How to keep a side job from ruining your health

January 10, 2018

Is the extra cash worth the extra stress?

If you're like many people in today's economy, you're trying to earn extra money outside of your full-time job, whether it's by driving for Uber, creating an app or selling your hand-knit scarves on Etsy. But while moonlighting can fatten your wallet, it can also deplete your health if you're not careful. 

Everyone knows that maintaining a work/life balance is a key component to a healthy life. Just as it's hard to maintain that balance when you're working long hours at the office, it's also tricky to do when you've got more than one job, especially if you work at night or on weekends, when you'd normally be off the clock and able to rest and indulge in non-work activities. With the extra responsibilities, it's easy to lose sight of what's best for you and your health.

If a side job is placing too many burdens on your time, it can also place too many burdens on your body. Stress can manifest in many different ways--it can take a toll on your heart, make you more irritable, anxious or depressed, or you can experience fatigue, pain in the stomach and head, insomnia or a weakened immune system. Stress, coupled with a limited amount of time for non-work chores, can also lead to poor diet and exercise habits--you may not have time to go to the gym or cook a nutritious dinner if you come home from work and jump into your side job.

It’s well-known that chronic stress can take a long-term toll on the body. Over time, it can be a contributor to disease--diabetes, for instance, if you eat an unhealthy diet, or high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and other heart problems. Studies have found that people who work more than 40 hours a week are at a higher risk of stroke, as well as heart problems--and stress hormones such as cortisol may play a part in that.

So whether you are earning extra money by pursuing a passion or working freelance, it's important not to let moonlighting get the best of you. Try the following tips to avoid burnout:

Get creative with your side job

Exercising your creativity can be beneficial for your health. Research indicates being creative can relieve stress and improve your mental outlook. Creativity can also help in slowing down the decline of your brain function as you get older. That means if you have a talent for painting, try to earn money using that skill as opposed to something more task-like, such as transcription. 

Have a plan in place

Even the best passion projects can become drudgery if the business side gets away from you or takes up too much of your time. Before you start working any job, you need to sit down and determine your goals--for instance, how much money you want to make a month--as well as an estimate of how many hours per week or month it will take you to meet that benchmark. You need to be realistic with your time. If you want to earn an extra $800 a month but it will require you to work an extra 25 hours a week, you'll need to consider if that time investment is worth it to you. You also need to have a clear financial plan--if you want to make and sell gluten-free cupcakes, make sure you can cover the costs of the ingredients, shipping and other expenses. You don't want to create more stress over finances.

Be realistic with your time

Try using a calendar with hour-long timeslots and inputting all of the normal obligations you have over the course of the week --not just your full-time job, but also commute time, when you'll exercise, sleep, make breakfast and clean the house. Once you do that, you can get a better picture of how many hours you truly have in the day. It's better to know in advance if a side job is too much for you to handle instead of discovering it when you're feeling overworked and stressed.

Find an outlet for stress

And speaking of planning your time, factor this into your schedule as well to blow off steam and prevent stress from playing havoc with your health. This can be as simple as 10 minutes of meditation each day, or a three-times-a-week yoga class, which can help both the body and the mind. It's important to create a regular time and method for you to unplug; a good time to do that can be when you're shifting from one job to another, so you don't take the worries from your full-time job into your other work. But if you can find an entire day where work can be off-limits, that's even better.

Get enough sleep

A good night's rest has many health benefits, which you'll need to keep on top of your side job. Chronic poor sleep not only can increase the risk for problems ranging from colds to high blood pressure, but it can also lead to sleep disorders such as sleep deprivation or apnea. Those disorders can lead to problems with daytime fatigue and lack of concentration, which makes it harder to perform any job, much less two of them.

Ask for help where you can

Sharing the load can ease the stress for someone with a side hustle. That could mean you start a side business with a friend, where you can share responsibilities so you don't have as much on your plate. It could also mean getting help with chores at home--asking your spouse to cook dinner a couple of nights a week, for instance--to buy you a little more time to get things done.

Know your limits--and your potential for growth

Evaluate the side job on a regular basis, such as once a month. Is it bringing in the income you need? Has the time involved increased or decreased? Have expenses changed? These are all questions you can ask yourself. Especially if you start to feel there's not enough time to accomplish everything you need to do, you should figure out if your side business has outgrown your schedule, or if it can grow even further. You may be one of the lucky people whose business flourishes so much that you'll need to decide if you should quit your full-time job and make the side hustle a permanent business.

If you're going to moonlight to accomplish your goals, be sure to consider your health as a key part of those goals and plan accordingly.

Find a Swedish physician who can help you reach your health goals--search our provider directory.

Topics: Wellness