If you’re in healthcare marketing, you know it’s bad when:
- You dread Sunday night, because next up is Monday morning
- You spend way too much time on email CYA-ing (CYA – Cover Your Ass)
- You find your attention drifting in the middle of a project, particularly to sites like Indeed and Monster
- In unnecessary meetings you have thoughts like, “If I didn’t have these kids and these bills…”
Those are just the obvious signs.
Think about this: The body reacts to job stress the same way it reacts to, say, a dog attack. Hormones like adrenaline and cortisol fuel a protective fight or flight response, surging the body’s blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar.
The body is equipped to regulate its stress response, and calm down when the threat is over. But when stress is prolonged — like at a stressful job — these indicators stay elevated and can eventually develop into chronic stress and other health disorders like hypertension.
Here are 3 not-so-obvious signs that a stressful career is taking its toll on your health:
You’ve gained weight
Psychological and social stressors have been directly linked with weight gain. You’re eating more, and the stuff on your plate is for comfort or convenience, not health—a calorie fest, basically.
Watching your diet and getting as little as 80 minutes a week of exercise can help prevent weight gain and reduce the risk of developing a health condition, according to an October 2009 study in the journal Obesity from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
I know this will require shutting off your impulse to plow through your to do list. I struggle with it as well. Maybe do a short workout before you head to the office. Or sign up for a class, something that fits into your very deadline-oriented mentality.
You’re smoking more
Smoking and poor health love each other. I often wonder if healthcare marketers really want a cigarette, or if they just want to get away from everyone for a moment but they’d get fired for just saying “I need another break from you people.”
A common myth is that smoking induces calm, which can cause both occasional and dependent smokers to light up more frequently during a high-stress workday.
The truth is that smoking actually increases stress, according to an older study in the April 2003 issue of World Journal of Biological Psychiatry.
The key is to replace smoking with a stress reliever that actually works, like a walk or chocolate. (Okay, maybe not the chocolate.)
You’re feeling depressed
A stressful job can often sap your confidence and sense of purpose. You sit there all day feeling like you’re being punked. Next thing you know, you’re not sleeping well and dealing with migraines. Or you have unexplained bouts of sadness, irritability and tiredness.
This is where maintaining a strong network of support is important. Instead of saying, “I can’t go, I gotta work,” spend time with people who can give you wise advice and support. And instead of venting, keep the conversation solution-focused, i.e. what are the top three stressors at my job; what are the top three things I can do about it; or do I need an exit strategy.
Also, talking with your doctor about symptoms of depression is extremely important, especially if the symptoms persist for several months.
The irony of it all
The ironic thing is that we work in healthcare. We talk about preventing illness, managing chronic diseases and healthy living all day. But, we often are so busy with a stressful job, that we don’t see how our crazy workday is wearing on our own health.
No job is worth that.
Your mind and body need you to push back on your job’s stressful demands. Something has to give, and that something should not be your health.