For the last 8 months or so my blood pressure has measure way above average. For those who are familiar with the figures – so far my highest has been 160/100 which is crazy. Luckily I have not been put on medication and I hope a change in diet and exercising will reduce it. At 69 Kg and 5ft 4 inches I like to imagine that I am not overweight but then again – fitness is everything weight is nothing.
Ironically when I lived in the States I barely made it above 55 Ks for a long time – mainly because all the food tasted, bland, frozen, oily or just nasty. Once I came back to Kenya I finally found what I termed as ‘real’ food – fresh, straight off the garden, spicy, well-cooked and mainly unfrozen. But I digress…..
In trying to understand why my blood pressure is steadily building I started analyzing my world. On a normal weekday, I wake up at 6 a.m. I leave my house by 6:30 a.m. and I am at work about 7a.m. I generally work steadily at my desk until perhaps 1 p.m. at which point, if I am lucky, I have some lunch. Most days, I do not have time for lunch so I come up for air at 2p.m. to realize no one is selling lunch anymore so I have coffee. I return to my desk and work away until 7 p.m. sometimes 8 p.m. I then leave the office and head home.
As I live alone, my motivation to cook is about 0%. However, on days when I have not had lunch I believe it is critical that I eat something before I sleep – since I never have breakfast anyway. So the easiest solution is to buy cooked beef at the butcher/restaurant, some fries or ‘ugali’ (maize mealie) and eat it. I then call it a day do a few things in the house then sleep. Unfortunately I do not sleep well at night so if I am in bed at about 11 p.m. I am usually up at 3:00 a.m. and most times still awake at 6:00 a.m. when my alarm goes off. All this means is that I start my day tired and on barely 3 or 4 hours of sleep.
Given the above routine it is easy to see why my blood pressure is high. I spend at least 5 days awake on very little sleep, long hours of work and barely any food. This led me to think about all other factors that contribute to unhealthy young professionals in Kenya. I share this in the hope that someone will salvage their livelihood and remember that work is not everything- sometimes we have to be selfish; if you are trying to be CEO, will it help if you get there and collapse a month later from exhaustion then have to retire early? Below are the ways to get High Blood Pressure (HBP) – I hope someone out there avoids these – that includes me!
- Drive in a Kenyan Traffic Jam for 3 hours – distance of not more than 20 km. Do this every morning and you will sure get HBP
- Decide to avoid traffic – arrive at work really early (circa 6 a.m.) and then stay at work late (circa 8 p.m.) all in the name of avoiding traffic
- Spend all day at your desk not walking around but constantly staring at your computer and answering phones
- Skip your lunch break because you are working over lunch
- Work on weekends (voluntarily) because you are trying to get something done before a new week begins
- Skip all exercise routines as you are too busy at work to make it to any gym or have time for a jog/run
- Consider ‘going –out’ on weekends as ‘spending time’ with friends and family. Drink copious amounts of alcohol during these meetings
- Constantly eat processed food/cooked food as you have no time to make some for yourself during the week
- Feel guilty about those e-mails you haven’t responded to or which are past deadline
- Try hard to please your employer at the expense of other things which are important to you – after all you are working towards a promotion right?
I have quickly discovered that work-life balance is very hard to achieve however it is all pegged on our ability to learn when work ends and personal life begins. I have started practicing the art of walking away from my office and not feeling guilty. Interestingly if I was to die today, my employer’s business would still thrive – they would find someone to replace me in no time. I wrote this post because it touches on my personal life but I know a lot of workmates and friends who are in the same space. Work the allotted hours- once that is done, leave and do something else. Your work life should not suffer because of your private life. The reverse is also true. So for those who are out there and have absolutely no idea what I am talking about – try Nos. 1 to 10 above – you will get HBP!