Here’s what working long hours will do to your health

If you’re running a small business, you are guaranteed to be working long hours, probably to the detriment of your own wellbeing. But what exactly is the cost of overtime to your health?

No one said that launching your own business would be easy; then again, no one said that you should have to forfeit your health and happiness for the sake of your balance sheet.

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Research suggests that those of us totting up a 55-hour (or more) working week have a 33 per cent greater risk of stroke compared to people working a more palatable 35-40 hours.

This is exacerbated by ‘health-risk behaviours’ such as physical inactivity, high alcohol intake and repeated exposure to stress, all of which are par for the course for small business owners putting in both the effort and the hours.

So what can we do to counteract the damage?

Prioritise sleep. It seems counterintuitive to abandon your workload to go home and sleep, especially when deadlines are looming; yet lack of sleep dulls response time and makes us less physically and emotionally resilient to stress. In short, too little sleep is likely to slow you down at work.

Getting eight hours of sleep per night will make you feel more alert and in control. Work out when you are at your most productive and adjust your bedtime routine to have early nights or early starts accordingly.

Leave work at your desk. Tempting as it is to put in the extra hours at home, having a crossover of work and home life reduces our ability to properly switch off. It means we remain in a permanent state of high alert and our stress levels rise accordingly.

Pick a cut off time for your emails then switch off and don’t check your devices. This goes double for checking your phone in bed; research has shown that the blue light emitted from phones disrupts the brain’s electrical activity and makes it harder for us to fall asleep.

Get moving. Long hours at your desk can lead to muscle and joint pain, decrease fitness levels and mean you’re liable to miss favourite gym classes and work out time. Don’t forget that exercise is stress-relieving and invigorating and can improve productivity.

If you can’t get away earlier in the evening, make time during the day. A half hour walk or jog at lunchtime can have numerous benefits and if that is too much, set an alarm every hour and take a lap around the office.

Eat better. You’re working late, everything is closed and the only source of sustenance comes from the vending machine – we’ve all been there.

If you can’t work fewer hours, improving your diet can lower cholesterol and help keep your heart healthy. Skip stimulants like caffeine and sugar, which have a short term uplift with long-term repercussions. If you can’t find time to buy – or better, make – a healthy dish, companies like Detox Kitchen deliver balanced, pre-portioned food to your door.

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