You may have experienced this while at work: there’s a major deadline hanging over your head, and suddenly there’s this pain you’ve never felt before creeping into your chest. Or maybe you start feeling some other undesired symptoms, like an aggravating old injury that keeps getting worse. These symptoms may be caused by working long hours. If left unchecked, it may be a matter of time before a health scare wakes you to the importance of maintaining a proper work-life balance. 

Here are five helpful actions you can take right now to ensure that you don’t end up a casualty of the so-called “rat race.”

  1. Keep a positive attitude. 

My father, who had a long career in retail banking, used to cut out comic strips he found funny from the newspaper and keep them in a file to look at later. At times he would put one on the fridge. I never knew why until I started working at a bank. When our work is stressful, we must do things that help our attitude remain upbeat. We can, like my father, find things that make us laugh and maybe even make others laugh. That could be anything from a funny meme to just looking at the lighter side of things. Another way to keep positive is to start every day thinking about what we’re grateful for and remind ourselves of these things by putting them in writing. 

  1. Get enough rest and sleep.

Our bodies need time to recover from the different stress factors placed upon it during the day. If thinking about your work regularly keeps you tossing and turning at night, resolve to finish work (and yes, stop thinking about it as well) at the same time every day, and then go do something you enjoy. Avoid eating large meals at least two hours before bedtime. Also, stay away from electronic devices right before bedtime and keep the same sleep schedule so you don’t disrupt your body clock’s sleep-wake rhythm. 

  1. Exercise regularly.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a general exercise goal should be 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as brisk walking or swimming. So if your office is not on the first floor, resolve to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Also, studies show that when a job involves sitting for hours, your risk for many illnesses, such as heart disease and dementia, increases even if you exercise. A standing desk may be a great solution. If you must sit, stand up after 25 minutes and take a short walk, or use your lunch break to go for a nice walk. With time, add some strength training. If you can’t make it to the gym, keep small dumbbells under your desk. 

  1. Plan time with those whose company you enjoy.

It’s easy to take for granted the relationships or friendships we’ve had over the years, and it’s not healthy to ignore them while you’re trying to conquer the business world. That means making plans and putting them on your calendar. If you’re a parent, schedule regular family dinners. When you’re with family and friends, resist the temptation to talk about work or complain about office politics, clients, etc. Make sure to take an interest in their lives, catch up, and plan to do something enjoyable together. Go to your favorite hang out or plan to be with them at an important upcoming event. If you need help keeping your priorities straight, write them down in order and look at your list when making decisions.

  1. Make healthier food choices.

Long hours sometimes means having your favorite restaurant on speed dial. However, eating healthier is a big component to not only powering through your workday but having the energy reserves to also do the other things on this list, like running around with the kids. Don’t focus on following whatever the new diet fad happens to be, just notice what you’re eating and how it makes you feel. We already know that fast food makes us sluggish and tired, so avoid it at all costs. If you do decide to start a diet, make sure it’s one that’s sustainable, and that means choosing the foods that you enjoy within the guidelines you’ve adopted. Use your non-workdays to stock up on healthy snacks that can replace that office donut you reach for when the stress starts creeping in.

Don’t wait until a health scare to try these five tips! If you take action now, not only will you feel better at work, but you’ll experience the benefits long after you’ve left the office.

 – By Daniel Rivera, Guest Writer and Bilingual Consultant for Level & True Accounting Services LLC