I had what I thought was a dream job. My daily commute was only 59 steps. That's the distance to my downstairs home office, including a stop in the kitchen for an espresso.
When I wasn’t working from home, I was typing 30,000 feet in the air, or in some fabulous city: Barcelona, Dusseldorf, London, Miami, New York, Sydney, and Vancouver were just some of my business travel destinations.
I traveled first class seats on flights. Hotel upgrades. And with all the miles and points I’d accumulated, my family and I enjoyed some great vacations. The more I traveled, the better the perks got.
From the outside, it probably seemed like I had an amazing lifestyle. But that "dream" job became a nightmare, health-wise. I gained 40 pounds. I suffered from severe back, neck, and leg pains. I became dependent on prescription medications to lessen the pain during the day and to fall asleep at night.
I didn't realize it at the time, but I made several health-destroying mistakes while working my "dream" gig. I invite you all to recognize these signs from my journey. Are you putting too much pressure on your career and not enough on the quality of your life?
1. I completely de-emphasized the importance of good sleep.
I worked with colleagues and clients in various countries, which seems exciting, right? Well, because of the time zone differences, I often worked past midnight and started work early each day. Fourteen hour workdays were more common than not, and I was getting no more than four or five hours sleep each night. Somehow, that seemed OK to me at the time.
But the lack of boundaries between work and play is one of the downsides of working from home. Your office is never more than a few steps away, and job demands are always beckoning. The impact of not getting enough sleep hit me hard, and research has shown the consequences are worse than people realize.
2. I sat constantly. And my fatigue fueled my tendency to sit even more.
Long work days led to an excessive amount of sitting. This led to body aches and pains, which led me to think that my office chair was the problem; so I bought an expensive ergonomic chair.
Needless to say, my expensive purchase did little to help my situation, perhaps given the sheer number of hours I was sitting each day. If I wasn't sitting at my desk, I was sitting on an airplane or in a car. My sedentary lifestyle caused chronic pain in my back, neck and legs.
Too much sitting is a growing problem for our culture at large. Earlier this year, while promoting the benefits of the new Apple Watch, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, "a lot of doctors believe sitting is the new cancer." And a recent study links too much sitting to increased health risks including early death.
3. I ate whatever, whenever possible.
Late night dinner with clients. Long days without lunch. Those are just some of the unhealthy habits I developed. The job affected my energy level and my ability to stay focused and alert.
Traveling and an irregular eating schedule presents a challenge for eating healthy, but it’s not impossible. You just have to plan ahead, pack plenty of healthy snacks and develop some discipline.
4. I consumed alcohol to "de-stress."
One of the travel perks I fully enjoyed was the free drinks. With the stress of the job and the physical pains, it was easy to make excuses as to why I needed another drink. Over time, I was drinking a lot even when I wasn’t traveling. That caused issues with my health and in other areas of my life.
The biggest change I had to make was to stop making excuses to drink just because it was free or easily accessible. I rarely drink anymore, but I’m still recovering from the after-effects.
5. I treated my body aches with prescription meds.
My back, neck and leg pains were a constant distraction. At night, I struggled to fall asleep and stay asleep. Before long, I was dependent on prescription drugs to get me through each day and night. Fortunately, I had a doctor who cautioned me instead of over-prescribing drugs. He recognized my increasing dependency and helped me take steps to address it.
Last year I was laid off from this “dream" job. It was the best thing that could have happened. Only then did I realize how much these mistakes had impacted my health and my life.
You can have a demanding job and still enjoy a healthy lifestyle. You may even find yourself able to find a more fulfilling path than your current situation.
But when it comes to your health, you just have to commit to making the right choices. I hope you don’t make the same mistakes I did, putting your job above everything else and damaging your health in the process.