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Fatal Working Conditions

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

We may not realise it but our work lives affect our health in a number of ways. You might not see it now but the effects will become apparent in the long run. To make sure it’s not too late, Henna Achhpal and Samreen Samad list some of the most common bad habits of working people, their effects and how you can remedy them before they take a toll on your health...

Today, most people seem to have forgotten the phrase — ‘health is wealth’. Dr. Sunil Kutty, Consultant Brain and Spine surgeon at Fortis Hospitals says, “With time becoming an important commodity and cut throat competition, the prime motive which is a healthy lifestyle has gone for a toss. These days our professions demand late nights, deadlines, travelling in traffic at peak hours and eating unhealthy food. Due to these lifestyle changes, we are seeing younger patients visiting hospitals with cardiac problems, hypertension, strokes, diabetes and depression. Every third brain stroke patient that I have seen in the last few years has been a young person in their 30s. This is an alarming trend.”
There are certain lifestyle changes that have become such a habit amongst most working people that we barely realise it anymore. Here are some of the common habits and how they may be harmful to you:
Working long hours: Agreed your brain is a powerhouse and can perform a number of tasks. However, overexerting your brain will do you no good. In a time when downsizing has become common in most companies, it is a given that you must perform the tasks of three people which leads you to work long hours and through the weekend. That cup of coffee might get you through a few more hours but you aren’t doing yourself any favours by burning the midnight oil at work.
Long term effects: According to a study, people who work more than 10 hours a day are about 60% more likely to develop heart disease or have a heart attack than people who clock seven hours a day.
Compromising on sleep: With infinite responsibilities and the pressure of rising prices looming — compromising on sleep looks like the only option if one hopes to get things done. However, depriving yourself of sleep will only lead to a burnout. You might think that catching up on sleep later on will get you back to normal but there isn’t a bigger myth than this. Each night your body needs at least 7-8 hours of sleep. If this is lost, it cannot be made up for the next day or over the weekend as sleeping more than 7-8 hours is as harmful as sleeping less.
Long term effects: Erratic sleeping patterns can lead to memory lapses or loss, depression, headaches, increased blood pressure, increased stress hormone levels, increased risk of diabetes and obesity among many others.
Too much stress: The immediate interpretation of work related stress is too much work and many responsibilities, but it can also be caused by other factors.

One of the main factors that cause work related stress is when you are not happy with the work you’re doing. This may be because the job doesn’t meet your expectations, doesn’t match up to your potential or you are unable to meet the demands of the job. Stress could also be caused due to hostile work environments or working in a place you don’t feel comfortable at. Anything that you don’t look forward to but have to do is a reason for stress.
Long term effects: Stress has a number of long term effects on our health and well-being. It can lead to conditions such as depression, diabetes, hair loss, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, obesity, anxiety disorder, tooth and gum disease and ulcers.
Bad posture: These days everyone is complaining about back pain and frozen shoulders. The reason is simple — a sedentary lifestyle! Sitting in front of the computer for long hours contributes to neck and back aches. If not moving around wasn’t enough, slouching and bad posture makes things even worse and can lead you to piling on soft flab, especially on your belly.
Long term effects: Not maintaining good posture and lack of proper back support can strain your muscles and put stress on your spine. Over time, the stress of poor posture can change the anatomical characteristics of your spine, leading to the possibility of constricted blood vessels and nerves, as well as problems with muscles, discs and joints.
Snacking and wrong meal times: Birthdays, chocolates from clients and overzealous baker colleagues can make your office a big calorie trap. If you are not careful or give into your cravings too easily, you could end up with serious health conditions. Not eating your meals at the right time due to work load or laziness could cause long term health problems as well.
Long term effects: Besides adding that extra fat to your waistline, binge eating and mindless snacking can cause grave health conditions such as high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure and high triglyceride levels. 
Working in a closed environment: 98% of offices nowadays have central air conditioning. This may come as a relief from the heat outside and make work cool and pleasant but spending the majority of your time indoors in a closed environment can cause respiratory problems as you’re depriving yourself of fresh air and inhaling stale air. Also, you may not realise it but spending too much time in airconditioning leads you and your skin to dehydration.
Long term effects: Spending excess time in an air conditioned environment can cause long term effects such as headaches, fatigue, mucous membrane irritation, breathing difficulties and skin irritations. People who already suffer from asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory disorders can develop serious lung infections.

The stale air makes you prone to diseases and lack of sunlight slows down your immune system.
It’s never too late and you can always bring about certain lifestyle changes which will slowly and eventually reduce the effects of your bad working habits. Dr. Sunil suggests a few changes:
Sleep: If you don’t get enough sleep at night, try to make up for it the next day. However, long periods of bad or inadequate sleep is harmful to your body. If you have to travel long distances to reach your workplace use the time to take a nap rather than listening to music on your phone.
Physical exercise: Get regular physical exercise. A routine of at least 30 minutes of exercise four times a week is recommended. A run in the outdoors will allow you to breathe in fresh air which is not only rejuvenating but also an effective stress buster.
Eat right: Strictly avoid junk food, fruits are a cheaper and much healthier option to snack on. Most working people these days have developed the habit of smoking. Try as much as possible to reduce the number of cigarettes per day and aim to quit the vice eventually.
Monday blues: If you think about the weekend on Monday morning itself, you should think about getting yourself a new job. Try looking for a job that you like and are interested in. This will not only make you more efficient but you will also enjoy your work more.
Take a break: While at work, especially for people sitting in front of the computer for long hours, it is worthwhile to get up every 1 or 2 hours for a quick stroll in the open, this not only reduces stress but also helps relax your neck and eye muscles.
“I had developed spasms in my upper left back due to constantly sitting at the computer and the tendon in my wrist had a swelling. My doctor asked me to stretch and move every 20 minutes to avoid furtherback problems.”
— Tania Samad, 29
“Start every day, even if you work at home with your to-do list — identifying urgent and important tasks. This is like a brain dump, doing so will leave your head space ready for whatever unexpected tasks come along. You need to focus on being proactive and leave some energy for being able to respond as well. Take short breaks to connect with loved ones with a short message or call. If something is making you feel uncomfortable in your body and breathing, switch to another task to “change your mood.” Gaining progress in some tasks will give you the fuel you need to complete the others. Notice your breathing and posture throughout and learn ways to gain your center when you feel scattered or annoyed. Drink lots of water and look away from your screen every 20 minutes. Use a comfortable chair, walk around and stretch, the most important thing you can do is to do what you love to do.”
— Malti Bhojwani, Life Coach

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