Stop the Sickness Cycle & Get Healthy in 3 Steps

"If you're in a cycle of overwork, burnout and endless trips to the doctor, learn how to stop the sickness cycle and get healthy." - Lorelei
Quick Links for Stop the Sickness Cycle & Get Healthy in 3 Steps

Here’s the situation I see play out all the time in my advocacy practice – I call it the Sickness Cycle because it doesn’t end until they make the conscious decision to set stronger boundaries at work and get healthy.

Person works 50+ hour weeks sitting at a desk. They may or may not be also commuting.

Uses their lunch break to play catch-up even when the weather is fine. They eat a microwaved meal because they don’t have the time, energy, or desire to head somewhere else for lunch.

Work is their everything.

When the stress and demands of their jobs starts to wreck their body, they head to do the doctor for a prescription script. Doctor tells them that pills won’t fix the cause, they need to do lifestyle changes. Their current way of living isn’t sustainable – their body cannot keep up.

“Doc! I don’t have time to change my life! I *have* to work!”*

Maybe a few years pass and now the pill container has turned into a pill box – there are pills to treat the side effects of the pills. Now they’re spending hundreds of dollars a month just on medication alone so they can keep working in a job that led them to needing medication in the first place.

At some point in time, they wake up. And that’s when they reach out to me.

get healthy
Beyonce – “Break My Soul”

It may be their health, it may be a lost job, it may be because they found something that they care more about than their job, or that they simply woke up one day and said ENOUGH.

We work together to #breakthecycle and get healthy.

*NOTE: Taking medication can save and/or improve the quality of lives and medication can be a very useful tool in helping people get healthy. I also acknowledge the privilege of the above scenario. Many people live in survival mode and are unable to care for their basic life necessities, especially if there is any disruption to their employment. Others may find a particular season of life where priorities shift and personal health gets set aside. There is a time and place for everything and different things work for different people. This post is meant to guide you on ways to get healthy regardless of where you are now. Awareness is the first step toward action.

How Do You Break the Sickness Cycle?

The very first step in breaking any cycle or pattern of behavior is to notice and become aware that you’re doing it. Having awareness of your physical sensations, your emotions and your actions is an absolutely critical first step. You cannot modify something if you are unaware that it exists.

Strong and reinforced patterns of behavior are even harder to modify.

Why?

Because it is likely that you have benefitted greatly from sacrificing your health. And the thrill and ego boost of those achievements, accolades, recognition, and especially monetary awards can be a hard thing to potentially risk giving up. Often there is a perceived idea that if you work less, you’ll achieve less. And while I agree that for some companies and in some professions, that might still be true, it is not true everywhere.

And at some point in time, if you continue to sacrifice your health to achieve more at work you will get to a point where your health is so poor, there is nothing more that your body can give and you could lose everything. See Sustainable Wealth in Action for more thoughts on this.

After you gain awareness, there’s also often a host of emotions that come up when you catch yourself doing the patterns of behavior you wish to stop. It can be frustrating and it’s super easy to be hard on yourself and let your inner critic give you a lot of bad advice.

If this is you, thank your critic and repeat after me: “Oh look! I did it again! Oops! I’m so glad to be aware of this so that next time I will have a choice in how I respond.”

This transitionary period of time – between awareness and action – can be a great time to get support from a therapist or coach. If you work at a larger company, you could see if you have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that have counselors who can help you explore your work strategies and their impact on your health more.

Step 1: You Learn How to Better Self-Advocate

After you have awareness, this is the very first action-oriented step in breaking the cycle to get healthy and reclaiming YOU is to learn how to self-advocate.

The three steps of self-advocating well are:

  • Get clear on what you need and want: what is the desired outcome that you’re looking for? Do you want a new job? Flexible hours? A Sabbatical? What do you want to change or improve about your current situation?
  • Understand what you can offer and what you need help with: What can you bring to the table when you ask for what you need and want? What are the non-negotiables? What are you willing to compromise on? What are the things you need from the other side?
  • Grow in your confidence to ask for what you need and want: confidence is part preparation, part self-esteem and part practice. By getting clear on what you want and what you can do, you are most of the way toward being confident to ask for it. Practice asking for what you want in a mirror or with a friend. Role-play until you feel comfortable fielding questions and holding your boundaries. Anticipate objectives and be ready with responses.

This also means learning how to (and saying!) NO. Being able to set boundaries and hold them, even when other people take an issue with them. Learning how to negotiate with others in the areas YOU are willing to negotiate on.

Having healthy, sustainable boundaries is one of the most important ways you can get healthy and protect your physical and mental health. Nedra Tawwab has an excellent Instagram account and website that gives great scripts on how to negotiate boundaries.

I also really like A Power Mood’s Instagram’s content as she gives you word-for-word scripts on how to set better boundaries at work.

And perhaps most importantly, finding the right career fit where you can bring ALL of yourself and feel valued and respected.

I address all of these steps when you Ask an Advocate. Learning how to better self-advocate can really disrupt the sickness cycle and help you get healthy by building your confidence and increasing your resilience.

Step 2: You Get Healthy

One of the best ways to save yourself lots of time and money, is to just be and stay healthy. For general “get healthy” tips see Explore 8 Health Metrics to Track Overall Health and Find Your Ideal Weight.

Ways to Get Healthy and Work

This can be very hard to do if you work for an employer who does not value the health of their employees. If you’re in a situation where productivity reigns supreme, you may struggle to feel respected regardless of how well you self-advocate. It might be time to consider other options if that’s possible.

I’m happy to discuss and brainstorm other options when you Ask an Advocate. For general tips, read on.

Utilize Those Lunch Breaks!

While it’s so tempting to use them to play catch-up, taking a walk, eating with co-workers, or taking the time to just unplug for a few minutes can do amazing things for your mental and physical health.

Even 20 minutes makes a difference. If the weather is nice, soaking up the sunshine can lift your mood and boost your vitamin D levels. Even in winter, having the sun on your face can refresh your mood and gives you an opportunity to get some steps in.

Get Up and Take Regular Walking Breaks

Sitting for long periods of time really can kill you even if you exercise! Sitting for lengthy periods has also been tied to an increased risk of death from 14 different diseases. Walking is one of the best ways to get healthy and any amount of it has benefit.

And before you think of adopting a standing or treadmill desk, walking around the office or outside has even more benefits. If you take short strolls around the office, you increase your visibility and allow for impromptu conversations that could be helpful to your career. If you head outside, you get the added sensory benefits of feeling the wind on your face, being in the sunshine and potentially hearing pleasant sounds (think birds & insects).

Any kind of movement can go a long way at helping you get healthy.

Eat Unprocessed Healthy Food

It’s really hard when you’re working lots of hours and having to manage life to find time to grocery shop, meal prep, cook and clean-up.

There are meal kit companies that take some of the work out of this for you but most of the time, you’ll still have to cook.

Other tips that have helped me are:

  1. Make lunch a liquid (think protein shake, smoothie, soup, oatmeal) – lunch actually is a recent invention. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution did lunch start becoming a thing and the rise of at-home electricity meant that people could work longer hours and dinner could be pushed later into the day. By making lunch a liquid, you reduce the amount of prep work & clean-up you need to do.
  2. Chop fruits and veggies for easy access – you’re much more likely to eat them if they are quick and easy to grab. For tips on keeping them fresh in the fridge, take a look at Eating Well’s Guide.
  3. Incorporate beans into a meal as much as possible – beans are full of fiber, help regulate blood sugar, easy to heat, filling and inexpensive. Some of my favorite types of beans are Great Northern Beans and Black Beans because they are so versatile and easy to pair with other foods.

Step 3: You Nourish Healthy Relationships

Having healthy, nourishing relationships directly supports your ability to get healthy and grow your wealth.

How?

Toxic relationships can be some of the biggest causes of stress in someone’s life and have direct negative physical health impacts.

“In a long-term study that followed more than 10,000 subjects for an average of 12.2 years, researchers discovered that subjects in negative relationships were at a greater risk for developing heart problems, including a fatal cardiac event, than counterparts whose close relationships were not negative.”

Taking stock of your current relationships: how they make you feel, how you’re managing your own needs and advocating for your boundaries is a great place to start bringing awareness to your relationships.

Understanding the differences between healthy and toxic relationships can also be helpful.

Not all unhealthy relationships need to end and even with toxic ones, your relationship with them can change. Establishing healthy boundaries is one of the best ways to protect yourself from unsatisfying relationships that you may not be able to end right now.

Outside of setting boundaries, growing your network is another way of increasing support and finding healthy relationships.

Exploring hobbies, looking into local meet-up groups including those offered by your local library, taking a class either in-person or online, getting into an adult sports league and many other options are out there to help you meet people with similar interests.

Additionally, don’t forgot about your paid village – people who you can hire to access new groups of people with similar interests or learning opportunities. Hiring a coach, paying for a gym membership, seeing a therapist, engaging in paid group Workshops or Programs can also be great ways of getting to know more people who can provide you with healthy, nourishing support.

Nourishing healthy relationships is all about finding communities that feel right to you and establishing healthy boundaries in your relationships.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can personally put these tips into practice in YOUR life and get healthy, Ask an Advocate how!

May You Be Well and May You Find Peace

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Disclaimer: The information contained within this page is educational in nature and nothing within this page should be taken as medical or financial advice, as it is not medical or financial advice. You should always work directly with a licensed Healthcare Provider or a Certified Financial Professional to discuss and address any of your health-related or financial-related questions, concerns and needs. Please read the full disclaimer in the footer of this website for more information.

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