Maintaining Your Well-being at Work
by Maureen Cromey
An Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Expert
"Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”.
Whether we have a job that we love or work out of necessity to keep the devil from the door, work can be a challenge to our health. But unemployment can be worse. The lack of motivation, self-esteem, social chaos and poverty related to unemployment can be far more damaging then many workplace risks.
In an ideal world we have a well-paid, fulfilling and interesting job, with good security and conditions that we enjoy. This is not often the case and even in apparently glamorous highly paid employment there will be associated stresses and strains.
We are fortunate to live and work in a society where workplace well-being has statutory protection. There is legislation that protects us from physical danger, exploitation, discrimination and harassment. We are not working in sweat shops under horrendous conditions for derisory pay as in many third world countries, nor subjected to the horrors of work houses and factories in the last century. In spite of these improvements many people are still deeply dissatisfied with their work conditions and longer working hours result in health related problems, such as depression, obesity, stress related problems, anxiety and insomnia.
For most of us work is a fact of life and within our economy it can be difficult to change careers or jobs to increase personal satisfaction.
Workplace well-being may have to be about making the most of where you are right now, accepting that it may not be perfect and looking after yourself as much as possible.
The rules for good health never change: adequate exercise, appropriate diet, good sleep and relaxation. There will be times when you cannot achieve all of these, but attend to the areas that can be controlled as much as you can.
Always eat well. Start the day with breakfast, and if you leave home very early, prepare a snack the night before or choose wisely at a cafe or canteen when you get to work.
Try to get some fresh air and exercise every day. Even in the middle of the city you can walk a couple of stops rather than take the bus or tube. Take a moment and sit on a bench near a tree or river and relax. Look at nature; it can be found in the smallest flower pot or city square.
Take 10 minutes each day to sit and reflect on what is happening in your work life. Sit still and feel how your body is feeling. Reflect on the situation, are you comfortable, do you feel overwhelmed, carried away by things or slightly detached, observing yet participating? How do you feel when you get home after a day at work? Have you enough energy to participate at home.
During this reflection you will be able to identify areas that are skewed and not working for you. You may be irritable and cranky when you get home. Sleep might be affected as thoughts swirl in your head. Or a relationship with a colleague or manager is bothering you. Have you any back or neck pains? How is your digestion?
Take action to redress these imbalances.
Write lists and methodically work through them.
Speak to a line manager, visit HR and take more exercise.
Holidays are important.
If you routinely come home exhausted and tetchy, take a shower and change clothes as soon as you get in. Brush your teeth and stretch out. Then you will be ready to face the evening. As acupuncturists we gather a lot of negative qi released during treatment sessions. I cannot function properly in the evening unless I have a cool shower and a change of clothes. A blast of cold water boosts the wei qi which is our defensive energy and suddenly we feel brighter and stronger.
Acupuncture is brilliant at sustaining people through hard work and long hours. It reduces cortisol levels which is a stress hormone and soothes the adrenal glands. It loosens tight uncomfortable muscles and relaxes the digestive system. It calms the mind and allows it to release upsetting and obsessive thoughts.
Acupuncture regulates the internal homeostasis which means it keeps our bodies working normally. Our organ systems have optimal function zones and when we are well and balanced they function within these zones. Stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, poor diet or lack of exercise place a pressure on the body and these organ systems can be strained and start to function sub optimally. We feel this by not feeling well, constantly tired or 'just not right". Malfunction over an extended period of time results in permanent deterioration associated with more serious and complex health problems.
A regular visit to see an acupuncturist combined with attention to lifestyle will keep you well and ensure that you thrive even with difficult and demanding work conditions.
If work is not fulfilling and you cannot change that situation easily, accept the status quo for a while. Make sure you stay healthy and focussed and boost the other corners of your world. Your friends, family, pets, hobbies, charities, whatever it is that gives you satisfaction and happiness. A fulfilled and well lived life is a sum of parts, and they cannot all be perfect.
Make the most of your day, do not sacrifice your life or health for work, work wisely and ensure that you remember who and what is important to you.
“Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate health. Then he is so anxious about the future that he doesn’t enjoy the present or the future; he lives as though he is never going to die and then dies having never really lived”
- Dalai Lama