Why executives are afraid of the truth about their own health

There’s little time for self-care in today’s business world of cut-throat competition and rigid timetables

Why executives are afraid of the truth about their own health
This article was contributed by Karen Aroney, Director of Business Development at OC Tanner.

There’s little time for self-care in today’s business world of cut-throat competition and rigid timetables. Back-to-back meetings mean we skip meals, and snack randomly throughout the day. An over-dependency on convenient processed foods, results in a reduced intake of nutrients, thereby leading to erratic sleeping schedules, weight gain, and make us vulnerable to depression, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Unfortunately, most executives are too afraid to confront the truth about their deteriorating mental and physical health, and too reluctant to tweak their busy lifestyles. This would mean taking time out to reflect, and work on the problem, and frankly, who has the time?

1) Prolonged and continuous stress results in elevated levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can be detrimental to our cardiovascular system, weakens our immune system, can trigger binge eating, and also exposes us to greater risk of heart attacks. Chest pain, feeling dizzy, and an irregular heartbeat, could be few of the warning signs of an impending heart attack. Executives often ignore the warning signs and dismiss these as exhaustion.

2) The inverted relationship between processed food and professional success
Processed foods are high in sodium, saturated fats, colourants, chemicals and preservatives, which may result in the risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance (think Type 2 Diabetes!), increases bad cholesterol, and generally spikes up fat accumulation, making you prone to fatal heart ailments. Whilst processed foods typically excite our taste buds through added salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats, the propensity to become addicted to such foods causes us to overeat them. For those of us working long hours, coupled with a dangerously sedentary lifestyle, this deadly combination leads us closer to the risk of disease. Other symptoms also include increased irritability, lack of energy and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Sugary drinks trigger an artificial spike in energy, however, we typically do not offset this excess energy intake by an increasing our physical activity to ‘burn the energy off’. Hence why sugary drinks are one of the key reasons for the increase in global obesity rates, diabetes, cardio-vascular anomalies, and even cancer.

Increased level of stress and reliance on processed foods, decrease our productivity and affect both our professional and personal lives!

Stay focused, and more productive:

1. Tweak food habits: Choose foods that are nutrient-dense - high in fibre, and low in saturated fat and sodium. Refrain from processed food in packets, and replacing these with fresh foods. Fruits such as apples, apricots, berries and oranges are loaded with nutrients such as calcium, iron, vitamin K, to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure (great for managing stress-induced responses). Meats such as fish and chicken help you to keep full, help maintain muscle mass, and can include good fats for the brain.

2. Choose a quick exercise: Regular aerobic exercises such as cycling or brisk walking daily to the office, could significantly help in lowering your risk of heart problems. Include some strength training such as lifting weights on alternate days. 30 minutes is enough time to make a difference- try HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Exercising helps in burning excess fat, lowering LDL “bad” Cholesterol and boost the HDL “good” Cholesterol.

3. Monitor alcohol intake: Moderate intake of alcohol could be beneficial as far as heart ailments are concerned, however, this is not permission to start drinking! This typically applies to those that already have a healthy lifestyle. Excessive alcohol consumption could cause you harm, especially if you are already suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, hypertension, history of stroke, and if you overweight. Limit your intake to the weekends only.

4. Destress techniques: Sometimes work issues are beyond your control, and prolonged stress contributes towards heart diseases and stroke, and can induce anxiety. Find ways to destress such as spending quality time with good friends/colleagues, taking regular short breaks, and having a hobby (i.e. listening to music, exercise, meditation, or a book).

5. Recognise and appreciate those around you: When asked what is the most important thing that a manager or company can do to cause employees to produce ‘Great Work’, a whopping 37 percent of employees said that recognition was the “most important thing [their] manager or company does (or could do), compared to extravagant perks and benefits. This type of personal appreciation has profound effects on stress levels, by increasing feelings of self-worth. Consider appreciating a peer by saying ‘thanks’ or ‘great job’ when you next see the opportunity and it will also make you feel good!

It may seem daunting to start gaining control of your own health to avoid the onset of chronic diseases. It’s a work in progress. Challenge yourself to apply a couple of the above tips today.

With over 15 years local and regional experience in business development, and corporate health and wellness, Karen now helps employers create the best places to work. How? By building engaged workplace cultures globally through  everyday recognition best practice!

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