Don’t get hung up on material wealth, and don’t allow your working life to take over. Your health is the best investment you can make.
There is so much pressure on us all to be able to juggle so many things in our lives and sail through it all, without batting an eyelid.
The complexities of who we are, how we maintain authenticity in the workplace, our sense of responsibility – these pressures manifest in stress, pressure, no time for our families and friends, let alone ourselves, no head space, no space to breath.
The net result of which is – yes – poor health, and a really compromised quality of life, regardless of how glamorous it might appear to everyone else.
However, the world is changing. Our values are changing. We are questioning the pursuit of money, financial and business success. We know they do not necessarily bring happiness or good health.
Give Up The Guilt!
I tell women every day to take some me time. Give up the guilt! It’s the wrong attitude to see spending an hour on yourself as pampering.
If we don’t start to look after ourselves, put that hour and a half of “me time” as a business meeting, cut down on the wine, eat healthily, and get our hearts beating, then our bodies will give out as well as our minds.
Exercise is linked to lower rates of cancer. It even helps in treating depression. Emerging studies show that exercising 3 times a week in your older years can cut the risk of Alzheimers by as much as 40 per cent.
For me the big game changers are all within our control. So many women say to me “I just don’t have the time…”. We do – we just have to be as determined about making it as we are in making the deal, making the business succeed, making our families happy.
Let’s look at some hard facts:
- If you are getting less than 6 hours sleep a night you increase your chances of a heart attack by 60 per cent.
- Sugar is the new cocaine. It is a killer, it causes cancer, obesity, diabetes. The World Health Organisation estimate that in the UK, 36 per cent of men and 33 per cent of women will be obese by 2030. That’s a 10 per cent rise in the incidence of obesity in under 2 decades.
- Put down the electric gadgets. Kindles, iPads, iPhones, TVs all use blue light that messes with our circadian rhythms and our eyesight.
We have to be very tough on ourselves, to be disciplined, to give ourselves “me time”, because if we don’t, the consequences are devastating.
Fight or Flight
The body is programmed to react to life-threatening stress with a “fight-or-flight” response.
In this state, the brain triggers a cascade of chemicals and hormones that speed the heart rate, quicken breathing, increase blood pressure, and boost the amount of energy (sugar) supplied to muscles.
Unfortunately, the body does a poor job of discriminating between grave, imminent dangers, and less momentous, ongoing sources of stress, such as financial difficulties, job strain, and even worries about potential problems that haven’t yet arisen. When the fight-or-flight response is chronically in the “on” position, the body suffers.
We have known since the 1950s that job strain can cause cardiac problems.
Type A personalities (these are people who are more ambitious, impatient, and have an exaggerated commitment to work) had a 2 fold increased risk of developing coronary artery disease compared to those of a more relaxed personality type.
Arianna Huffington pointed out in her book ‘Thrive’ that women in highly stressful jobs had a 40 per cent increased risk of heart disease and heart attacks. The pathophysiology behind this thought to be that stress may aggravate inflammation in coronary arteries, leading to blood clots that can trigger a heart attack.
Stress also makes it harder to practice heart-healthy habits, such as exercise, a good diet, not smoking, and adequate sleep. It’s hard to tell what proportion of heart attack risk is due to psychological stress as opposed to, say, smoking or lack of exercise.
And some women may be predisposed (genetically or from early life experience) to react less effectively than others to stressors.
Creating Healthy Habits
So what can you do to make sure you foster good habits, and take care of your health?
- Foster mutually supportive relationships with friends, family, and co-workers.
- Get regular exercise. It’s good for the heart, reduces anxiety and depression, and improves sleep.
- Limit intrusions (such as work-related e-mails) on your life outside of work.
- Practice relaxation techniques, such as meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, progressive relaxation, or visualisation.
- Eat healthily – no processed food, reduce sugar, bad fats and generally eat less.
- Do things that make you laugh or smile – get those endorphins flowing
- Affirmations (they work!) – be positive, enjoy life and live a happy healthy one.
Try to bring back your work-life balance. We all need to get the balance right, and be strong in the conviction that there is another way of working. It’s not about giving up on your dreams, just managing your life better to ensure you’re around long enough to enjoy them!
Remember, we can have it all. We just can’t have it all of the time!
Kate Percival is London’s Leading Women’s Health and Wellness Entrepreneur. She is the co-founder and CEO at Grace Belgravia, London’s leading health, wellbeing and lifestyle club offering a fully-integrated service for members.
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