Finding Loopholes for Better Health
By Sara Butler
You work hard for the money, which can make paying your taxes one of the most stressful times on the calendar. This time of year always puts into perspective for me just how hard I’ve worked to earn the money that I have the “privilege” to share with the government. I won’t lie, it can be a little painful to cut that check to Uncle Sam, but all that hard work tends to pay off in the end, right? Well, not if you don’t take care of yourself in the process.
In a conversation with my friend, a professor of international law, she told me that a recent study found the wage gap between women and men in Canada has gotten smaller over the last several decades due largely to maternal leave policies. That got me thinking about how much Americans work in comparison to the rest of the world, and let me tell you -- it’s shocking. We’re a bunch of workaholics!
People often let the concerns of everyday life and the stress of work, finances, family, or other factors take a front seat to everything else. But if you don’t take care of your health, then you’re not taking care of your business at all -- and probably not doing your best at work, either. Let’s close the book on this year’s tax season and focus on what we can do in the here and now to improve our health! Maybe next year won’t be so stressful if you practice a little self-care before it’s time to pay the taxman!
How Much Do We Work?
Americans work a lot! Comparing how much Americans work per week to other western countries is shocking. Here are few mind-bending facts about Americans and their work habits:
- In the United States, 66.5 percent of women and 85.8 percent of men work more than 40 hours per week.
- Americans work 137 more hours on average per year than the Japanese, 260 more hours every year than the Brits, and 499 more hours per year than the French.
- Since 1950, the productivity of individual American workers has risen 400 percent.
- The United States does not have a federal law to require employers to give workers paid sick days.
- The United States is the only industrialized nation that has no legally required annual leave.
I don’t know about you, but I’m seriously considering taking some French lessons and moving to France after reading that! Oui, oui!
How Does Too Much Work Impact You?
I’m not saying you need to work less. If you love what you do and you’re doing it to care for your family and live the life you want, then more power to you!
But for many people, more work leads to increased stress that can lower their quality of the life. Without time to unwind, care for your home, spending time with people who are important to you, and enjoying a few hobbies or a night out with friends, you’re setting yourself up for some serious health problems. Stress is the biggest avoidable source of health problems, both physical and mental. And let’s face it, few things can be as consistently stressful as work, especially if it’s taking time away from your enjoyment of other things in life.
The Importance of Self-Care
You must work to afford the things you want in life -- I get it. Those riding lawn mowers and high-end blenders don’t purchase themselves. My point is that it’s important to find a balance between your work and dedicating time to yourself for a little self-care. And self-care is about a lot more than just making sure you avoid illness or feel good. If you practice good self-care, then you can actually do better at your job. Self-care has been found to:
- Jumpstart creativity and clarity
- Reduce levels of stress
- Give productivity a boost
- Improve mental health
You need to create an environment for yourself that keeps your mental and physical health in check while still allowing you to deal with the demands of your personal and professional life.
How Can You Do It All?
Unless you win the lottery or find a way to become independently wealthy (if you figure it out, please share!), you should find ways to incorporate self-care into your daily life. Find ways to decompress and unwind by:
- Scheduling time - You can’t just leave the whole process to chance or it won’t get done! Put time for self-care on a calendar just like you would anything else that’s important during the day.
- Make a list - Channel your inner Santa and make a list of activities that help you deal with stress, then put them into categories. Divide them up by time or place, whatever system works for you. Doing this will make it easier for you to fit them into your day.
- Start the day off right - Don’t wake up and immediately reach for your phone to check your email, that’s the opposite of self-care. Instead, take the first 10 minutes you’re up to stretch or do some deep breathing exercises. Let your mind wake up before jumping into your workday, it will make a big difference!
- Make a “no” list - You must set boundaries for yourself, so create a list of things you won’t do during the day in the interest of better health. For example, don’t check your email after a certain time in the evening or a certain time in the morning.
You will never regret making time for yourself, so embrace self-care! And don’t forget that you can’t neglect your physical needs either. Get to the chiropractor regularly in order to make sure your body is functioning at its best.
Tax time isn’t fun, but now that it’s over, it’s time to shift your focus to better things and make the next fiscal year your healthiest yet!
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