Lifestyle Choices : Understanding dilemmas of working women
Dr. Geethika Sethu, Specialist - Wellness
Women are very often recognized and complimented as being multi-taskers. We celebrate them and their achievements. But it is also time to take stock of how women’s rights are fulfilled in the world --especially the right to health. According to a survey conducted by the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM) 68% of working women in the age bracket of 21-52 years were found to be afflicted with lifestyle ailments. Is it because of health ignorance? Has it become seemingly difficult for her to think about herself??
Most women in the working class juggle to manage work-life balance and they are at constant risk of developing chronic diseases, which can be related to their modifiable lifestyle behaviours. The common lifestyle diseases, which can affect women are depression/anxiety due to stress, obesity, chronic backache, diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia.
Stress includes mental break down due to work stress, tight deadlines, condescending superiors and physical exhaustion from child care, domestic responsibilities and long office hours and 24/7 phone calls. The study ‘Preventive Healthcare and Corporate Female Workforce’ states 75% of working women are known to suffer from depression/general anxiety disorder in comparison to women with lesser levels of psychological workplace demands. Work stress results in poor quality of sleep which can contribute to depression. Some may even indulge in alcoholism and drugs to cope with stress.
Even though it is well known that junk food is unhealthy, there is a tendency to skip meals and opt junk food due to work pressure, lack of time and nearing deadlines and as a diversion. Women especially, in the IT sector spend 10-12 hours sitting at their work-stations resulting in weight gain and increase in bad cholesterol levels in body. Physical inactivity and weight gain can predispose to insulin resistance leading to diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome which can manifest as infertility.
Working in night shifts, and increased work pressure witness a disturbed biological clock leading to insomnia, indigestion, acidity, loss of appetite, headache, irritability, hypertension, mood fluctuations and body pain.
Regular spending of lot of time in front of computer, faulty office postures, bad public transportation and bumpy rides can give a chronic back pain and neck pain. To top it the excessive and sudden weight gain by the sedentary lifestyle makes the back all the more vulnerable to it. Back pain becomes a hurdle for exercise. Thus a vicious circle is set up.
Solutions for all these problems look simple but practically very difficult but certainly not impossible. The modifiable lifestyle behaviours-healthy and nutritious food habits and regular physical activity including meditation can help in stress management, good quality sleep and weight control. This will prevent the occurrence of diabetes and polycystic ovarian disease. Get adequate sleep for at least 7-8 hours in a day. To decrease the ailments caused by occupational postures, one should avoid long sitting hours and should take frequent breaks for stretching or for other works involving physical movements. An ergonomic chair should be designed based on the human contour to fit the right sitting posture so that the uneven pressure on joints and muscles may be minimized
Women's health issues at work need to be addressed, diagnosed early and managed on priority. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. Find your own coping strategy since everyone is different. Take time off to relax and unwind, listen to music, take vacations to make you feel reinvigorated and ready to perform your best, lean on your friends and family members during stress, build new satisfying friendships, find time to read, write journals to record your improvement, nutritionist consultation for a balance diet, personal trainer if needed, make use of freely available apps for fitness and peer groups to motivate you with weight management. Regular health checkups for prevention, early diagnosis and management of lifestyle diseases. Creating space for healthy habits, play time with children, quality professional relationships, purpose driven activities, and even just quiet time for contemplation can make a world of difference. It is the self-realization that matters.
“Make yourself a priority. At the end of the day, You’re your longest commitment”