Let me paint a familiar picture for you; it’s a Monday morning, you’re still feeling dusty from the weekend which means you didn’t have time to pack your lunch (again). You open your banking app to check what the damage is after the weekend, the little graph tells you that you’ve spent the majority of your income this week on dining out and for the sixth week in a row you tell yourself that it is fine because this is the last time. But, we all know that once the girl at the local Macca’s knows you name and order by heart, it might be time to act.
With the middle of January quickly approaching and many of us back at work for good, the reality of 2021 has begun to set in. If you told yourself that at the beginning of January that this was the year that you would finally start taking care of yourself but bouncing back from the silly season is proving harder than making a few new years resolutions and you feel yourself slipping into familiar patterns, we definitely understand.
It is easier to fall into this trap than many of us think when we set these ambitious goals mostly because health isn’t a goal that we need to tick off but rather a lifestyle choice that we need to consistently make. This is due to the fact that with such a physically demanding jobs, many tradies either believe that they don’t have to pay as much attention to their exercise and nutrition as those who spend their entire day sitting at a desk or they find it hard to organise their lives around healthier choices.
However, a lot of blue-collar work can be really hard on the joints, back and skin as well as the waistline and wallet (especially if you find yourself buying lunch every day) which means that not taking care of your heath has far more dire consequences than breaking a new years resolution.
Early starts, short breaks, high pressure environments and no access to a fridge or microwave are common issues cited for the reason that blue-collar workers have a lower level of physical health. While it’s true that these physical barriers definitely play a part in preventing tradies from bringing their lunches, using sunscreen or getting enough sleep, it is often ignored how difficult worksite culture makes it to be vulnerable and admit that you want to start making a conscious effort to look after your health. This extends to how tradies talk to each other about health as well as to how employers treat those who take time off for illness and medical appointments.
Below we have listed a few ideas that will allow you to make sustainable changes in your life and to your health.
People who don’t work with tradies definitely underestimate the vulnerability required to rock up to site with some carrot sticks and hummus rather than a sausage roll. They certainly don’t understand just how ingrained poor nutrition is in worksite culture which is often fostered by management due to time constraints and work pressures.
Although it might be difficult to start with you’ll soon find that cooking and meal-prepping is one of the easiest ways to control your diet because it takes the guesswork out of finding a healthy yet filling lunch option because you are able to plan around what you know you will enjoy.
Being on your feet in the sun all day means you need to stay hydrated and while it can be tempting to have a soft drink or energy drink when you need to quench your thirst and boost your energy levels, drinks like these are often filled with sugar and caffeine which actually have the opposite effect on the body. High sugar intake combined with dehydration can also cause headaches and nausea which mean that you won’t be operating at peak performance at work. It sounds simple but making sure you are getting enough water is one of the easiest ways that you can start to take care of yourself this year, while cutting back on the overpriced servo drinks is one of the best things you can do for your wallet.
Everyone knows that exercise is good for you but it can be hard to find the motivation when you are on the tools all day lifting, stretching and straining all sorts of muscles. However, data indicates that tradies are more likely to suffer from joint and back pain or injuries because of the physical nature of their job.
So, why not try an exercise that will help relieve and combat this pain? Yoga, pilates and swimming are all types of exercise that are gentle, good for the joints and focus on breathing patterns which can help with mindfulness. These forms of exercise are also relatively accessible as you can do both yoga and pilates at home with minimal equipment.
On the other hand, if you feel completely lost when it comes to creating an exercise routine due to travel and/or shift work, going for a brisk walk each day can help with fatigue, mental health as well as maintaining some level of physical activity.
We often underestimate how important sleep is for our health and our energy levels, a good night’s sleep can mean you go from barely being able to rock up on time to performing better at work.
Obviously, early starts can be tough but it is important to note that it is the quality not just the quantity of sleep that you get that contributes to how tired you feel throughout the day. A few easy ways to improve the quality of your sleep include getting up as soon as your alarm goes off, cutting out highly caffeinated beverages like energy drinks at least 4 hours before you intend to go to bed and to actively stop using screens in bed.
Working in the sun all day can be bloody hard on the skin and unfortunately this means that tradies have an increased chance of melanoma and skin cancer. This statistic combined with the fact that blue-collar workers and men in particular are less likely to seek the help of a medical professional when they need to means that blue-collar workers are running the gauntlet when it comes their skin.
Getting yearly skin checks, wearing sunscreen, a hat and UPF rated clothing are some of the easiest ways to minimise your risk of skin cancer and in some cases, sun protection can even be tax deductible. It is important to recognise that unlike some of the other things on this list, skin damage is irreversible and taking care of it early can really make a difference to your future.
You’ll find that after changing one, a few or all of these things that you return to a new and hopefully healthier equilibrium. However, it is important to note that like everything in life, your health needs will constantly change and that it is better to start slowly making these changes now by empowering yourself with the right knowledge, community and tools rather than finding yourself in January next year in the same position.
If you feel that you need to chat to a mental health professional, please feel free to contact TIACS where you can talk to qualified psychoologists free of charge.