{the life} Ways my job is trying to kill me

by Rachel on September 10, 2012

This summer, I noticed a ton of “your job is trying to kill you” articles popping up in my Google Reader. Great. Like I need something else to worry about. And then a couple weeks ago, work started to get busy at work. Really busy. Like, if there was ever a time to worry that my job was a murderous SOB, this would be it. But now that I know all the ways that my job is trying to kill me, I’ve been able to come up with some solid self-defense moves. Here’s how everything is playing out.

It’s sneaking up behind me through my chair.

Turns out, sitting around all day = slowly dying. My chair could easily overpower me because I tend to forget to step away from my desk as often as I should. The walks I take each day with my coworkers help a little bit (more on that later), as do lunchtime workouts. With the way things are going lately, I might actually unfurl my yoga mat in an empty office and put on a short yoga podcast so I can get my blood flowing without even having to leave. Until then, though, I’m really focusing on getting out of my chair whenever I get the chance (I tend to pop up every time I have something to say, which is often) and getting more exercise in my off hours and on weekends.

It’s forcing me into a killing machine twice a day.

My commute is only about 12 minutes each way, but if I don’t time it right, I can get stuck in about 30 minutes of nasty traffic as I travel the mile from the highway to my house at the end of the day. And apparently, our commutes are killing us. I have been trying to make the time I spend in my car enjoyable by utilizing the free year of satellite radio I got with my new car and tuning into talk radio stations. While hearing Katy Perry on every Top 20 station makes me kind of crazy, tuning into talk radio (or plugging in my phone and putting on a podcast) as I drive to and from work actually makes me feel smarter and more aware of what’s going on in the world. Like, now I’m aware that my job has a criminal record and is coming for me next.

It’s making me afraid of the dark.

Lack of Vitamin D? Cold-blooded killer. Unfortunately, my desk is in a pretty dim part of the office; I’m typically not aware of the weather until lunch time. But my coworkers and I take two walks outside each day and we usually stand outside chatting for a bit after our walk. While we could have these conversation indoors, we take it outside, where we can get back some of the Vitamin D our office is so quick to steal.

It’s trying to poison me during lunches with coworkers.

Like I said, my coworkers and I walk to lunch every day…and said lunch happens to be at a fast food restaurant. I really don’t want to miss these lunches, but I also don’t want to eat fast food every day. My solution? Going along but skipping the meal and then eating my packed lunch at my desk after we return. Unfortunately, over the summer, I started to let myself get too hungry before we’d go and I’d end up just ordering fast food far more often than I wanted to; strategic snacking has helped nip that in the bud. It also doesn’t work if I don’t actually pack a lunch to eat at my desk, so I’ve been making sure to pack one each day. Knowing things were going to get intense at work, last week I bought a bunch of staples like soup and frozen veggie burgers so I’d always have something I could take with me. This has helped avoid days like one a few weeks ago, when I didn’t pack a lunch and didn’t even have time to have lunch with my coworkers. I ended up grabbing a cup of microwavable ravioli and a Pop Tart from the gas station near my office…and everyone knows Pop Tarts are practically laced with arsenic.

It’s a midnight assassin, making me sleep with one eye open.

Stressful jobs can make it difficult to sleep; when I was up at 5:15 on Friday morning because I couldn’t stop dreaming about work, I knew things were getting to me. The later I work, the harder it is for me to shut my brain off at bedtime (plus, the light from my phone/iPad/laptop interferes with sleep patterns) so I’ve been trying to spend as much time away from the screen as I can. Listening to audiobooks before bed has been fulfilling my need for non-backlit-entertainment, and a short yoga routine has been helping to clear my head before bed. Still, a lot of nights I feel like I’m sleeping with one eye open, given how sleepy I feel in the morning. Until things calm down a bit, the best I can really do is try to be healthy in all the other areas of my life.

What are your self-defense moves when your job is trying to kill you? 

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Renee September 10, 2012 at 7:31 am

Stress of a small business is what kills me…I schedule regular massages and since sitting all day is horrible for posture I make sure I use weights for my back/core.

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2 courtney September 10, 2012 at 8:28 am

I’m fortunate enough to have the option to have a standing desk… which I love! It really helps to stand while on the phone or emailing. I also make an effort to leave my laptop at work. If I have to work late, I stay late or come in early, but I try not to work at home.

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3 Emily September 10, 2012 at 7:40 am

Ha! Love this. It’s a scary world we live in, huh?
My best self defense move is to (try) not to take it all too seriously. I feel like stress is the biggest factor in all the problems.

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4 Rachel September 10, 2012 at 8:22 am

Right?! I know. I need to take a step back and remind myself that I’m not saving lives. (Though that sentiment makes me wonder how doctors and nurses deal with stress.)

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5 Andi September 10, 2012 at 8:04 am

I work in a plant and deal (largely) with people at the same site. So, instead of calling or emailing, I typically go by someone’s office when I need to talk to them. I know it’s a bit disruptive when someone is “in the zone” but it’s also a lot better communication (and the things I ask for tend to get done a lot quicker that way).

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6 Rachel September 10, 2012 at 8:21 am

I go back and forth on this one! Like I said, I tend to pop up when I have something to say/ask…but I also like the paper trail that you get with an e-mail, and I worry about distracting people. And like you said, sometimes the communication is just more efficient in person. I think it depends what your office culture is like and how open people are to different types of communication. But I’m willing to bet there are always going to be some things you can drop in to ask face to face!

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7 Andi September 11, 2012 at 6:01 am

I’ve learned that there is one particular person I work frequently with that is absolutely not able to handle the interruption. I’ll usually schedule a meeting with this person for later that day (which still requires me to leave my desk). There is at least one person that this is the best way to do things, because he absolutely will not read his email. And everyone else doesn’t seem to mind the quick distraction. If it’s important enough for an email history, I’ll usually ask someone to send out minutes.

Also, I tend to stand up and pace a lot during meetings. It makes me seem a little OCD, but everyone is already convinced I’m crazy, so nothing to worry about there.

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8 Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy September 10, 2012 at 8:14 am

I quit my job that was making me feel this way. I can relate to everything that you said. I worked in an office with NO windows, and the walls were dark red. It was torture — my eyes felt terrible at the end of every day, and I was definitely lacking Vitamin D. I don’t recommend quitting to everyone, of course, but it was the right thing for me to do at the time, especially because they ended up laying off my department after that!

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9 Rachel September 10, 2012 at 8:19 am

Dark red?! Eeeek. I feel like in this economy, people have stay in jobs that are just crushing them longer than they would normally, and that sucks. But I have a good friend whose job was just totally soul-crushing and she committed to finding something better and after a few months, she did and she’s so happy now. I think a lot of people feel trapped, but better things can definitely come along.

Personally, these things aren’t making me want to quit my job. The lack of Vitamin D is a bummer, but the work I’m doing is really stimulating creatively, so that offsets it. But if your job is making you feel physically sick/stressed and there’s nothing making it worth it to you, I definitely think it’s worth it to start looking for something else!

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10 Jen Correa @ Mom's Gotta Run September 10, 2012 at 8:18 am

I am lucky enough to have a gym at my job. I commit to the gym at lunch most days – unless work is insane. Then I hit the cafeteria, and after a workout, nothing wants to eat crap. ;)

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11 Paul "@minutrition" McConaughy September 10, 2012 at 8:26 am

Do you think if someone developed a pad for our chairs that had a built in timer activated when our butts hit the seat that we would get up when the alarm went off? I do know that everything they say about the damage of sitting your work life away is true… personal experience you know.

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12 Rachel September 10, 2012 at 9:31 am

Ya know, I’m not sure. I mean, any of us could set a calendar reminder/alarm to get us out of our chairs at set intervals (and when I’m really busy, I still do this to remind myself to take an afternoon break/walk)…I don’t think we need a special chair to get us to do it, you know? I do think it would be great if office chairs were a bit more body-friendly though…I don’t think they are doing our posture any favors!

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13 Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie September 10, 2012 at 8:27 am

Such good points. I finally had to stop clicking on articles with dramatic “it’s going to get you” type of titles. Yes, I sit too long. Yes, I have too much stress. But reading about how I’m going to die is just causing me more stress! :) Thanks for the tips!

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14 Anne P September 10, 2012 at 8:54 am

My commute is definitely trying to kill me – and damn near succeeding. 45 minutes to 1 hour for 7 miles?!?!?! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Morning shows and books on CD just barely keep me sane.

Another thing that helps? Rocking a standing up desk whenever possible. I’m standing at my boss’s counter right now, in fact! http://www.fannetasticfood.com/2011/05/13/one-small-change-i-made-to-improve-my-health/

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15 Rachel September 10, 2012 at 9:27 am

When I read that on your blog, I couldn’t believe it…that’s awful! Do you drive or take public transportation? I miss the days of public transportation…at least when I wasn’t driving I could use that time to get things done or to read/relax. Driving myself takes all the fun out of it!

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16 Anne P September 11, 2012 at 6:53 am

I totally agree – I drive and it’s terrible… would much rather be on the subway so I can at least catch up on news or something while waiting. Thankfully it’s only temporary since my internships are over in a couple months…

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17 deva by definition September 10, 2012 at 9:13 am

We have an empty room in my office and I go in there on one of my breaks every day to do some yoga stretches and I try to walk on my other ones. Lately I’ve been aiming for 5x a week workouts to try to counter-balance all of the sitting I do. It’s hard, though, when the sofa is SO comfy and the (new!) kitten is mewling at me to play.

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18 Mel September 10, 2012 at 10:58 am

When I was working at a restaurant in college, I used to dream about work all the time. These days, I am surprised at how tights my hips are after only two years of working. I try to stretch and foam them regularly but my older coworkers pretty much tell me it will only get worse. Also, in the cold office air my fingers have a way of stiffening up that is really uncomfortable. WHY, body, why!?

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19 Dean Joseph September 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Interesting article, food for thought right there….

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20 Karen September 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm

I totally know how you feel about the sleep thing! I’m a community pharmacist and sometimes I have to work until 10pm and then go back in to work the next morning at 9am. I find those nights the hardest to unwind and get a good night’s sleep. I often dream about crazy work things. I try writing in a journal and reading before bed. They help some, but it’s still a work in progress. Doing yoga before bed is a good idea.

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21 Brittany September 11, 2012 at 10:06 am

-pack my own lunch and snacks
-drink lots of water
-walks over lunch when possible
-deep breaths during those really “dangerous” times
-closing my door
-green tea in the afternoon instead of coffee (this was a hard habit to break)

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22 Rain September 11, 2012 at 11:16 am

Ahhh….wish we just didn’t have to work, that would solve all of our problems :)

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23 Aj September 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm

So I read this yesterday and I wanted to think about it before replying because you make very good points. My job can be very stressful but I do love it and I wanted to think about why that was. Most of this came to me while on a run with my coworker after work last night..

I think of my job not as a job but as a career. I hope to be working at the same place I am (but with increased responsibilities/title/salary) in the next 10 years. And this is reciprocated by my supervisor and boss – they invest in my career and development. Not only does that make me feel valued (which is nothing small) but it also constantly challenges me to grow.

Because I also have a private practice and because I want to move ahead in my 8-5 job, I sometimes work long hours. But I also see a direct benefit. My private practice provides a real sense of independence, that sometimes my 8-5 cannot provide. Also when I stay beyond business hours at my regular job it’s for projects I’m passionate about and that I truly believe will help me move ahead.

My partner and I are in tbe same profession, which means a lot of “shop talk” at home. But rather than see that as “bringing work home with me” (figuratively, most of my actual work does not leave the office by law), I love it! Even those in my profession sometimes don’t understand that the discussions R and I have about work are a source of curiosity and intellectual debate. We are truly able to push each other to grow not only personally but also professionally.

Although I’ve lived in LA for 3+ years, I only have a small group of (very close) friends. At this job (where I’ve been for 1+ year) I’m making more friends. I get to go into work each day and see some of my favorite people! We IM on gmail during the day, pressure each other not to work through lunch, and stay after to consult and/or exercise and/or drink. I’ve gone shopping with my boss on the weekend!

Lastly, I bring lunch or indulge in the overpriced but basically healthy salad bar at work.

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24 Sara September 13, 2012 at 10:50 am

I’d KILL for a 30 minute commute. :(

I drive 45-75 minutes to the train every morning, wait for it, and then take a 30 minute train ride to work. And then I do the same thing every evening to go home.

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