Should everyone just move to Europe?
So work is lethal. Americans spend way too much time sitting and stressing out, and not enough time taking vacations and sleeping. Does this mean you’re doomed to a miserable life of toil, followed by an early death in a country that only wanted to use you for your labor?
No. There are some basic steps you can take to make sure you don’t die just yet.
1. Take breaks during the day
Breaks actually keep you more mentally alert than grinding away without getting up all day. Taking a walk will increase your blood circulation, to counteract those negative effects of sitting too much. In fact, the US life expectancy could increase by two years if we reduced our cultural habit of “excessive sitting” to less than three hours a day. Imagine what you could do with two extra years of life! (Note: don’t spend it working more.)
2. Make relaxation a part of your daily life
You don’t have to spend weeks at a mountain retreat to cash in on some of meditation’s benefits. Setting aside just a few minutes per day when you do nothing but breathe can help you feel more clear and calm, and also may even lower blood pressure and strengthen the immune system.
But if meditating isn’t for you, try to find something else that decreases your stress levels during the day. Stroll to a nearby park (being in nature is scientifically proven to make us more resilient to stress). Hell, treat yourself to a monthly massage (science says so, yet again). Don’t sit idly by as your health deteriorates!
3. Go on vacation (and enjoy it)
The Harvard Business Review recently reported that people who take all of their vacation days are more likely to get promoted or get a raise. Vacations also make you healthier, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and mental illness, and increasing creativity and vitality. So use every last one of those eight days!
Dr. Jessica de Bloom, an organizational psychologist, is on a research team that studies the best way to get the health benefits of a vacation, and the key turns out to be regularity and frequency. “Holidays work more like sleep," according to Dr. de Bloom. "You need regular recovery from work in order to stay healthy in the long run."
Don’t quit your job; modify it
Long story short? Don’t quit your job just yet. You probably need the money, and sacrificing shelter and food are more likely to kill you than feeling stressed out at work.
That said, don’t take stress, or lack of sleep, lightly. Prioritize relaxation, vacation, rest, fun, and frequent breaks. It may feel anti-American, and it may appear lazy, but really, it’s the smartest thing you can do -- for your sanity AND survival.
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Charlotte Lieberman is a writer who takes plenty of breaks throughout the day. Follow her @clieberwoman.