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Work-Health Balance: 7 Guideposts To Help Take Care of Yours

Work-Health Balance: 7 Guideposts To Help Take Care of Yours

We talk a lot about work-life balance these days, but what about work-health balance? When we refer to our work, we often say we’re giving it our “all” or giving “one hundred and fifty percent.” These are admirable sentiments in theory, but what percentage of the pie of life are you reserving for yourself – especially with regard to your health?

[Related: From 'Having it All' to 'Having a Choice']

Many of us get to the office early and stay late; sit at a desk all day staring at a screen; are so busy we only have time to grab something to eat from a vending machine, or worse – we miss lunch altogether. Then there are those of us who, once home, keep on working – even burning the midnight oil. I’ve had coaching clients whose work-health balance was so off-kilter – some felt their jobs were literally killing them.

At some point, “something’s gotta give,” as the saying goes. Putting work before health, especially sleep, can cause a whole host of stress-related ailments, including high blood pressure, decreased cognitive ability, and increased sickness due to a lowered immune system.

[Read more: No Work-Life Balance? Try These 4 Shifts Instead]

I’ve been down the work-over-health path myself, and it wasn’t until I hit the proverbial wall that I took a close look at my priorities, and put taking care of myself at the top of the list. These seven guideposts helped me get my work-health balance back on track. If you’re feeling drained, depleted, or just plain sick and tired, I hope they can help you as well:

  • Evaluate Your Position. Are you happy in your job? If the health cost-benefit analysis is not coming out in your favor, it’s worth taking a closer look at whether your job is the right fit. If not, the stress and strain could be taking years off of your life.
  • Get Your Rest. According to the National Sleep Foundation, Adults 26 to 64 require somewhere between 7 and 9 hours per night.
  • Eat Well & Hydrate. Drink water throughout the day, and eat whole foods as much as possible – fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins. Bringing your own lunch can help you have more control over what you eat during the day.
  • Set clear boundaries. Set regular lunchtime and stretch breaks, and if your workplace closes shop at 5:30 pm and you’re the only one regularly staying late, nip that in the bud, and start leaving the office at a regular time. Set boundaries and stick to them.
  • Get out into nature. Stretch your legs and breathe fresh air during your workday – even if it’s just for ten minutes. An outdoor break can help you regroup, refresh, and let the stress roll off your shoulders.
  • Step away from devices at home. Avoid the urge to check screens when you’re away from the job. Unplug from work, and the technology that tethers you to it, as often as possible.
  • Make time for loved ones. Be present for your family and friends. Work can come and go, but family and friends are part of the foundation of life and good health. When you’re away from work, cut the cord! Be in the moment and spend quality time with those you hold dear.

I encourage you to take stock of your work-health balance – evaluating your work as a whole, as well as your daily habits. It’s important to keep in mind…our work should add to our life – not subtract years from it.

Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" now in the 2nd edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Executive Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to Huffington Post, AOL Jobs, Ellevate Network, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. She hosts and produces an online showcalled:Thrive! about career & life empowerment for women on YouTube. Caroline also hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life- on iTunes. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.