, pineapple and whole oats.

•    Find a form of exercise you like and have time for: We all know it’s important to stay fit but exercise can seem like such a chore. However, if you manage to find something that you enjoy, you’re more likely to stick to it and put lots of effort into it. Some examples of fun physical activity include dancing, biking, rambling, playing with your kids, strawberry picking, rock climbing, playing team sports, hula hooping, kickboxing, rebounding—and shopping!

•    Interact with others: Socializing, smiling and laughing on a regular basis enhances our emotional and mental health. Even if you don’t have much time to see friends outside of work, make the effort to set aside specific periods of time to interact with your colleagues on a social level. For example, whenever it’s a team member’s birthday, arrange for everyone to take lunch at the same time and to bring in one food or drink item from home so that you can have a little party for an hour or so in the afternoon.

•    Make the most of your sleep time: Even though we know we should get eight hours of sleep a night, sometimes this is just not realistic. So when you do get to bed, it’s extremely important to go to sleep as quickly as possible, so you can sleep for as long as possible. If you have trouble dropping off, try reading a chapter of a book before bedtime, listening to some soothing music, having a warm bath, drinking warm milk or putting a few drops of lavender oil on your pillowcase.

By Nisa Chitakasem, Founder of Position Ignition, a careers consultancy dedicated to helping you with your career choices and challenges. We’re passionate about helping you to find the right career path for you – whether it involves finding a more rewarding career, making a career change, figuring out the right career plan or being creative about career direction.

For free advice, guidance and information on careers visit the Position Ignition Career Blog or find us on Twitter @PosIgnition or Facebook