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SALT LAKE CITY — I'm no stranger to late nights and long hours. As a recent graduate, I felt a lot of pressure to prove myself. In layman's terms, I was a workaholic.
Unfortunately, working overtime is a bit of a double-edged sword. According to research from Kansas State University, employees who clock in more than 50 hours per week are more likely to suffer physical and mental health challenges than those working more moderate hours. And those kinds of personal health issues can then affect your ability to do good work — completely undermining your original goal to establish yourself as a force to be reckoned with.
But it doesn't have to be that way. It is possible to work hard without sacrificing your health. Incorporate this self-care advice into your daily routine to breathe some life back into your work-life balance.
1. Get the right amount of sleep.
Adequate sleep is an essential part of self-care that goes way beyond banishing under-eye circles. A good night's rest offers several health benefits — many of which can help boost your job performance by improving memory, sharpening attention and spurring creativity.
Tip: A study by the National Sleep Foundation found the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Use a sleep tracker like Beddit to monitor how much quality sleep you're actually getting every night.
2. Eat a healthy breakfast.
Mom was onto something when she lectured about the importance of eating a good breakfast. Research indicates that a healthy morning meal may help enhance memory, increase the speed of information processing and improve verbal skills.
Tip: If you're short on time, opt for a healthy breakfast on the go. From nutritious shakes to protein packed muffins, a good breakfast is easier to make than you might think.
3. Start your day with yoga.
I try to start every weekday with a quick yoga session. Strengthening and relaxing the body through breathing exercises and mindful meditation can go a long way toward reducing stress, anxiety and even lower back pain. You can keep these benefits going throughout the day by periodically stretching at your desk and refocusing with the help of a meditation app.
Tip: Yoga Studio is a great resource for pre-made yoga classes, and it offers sessions for a wide range of skill levels and schedules.
4. Do what makes you happy.
It may seem obvious that self-care includes doing things you enjoy, but workaholics are notorious for prioritizing work over pleasure. So, whether it's reading, walking your dog or meeting friends for sushi, identify what makes you happy and make time to do more of it.
Tip: If binge-watching TV puts a smile on your face, use this tool to find programs you'll love based on shows you already enjoy.
5. Rest when you're sick
When you wake up with a cold, it's tempting to head into the office anyway — we've all done it. Unfortunately, if you aren't giving yourself time to fully recover, you might end up sick more often or for longer periods of time. Listen to your body when it's telling you to take it easy. Remember, sick days exist for a reason!
Tip: To avoid a lengthy wait at the doctor's office, use Doctor on Demand. The app lets you talk with a physician who can help you get back to 100 percent ASAP.
6. Snack smartly
While I don't recommend skipping lunch to catch up on projects, sometimes it's unavoidable. In those situations, resist the urge to pop by the office vending machine. Unhealthy snacks are often high in refined carbohydrates, which can trigger an abrupt rise (and subsequent drop) in blood sugar. As a result, you're apt to feel tired, hungry and grumpy not long after finishing your treat. To fend off hunger and keep your blood sugar (and mood) balanced, choose snacks that are high in fiber or protein.
Tip: Keep healthy food handy to make snacking easier. Popcorn, pistachios, cheese sticks, apples and Greek yogurt are a few of my always-on-hand favorites.
7. Stop being the office superhero
This one is challenging. Start by writing down what a balanced life means to you, and then say "No" to extra tasks that don't align with your vision. Creating boundaries is hard at first, but it can also be incredibly rewarding.
Tip: Use a time-tracking tool like Toggl to find out how many hours per day you're really working. Make small adjustments from there until you're ready to retire your superhero cape forever.
Sometimes it's necessary to invest everything you have into your job, but doing so chronically can hinder your productivity. Develop self-awareness about your tendencies to get wrapped up in work before they go too far, and never underestimate the importance of real self-care.
Sarah lives in Utah and has an MA in rhetoric, composition and professional communication from Iowa State. She freelances and teaches speech and writing courses. You can find Sarah on Twitter @sarahzpike.