Building a business inevitably involves sacrifice. Unfortunately, for some entrepreneurs, healthy habits are the first things to go. It’s hard to get enough sleep, eat balanced meals and squeeze in workouts when meetings, conference calls and a flooded inbox always take priority.
But too many hours on the job can affect your health in another way you might find surprising. In fact, if you find yourself having “just one more” cocktail or glass of wine on a fairly regular basis, you may already be experiencing the impact.
How are working and drinking linked?
A comprehensive meta-analysis published recently in the British Medical Journal found a significant connection between a heavy workload and excessive alcohol consumption. Looking at 61 studies comprising 330,000 people in 14 countries, researchers noted that those who worked longer hours were 11 percent more likely to engage in risky alcohol consumption than their counterparts who worked standard hours.
And the more work people racked up, the more they drank, with those working 49 hours or more per week being 12 to 13 percent more likely to start drinking heavily.
According to the study, more than 14 drinks per week for women and more than 21 drinks per week for men constitutes risky alcohol consumption. Typically, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as no more than one drink per day for women and two for men. Excessive drinking is problematic for a slew of reasons, and the toll it can take on your health is serious, raising your risk of liver disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease and more.
Am I drinking too much?
If you routinely rely on alcohol to unwind after a long day, or if your office culture revolves around happy hours and other drinking-related activities, you may not even realize you’re drinking too much. The signs of excessive alcohol consumption can be subtle, and if you’re continuing to be functional and productive on the job, others may not pick up on the problem. But drinking too much is a problem, and there are plenty of ways to assess if it’s one you need to confront. Here are some questions to consider:
- Have you ever tried to set limits on your drinking and failed?
- Do you need to drink more lately to achieve the same effect you once did?
- Have you given up activities you enjoy in order to drink or because you’d been drinking?
- Have you ever made a bad decision due to drinking, like driving under the influence or having unprotected sex?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s a good idea to talk to your primary care provider about drinking and your health.
What can I do?
If you’re heading up the business, consider setting rules around the maximum number of hours employees are allowed to work per week, and / or implementing alcohol-avoidance policies to help workers limit their drinking. If you can’t control your schedule or work environment, there are still plenty of ways to break up the day, balance work stress and cut back on your alcohol consumption. Here are a few ideas:
- Suggest team bonding activities that don’t involve alcohol, like a volunteer opportunity, exercise class or sports league.
- Manage your stress and practice good self-care. Try integrating mindfulness and meditation into your daily routine.
- Take regular breaks during the day. Get up from your desk and walk around.
- Break away for short walks outside when your schedule permits.
- Be honest with your health care provider about your alcohol intake. Your health care provider is there to help you, not to judge. Find someone you trust, and be open to what he or she has to say.