Despite workers in the toughest trades protecting themselves by wearing hardy work boots, they continue to sustain occupational injuries and illnesses in the workplace. In 2017, 1,981 workers in the construction industry were injured (1).
Meanwhile, 60,400 employees in the mining and natural resources industries experienced injuries. These injuries and illnesses sometimes occur due to a lack of appropriate clothing and footwear. However, the stress such jobs put on your body play a significant role, too. Therefore, taking action to protect your body from burning out is essential.
Good Quality Sleep
The National Sleep Foundation’s guidelines state that the typical adult requires between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night.
The research found that those with jobs which require moderate or high activity are more likely to get less than six hours per night or sleep for longer than nine-hour periods (2). While sleeping for longer than the guidelines state may not sound like a problem, it’s actually just as hard on your body as too little sleep.
Too little sleep is associated with alertness and memory problems, as well as stress (3). It even increases the risk of being involved in an accident on the road, which is a worrying concern for commercial drivers, and those who operate heavy machinery as part of their role. You’re also more likely to experience high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes as a result of not getting enough sleep.
In contrast, too much sleep increases the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease by 41% (4), and also puts you at risk of diabetes and heart disease, among other illnesses.
To ensure that that you get just the right amount of sleep at night, you should get into the habit of a good bedtime routine by hitting the sack at the same time each night. A comfortable bed and mattress is a necessity, so it’s worth spending on these items.
Technology and gadgets should also be banned from your evening routine. Studies show that even if you spend as little as 1.5 hours on gadgets, release of the sleep hormone melatonin can be adversely affected (5).
In addition to adopting these techniques, you should limit your caffeine intake during the day and avoid it altogether before bedtime as caffeine can stop your body from relaxing. Research has even found that caffeine intake up to 6 hours before bed can hinder the quality of your sleep.
According to The American Institute of Stress, 40% of the country’s workers say that their job is very or extremely stressful, while 80% confess to feeling stress at work (6).
CareerCast reports that military personnel, firefighters, pilots, and jobs within the police force are the most stressful (7). When your body is stressed, you’re more likely to experience depression, headaches, insomnia, heartburn, high blood pressure, and tense muscles (8).
Meanwhile, you also have a higher chance of having a heart attack, high blood sugar, and a weakened immune system, all of which can hinder your performance at work and put you at risk of a workplace injury or illness.
Being comfortable at work is the first step to combating work-related stress. A high-quality pair of work boots will keep you comfortable all day long and will ease muscle tension in your body.
Another way to get on top of work-related stress is adopting breathing techniques and taking 5 minutes out before facing the issue head-on. But most of all, you should review your lifestyle and do everything you can to get good-quality sleep every night as a lack of sleep can elevate your stress levels.
Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle
One of the toughest jobs out there is as a trucker. Truckers can work 14-hour days and as much as 70 hours every week. As a result of such long working hours, a comfortable pair of work boots is a must. But, as truck driver fatigue contributes to 40% of all accidents involving trucks (9), a healthy lifestyle is crucial too.
Truckers and other workers who are commonly on-the-go frequently turn to fast-food, unhealthy snacks, and service station favorites. However, high-energy foods are essential in these roles, as they keep the body and mind healthy, and can even keep you alert for longer.
Some of the most powerful energy foods (10) can be conveniently taken on the road with you:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Trail mix
- Dark chocolate in moderation
Along with eating healthily, you should also limit the amount of alcohol you consume and combat unhealthy habits, such as smoking. Drinking too much alcohol too frequently can lead to health problems, including obesity, liver disease, various cancers, and heart disease. All of these conditions can hinder the way you feel and act at work and can contribute to excessive periods of absence from the workplace.
More than 15 million Americans confess to going to work after consuming alcohol or with a hangover (11). Employees in some of the hardest trades are more likely to show signs of alcoholism.
Smoking is a common habit among the American adult population. The CDC estimates that 14% currently smoke regularly (13). For many workers in tough trades such as construction, smoking can be a stress-buster and an opportunity to take a break from the hustle and bustle of their job. However, smoking can significantly impact your health and take a toll on your body. Smoking can affect your hearing, eyesight, oral health, and skin.
Meanwhile, you’ll find your heart, lungs, muscles, and immune system are all negatively impacted by every cigarette you smoke. To avoid being inflicted by damaged hearing, scarred lungs, autoimmune diseases, and lethargy, it’s best to steer clear of cigarettes altogether.
According to the Alcohol Rehab Guide, roofers, painters, and construction laborers are about 1.8 times more likely to be dependent on alcohol (12). As alcohol can affect your concentration, your reaction times, and your vision, it should be avoided at all costs before a shift and limited at other times.
After a long and physically demanding day at work laying bricks or chopping down trees, the last thing you’ll likely want to do is participate in some form of exercise. However, this could be the best thing for your body.
Current guidelines state that adults need 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week, as well as 2 sessions of muscle-strengthening exercises. But research suggests that just 23% of the population are meeting these guidelines and 45% are not meeting either (14).
Failing to take adequate exercise puts you at risk of weight gain which will make any physically demanding job more difficult. Physical inactivity also affects your muscles, joints, and bones as when they are not routinely used, they become weak, which puts them at greater risk of injury.
Exercise is also a great way to relieve stress, so after a hard day at work, it could be the perfect remedy for you. Furthermore, individuals who don’t participate in enough exercise are more likely to have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (15).
The good news is that all types of physical activity count as exercise, so there’s sure to be something that’s perfect for you. If you’re after a calming and relaxing form of exercise, then yoga or pilates could be just the thing, whereas swimming is a great way to relax your muscles and unwind after a tough day at work.
Even walking the dog, running around the park with your kids, and cycling to work count towards your 150 minutes, so just a few lifestyle changes will ensure you remain fit and healthy when you kick off your work boots at the end of the day.
Use Your Vacation Time
There’s no denying that Americans are a nation of hard workers. 47% of U.S workers failed to use up all their allotted vacation time during 2017, with 21% missing out on five or more days of annual leave (16). Some of the top reasons why employees don’t use all their vacation time is because their boss doesn’t like it, their workloads don’t allow it, it stresses them out, and for fear that it will harm their career progression.
If this sounds like you, it’s time to push these concerns to one side and book some time off work. Research has shown that taking just 24 hours away from work can boost motivation levels. In comparison, studies have highlighted how failing to take a vacation can increase your chances of a heart condition by as much as 8 times (17). You’re also more likely to experience burnout when you indulge yourself in too much work and not enough play.
Take Regular Breaks
The police, firefighters, truckers, and construction workers are just some of the groups of workers who notoriously work long hours. In such professions, it can sometimes be difficult to step away from your responsibilities and take a break. Sadly, federal law doesn’t require organizations to offer breaks to their employees.
However, many companies appreciate the productivity and health benefits that providing these breaks offers, so they make them available to employees. Research shows that individuals who take a 20-minute break during the day have better energy and concentration levels than individuals who don’t take breaks (18). When this time is used to refuel with a nutritious meal, your brain function will increase and, in turn, so will your performance throughout the rest of the working day.
Cut Your Working Hours
40% of American workers put in more than 50 hours every week, and 20% rack up more than 60 hours per week, according to The Motley Fool (19). 69,000 construction workers fall into this bracket, with TSheets finding that it’s common for this many construction employees to work 50 hours per week. While the sense of achievement and the money are sure to spur you on, your health could be impacted by spending so much time in your work boots.
Research has found that you’re 33% more likely to have a stroke and 13% more likely to have a heart attack if you work a 55-hour week. Therefore, it’s worth keeping your hours down to 40 a week and reap the benefit of taking your boots off early so that you can relax at home.
Individuals who work in America’s toughest trades need to take action to keep their bodies fit and healthy. Thankfully, a quality pair of boots will prohibit wear and tear on your feet and ankles. But steps need to be taken and time invested in looking after the rest of your body.
© 2019 Avoiding Work Burnout & Staying Healthy in The Toughest Trades