Unfortunately, the instruction of Roman poet Virgil that “The greatest wealth is health” is often ignored during difficult financial times.
Experts warn that the American mantra of longer hours and harder work to combat financial stress may be counterproductive.
“Many people feel like they have to push themselves to unhealthy levels in order to succeed. But high-pressure jobs and long hours take a real toll on your immediate and future health,” says George Griffing, M.D., professor of internal medicine at Saint Louis University.
Whether you’re running for president, moving up the corporate ladder or juggling your family’s activities, it’s crucial that you take a break to care for yourself, he says.
These are the seven worst habits of workaholics, according to Griffing.
1. Forgetting to relax: While some stress can be good because it keeps you alert and motivated, too much stress or chronic stress will take its toll on your body. In fact, stress can cause a wide-array of problems including: cancer, heart disease, headaches, upset stomach, sleeping problems, muscle tension, weight gain/loss, high blood pressure and chest pains.
2. Eating on the go: Between meetings, conference calls and deadlines, who has time to sit down for a healthy lunch? But a healthy, balanced meal of complex carbohydrates, protein, fruits and vegetables is exactly what you need to stay mentally sharp throughout the day. Beware of frozen meals, fast food and processed food; they can be high in sodium, calories and fat.
3. Putting off sleep for work: Even busy professionals need seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Skimping on sleep can cause irritability, difficulty concentrating, memory problems and poor judgment. It has also been linked to obesity. If you have troubles sleeping at night, avoid bringing work to bed, limit caffeine and alcohol consumption and develop a relaxing routine before bedtime, such as light reading or a warm bath. If you still cannot sleep, seek the help of an expert.
4. Not making time for exercise: Humans were not designed to sit at desks for eight hours or more a day. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise most days is very important to your immediate and future health. In addition to reducing the risk for nearly every major disease, exercise has been shown to help fight anxiety and depression. By hitting the gym before or after work or walking during lunch, even the busiest person can find time to squeeze in exercise.
5. Working even when sick: Everyone has heard, “don’t come to work if you’re sick,” yet that’s exactly what many do. Whether you’re worried about jeopardizing your job in an unstable economy or just anxious about getting behind, there are three common sense reasons to stay home: Nobody wants your germs, you’ll be less productive and you need your rest to get better.
6. Drinking (too much): The saying “too much of a good thing” certainly applies to alcohol. Research has shown that moderate alcohol consumption can reduce your risk for everything from heart disease to rheumatoid arthritis, with “moderate” being the key word.
In general, men should have no more than two drinks per day (1.5 oz. of spirits, 5 oz. of wine or 12 oz. of beer) and women who are not pregnant should limit themselves to one drink per day. Remember, the risks of excessive drinking far outweigh the benefits of alcohol consumption and can lead to alcoholism, liver disease and some forms of cancer. Instead of drinking several cocktails to cope with stress or unwind after a busy day, try sipping herbal tea, meditation or yoga.
7. Skipping annual medical checkups: In order to detect problems early, prevent others from developing and get the best treatment if you have a condition, you need to know what’s going on in your body. Depending on your age, family history and lifestyle, consider a comprehensive medical checkup and special screenings every one to five years. Consult with your doctor for more information.
“Eventually, something’s going to give. If you keep burning the candle at both ends, the flame will burn out,” Griffing said. “But if you maintain a healthy balance, you will be happier and healthier overall.”