Yesterday at work, I told my colleagues that I had to leave early for a gastroenterologist appointment. They immediately asked if everything was okay, to which I responded: "For now, because I'm doing all I can to prevent a serious illness."
Health is my number one priority because I know firsthand that being young doesn't mean I won't fall victim to deadly conditions. As annoying and obsessive as it might seem to others, I frequently visit a broad range of doctors so I can feel confident enough about my overall health to perform well at work, go out and do fun things with my boyfriend and buddies, and eat burritos once a week without hating myself for it. I also know it's easy to forget how routine behaviors can negatively impact one's health, so here are some everyday things to avoid.
1. Drinking too much coffee
Coffee is abundant with health benefits and many of us can't function without it, but excessive coffee drinking can do a number on your body in several ways. For one, its dark pigment can stain and yellow your teeth, which may also be in trouble if you grind your teeth like nearly ten percent of the population. The caffeine in coffee can also cause heartburn, irritate the lining of the stomach, and in some cases aggravate the pain of an existing ulcer. One to three cups a day probably won't hurt you, but if you're like me and have sensitive teeth, stomach issues, and a worn down esophagus, you might want to limit your intake.
2. Sitting too much during and after work
We all know it's bad news to be sedentary at work all day, but chances are, you're so burned out by the time you get home that you want to watch TV and eat. Both of those activities involve more sitting, so try to move around every hour or so at the office. You don't necessarily need to invest in a standing desk, which comes with risks of its own if overused, but consider inviting your coworkers on walking breaks to get lunch or coffee. My boss frequently conducts walking meetings around the block, and enough of those can feel like exercise.
3. Working too much
We're in a culture that prides itself on breeding workaholics, but this lifestyle is not only unsustainable, but horrible for your sanity.
As Jason Lengstorf put it in a recent Medium post about logging in too many hours, "The insidious thing about the Overkill Cult is that it masquerades as all the things we like most about ourselves: dedication, ambition, follow-through, responsibility. It tells us to push harder, stay later, sleep when we’re dead. It tells us we’re never going to get ahead if we don’t show up first and go home last. Cleverly, wickedly, the Overkill Cult persuades us to hang ourselves with our own strengths."
It wears on your spirit, hurts your social life, and endangers your health. Two years ago, a 21-year-old Bank of America intern died from an epileptic seizure after working nonstop for weeks on end. His parents told Bloomberg that he suffered from epilepsy, which can be triggered by sleep deprivation.
Last month, 22-year-old Sarvshreshth Gupta was found dead on the parking lot by his apartment building after his father urged him to keep plugging away at his Goldman Sachs analyst role despite the absurdly long hours and demands.
We all want to make good money and have cool jobs, but neither are worth dying over.
4. Stressing out about everything you might be doing wrong
Since childhood, I've struggled not to overanalyze the things people say to me. I'll find myself fixating over a passing comment one of my managers made or worrying that a slight change in a loved one's demeanor means that person is angry with me.
This is an awful path to follow. You can't control how others react to or think of you, so don't spend substantial amounts of time stressing about your interactions with others. I used to fret about this even more when I was mistreated by Hollywood types at a previous job, but now, I know I'm working with good people who accept me for who I am, even if I occasionally say something unprofessional, surly, or silly.
5. Using ineffective sunscreen
I'm a natural redhead, so I've been slathering sunscreen all over my body since childhood. Though I always assumed I needed SPF 70 to shield my alabaster complexion and freckles from the sun, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has been saying for years that higher SPF items don't necessarily provide more protection.
"It is very misleading to put high SPF numbers on labels because it gives consumers a false sense of security and doesn't offer a lot more protection," Nneka Leiba, an Environmental Working Group senior analyst, told CNN in 2012.
Research shows that SPF 15 can fight against 93 percent of all UVB rays. SPF 50 isn't significantly stronger, as it blocks 98 percent of UVB rays.
"The protective factors plateau from there," Dr. Ariel Ostad, who teaches dermatology at New York University Medical Center, told the publication. "A product with SPF 100+ blocks about 99.1 percent of the UVB rays. You don't really need a high number. They end up being expensive and don't offer more protection than SPF 50."
When purchasing sunscreen for the summer, dermatologists recommend opting for broad spectrum products that block UVB rays as well as UVA radiation. Even if you have sunscreen leftover from last year, be sure to check the expiration date, as sunscreen loses its strength upon expiration.