After a couple of days of decompression and stress-relief, I’ve been able to come back from the cliff of insanity and really put my 12 days of work into perspective. Once you get a day to actually do things for yourself, put in some quality self-care and spend time with your favorite people on the planet, life gets easier again and you remember why you stuck to living life in the first place.
Before I expand on the reasons why working so hard for someone else is bad for your health, I have to put a disclaimer that being an independent isn’t for everyone. I went to dinner last night with a woman who just got a new job working as a development director for a non-profit. She said she gets to work as a ‘professional schmooser’ and she loves it. Making connections, educating people on their fellowships, spreading the word about their organization ignites a fire in her that was palpable at dinner last night. She was just beaming with excitement and joy about her new position. I also have very close friends who work as customer service reps at my favorite clinic and do such an incredible job putting their heart and soul into the initial patient interaction, it’s beautiful.
There is the custodian at my other clinic who gets great joy from cleaning and really couldn’t imagine her life doing anything else. The postal man who always has a smile on his face and just loves delivering mail to people. Some people are fulfilling their purpose on their planet and their purpose happens to be under someone else’s payroll. To those people, I commend you, keep up the hard dedicated work until it doesn’t fulfill you anymore, then come find me. 🙂
Now to the point of this piece. I wanted to explain how working so hard could possibly be detrimental to your health. I will extrapolate on my original reasons.
1) I ate like poop. I indulged in candy and chips and fried food. The stuff that immediately delivers dopamine, calms the mind and lights up the same part of the brain as heroin or cocaine, I consumed in heavy doses. This one is obvious. When we are stressed, we crave foods of comfort and these are usually those of our youth. Buttery, fatty, fried, soft, doughy, straight sugar-shooting foods that comfort us at the moment they touch our tongues. This is why we have an obesity epidemic, duh! I never once craved a salad or a carrot stick or almonds. When stressed we tend to go straight to the simple carbs because they cause an instant surge in happy hormones and if we’re chronically stressed we’re chronically craving carbs.
2) I didn’t have me time. Time to just sit and surf the net or read a book, discuss the meaning of life or just breathe or stare deeply into Ellie Belles eyes and have her figure it out for me. Just me time is something that has become increasingly important to my health in the last two years. I realized how much I enjoy being by myself not having to answer to anyone and do as I please. When alone and making decisions just for me, I don’t have to cook for anyone or solve problems for others or attend to anyones party or dinner gathering. We need alone time to reset our minds and bodies and refill our wells. Only then can we properly connect with others without draining them.
3) Driving and sitting so long caused me to start having chest pains, back aches, poor posture and overall malaise. Terrible. I couldn’t figure it out, but then realized they subsided today and I sit here joyfully following my bliss. There is a real mind-body connection and if you’re not releasing stress and tension through exercise or screams or meditation or whatever, then your body starts to talk to you. And if you don’t listen to the whispers, it gets a little louder, like in tension headaches or upper respiratory infections and then if you really don’t listen then it yells, like in autoimmune disease or hypertension or cancer.
4) I shopped too much and spent too much money on material things I didn’t need, after work, on the weekends, and during lunch. (This is my addiction and I’ve been free of it for almost a year, until this summer) Because this is my addiction it can be extrapolated to anyone else and their addiction, whether its drugs, alcohol, smoking, sex. You overindulge when you are stressed and overworked, it numbs the body and quiets the mind and again allows that reward center to get what it needs, a surge of happy hormone.
5) I became really needy for human attention and interaction. Not in a healthy way, like a need to connect to others, but in a desperate someone else fill my void because I’m miserable way. When stressed, we kind of give the responsibility to others to fix that, especially our loved ones. I’m miserable so I’m going to hang around you in hopes that you’ll fix me. This can get really complicated if you’re in a committed relationship or married with kids. Relationships often waiver when someone is chronically stressed and they don’t deal with it in healthy ways. This is also where abuse can come in. This is probably the most important reason to chill and not work so hard and your connections with and to people will transform dramatically if you do.
6) I went to the store and devoured gossip magazines and almost engaged in gossip myself. I caught myself every single time I wanted to talk about someone, complain about a patient, even printed out the Four Agreements and handed it out to every one in our office and wrote them on our white board. Indulging in others misery activates that reward center as well. Enough said. This is why reality shows are so popular and people who work for entertainment industries get paid so much money for stories about celebrities. It’s sick. Instead of focusing on reaching our highest potential, we engage in the glamour of celebrity life and when they falter, we’re right there to soak up the story like it’s the best strawberry shake in the world.
7) I wanted to watch TV and I don’t even have a TV! Numbing is a natural craving for us in our overstimulating society. Sitting in front of a tv, having people talk at me and tell me stories that have nothing to do with my life sounded amazing.
8) On my 11th day I came home zombified, craved a beer and indulged in fried fish, potato salad and grilled oysters, not terrible, but not my usual. (I’m sure I sound like such a food snob, but what I really craved was fried fish, french fries, mac and cheese, peach cobbler, bread pudding and beer). Same story as #1
9) I felt like I ‘needed’ a drink every evening, but only caved 3 times and had 2 drinks in the entire 12 days. Same idea as #4.
10) Neglected my business and friends and my daily Shiny Healthy People challenges. Really sad about this one. When we work so hard for someone else, its hard to focus on anything else. I always ask patients about their hobbies or activities. Pretty much everyone says they don’t have time for one. I’m always really saddened by this one. Please y’all make some time just for yourself and the things that make you freaking happy.
11) Neglected much needed nature time. I get that there have been heat indexes of 104-107 the past couple of weeks, but when I have a day off I usually walk early morning or late night and its awesome, despite what you may think. Nature is so therapeutic. There is such a thing as ecotherapy and they are finding endless benefits. Going outside to walk or hearing the sound of streaming water can decrease stress and lower your blood pressure.
12) My sleep sucked. I usually wake up feeling well-rested and alert. For about seven days now that was not the case. Insomnia is really prevalent these days and it makes sense why. First, we are constantly plugged in and take artificial light into the bedroom with us. Bedroom hygiene is extremely important and I’ll talk about this one day. Plus we ruminate about the day, the day before, the next day, the next week. I woke up in the middle of the night a few times and couldn’t return to sleep. I’m sure you can relate to this.
13) I was grumpy. I’m never grumpy. But it was probably due to #12. Stress+worrying+eating like poop+digesting toxic media sources+insomnia = GRUMPY. Enough said.
14) I chopped my hair off today. I felt like I was carrying the weight of the world in every strand, so now they’re shorter and I feel lighter. This is just me being dramatic. It still feels better though.
Thanks for reading. I hope this brings a little more clarity to why working so hard can potentially be hazardous to your health.
Off to good, high quality sleep!
Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net