You haven’t taken a break in hours, but don’t want to get behind on your appointments. Plus, a little voice in your head keeps pushing, “Just one more client—get that money, girl!” If that scenario sounds familiar, you might want to tell that little voice to shut it, because your work ethic could be sabotaging your health. Not taking breaks for food and fresh air can cause you to feel lightheaded, making you more prone to accidents. Here are some of the top culprits of wooziness on the job and what you can do to protect yourself.
Causes and Culprits
When you sit or crouch for long periods of time while doing manicures or pedicures, your blood pools in your legs, arms and feet, which means that less blood (and less oxygen) is getting to your heart and brain, says Holly S. Andersen, M.D., attending cardiologist and director of education and outreach at The New York Presbyterian Hospital’s Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute. That means when you stand up quickly after sitting or crouching for a long time, you might feel lightheaded, which is called orthostatic hypotension.
You’re more likely to get lightheaded this way if you’re dehydrated, Andersen adds, because having less fluid in your blood makes it more sluggish, increasing the chances that less blood is being pumped up to your heart and brain. Skipping meals, as many nail techs tend to do during their shifts, can cause orthostatic hypertension as well, Andersen says. “When you haven’t eaten in a long time your, blood sugar drops,” she explains. “That might cause upset in the stomach, which can cause blood pressure to drop and make you feel lightheaded.”
Another thing to consider if you’re getting lightheaded is that certain drugs, such as blood pressure medication, some painkillers and anti-anxiety medications, can also increase your risk of feeling lightheaded at work, so talk to your doctor if you’re taking them and experiencing woozy episodes.
If you do consult a doctor about lightheadedness, it’s important to use the correct terminology. Doctors often have trouble discerning whether their patients are experiencing “lightheadedness” or “dizziness.” Dizziness refers to vertigo, which is a middle ear issue that makes you feel like you’re spinning and has to do with the nervous system, not blood pressure. Patients tend to use the terms interchangeably, which can confuse doctors, Andersen says.
Keeping a Clear Head
The best way to reduce lightheadedness is by moving to get circulation going and making sure to eat at regular intervals to keep your blood sugar from dropping. Taking short breaks and getting out of the salon for fresh air also helps. If you feel woozy, lie down if possible, Andersen advises, which, with the help of gravity, will get blood back to your head. Failing that, sit down and elevate your feet. You might also try coughing to get blood circulating again, Andersen says.
Drinking water can help rehydrate the body, but if you haven’t had much to eat or drink in a long time, orange juice will help you hydrate faster. If a drop in blood sugar made you lightheaded, orange juice will also help raise it again. If after getting up, going outside and eating something you’re not feeling better after around 15 minutes, consider seeing a doctor or seeking emergency care.
It’s important to take care of yourself within the requirements of your job. That is, don’t overdo it at the expense of your health, but likewise, it’s not good practice to take breaks every five minutes. “Owners should respect and encourage your break time,” says Kelly Ornstein, creative director and senior nail artist at Juniper Natural Nail Bar in Seattle. If you’re unable to get out of the salon for lunch because your boss won’t let you, you need to put your foot down, she adds. At an old job in New York City, Ornstein says, “I would be lucky if I got a half-hour lunch break over a 9- to 10-hour day. I would often go a full day without eating or stopping for anything.” While there is no federal requirement for breaks and meal periods, some states do implement requisite breaks. (Check out dol.gov/whd/state/meal.htm for information on your state.) Ultimately, pay attention to your body and keep an open line of communication with your superior. If you find yourself in an unhealthy situation, it may be time to reconsider your place of employment.
What’s your best advice to avoiding dizzyness on the job? Let us know in the comments below!
-Virginia Pelley is a freelance journalist and editor based in Tampa, FL.
[Images from Getty Images]