Looking After Yourself Physically and Mentally as a Tradie

Early morning starts, battling the elements, eating well on the job and minimal breaks are all part of being a tradie – let’s face it, it’s bloody hard – but sometimes life can catch up to us and all the hard work you’ve put in on the job can slowly start to unravel if your physical and mental health takes a downward turn.

On any given day, a specific job can be more gruelling than leg day at the gym (never skip leg day!) and because we don’t see work as a gym session, we don’t often allow our bodies to recover properly. Throw in a stigmatised mental health issue and you’ve basically just booked yourself a one-way ticket to burnout.

Thankfully, there are ways to help your body to recover adequately, as well as different ways that you can support your physical and mental health as well as your mate’s health on site.

The physical

Whether it’s sweltering in the sun or freezing your butt off, sometimes it feels like there’s no in-between. Throw in lifting heavy materials and some serious manual labour and it’s no wonder you don’t have any energy left at the end of the day. Luckily, there are plenty of easy fixes to help heal your aching body and stop you from feeling like you’re entering your senior years early.

Stretch: Ok, so we get that this might sound a bit ridiculous, and you may cop a bit of ridicule from your mates, but regular stretching is a true game-changer when it comes to looking after your body and a quick stretch before and after starting a job can work wonders. Healthline says that stretching not only helps to increase your flexibility, but it can also increase your range of motion, improve your performance in physical activities, increase blood flow to your muscles, improve your posture, prevent back pain and more.

Fuel your body right: It might be easy to grab a meat pie on your lunch break, swing through the Macca’s drive-through on smoko, or hit the pub with the boys after Friday knockoff, but your body certainly won’t thank you for this in the long run. It’s important to fuel your body with nutrient rich foods that will help you perform at your peak. Queensland Health says that eating nutritious meals is crucial as any extra energy – usually found in unhealthy foods – that your body doesn’t use, gets stored as fat. It will also help to keep you fuller for longer and improve concentration levels.

Hydrate properly: Although the only ‘cold one’ you might feel like comes from the pub, drinking water throughout the day is crucial – no matter what job or industry you’re in. We all know that sugary drinks aren’t good for you, and they definitely don’t keep your body hydrated. Get prepared at the start of each day and bring a large drink bottle to have with you at all times of the day. If you really don’t like the taste of water, you can bring some good quality electrolyte drinks with you to keep you hydrated.

Sleep is (certainly not) for the weak: While we know that watching the footy on a Thursday night is important, waking up at the crack of dawn the next day may have you regretting your late-night decision. Your body needs sleep to be able to switch off and reset from the day to get itself ready for the upcoming day. Poor quality sleep can lead to fatigue, shortened temper and poor judgement – none of which will help you on the worksite. Getting 8 good hours a night will make you feel much better the next day.

Take a break: It’s easy to get caught up in a job where you end up pushing yourself too hard. Sometimes it might seem tempting to skip smoko or lunch just to get something finished, but it is important to take this time during the day to take a break from what you’re doing and reset before continuing.

The Mental

Looking after your mental health might be the last thing on your mind while at work, but it may be causing you a lot more stress than you realise. It is important to ensure you are regularly checking in with yourself to see how you are feeling. Are you having a slightly ‘off’ day or is there something else going on? Here are some things you can do to help you check in with your mind and how you’re feeling.

Meditation or mindfulness: Although it might be seen as a ‘soft’ option to some, the stigma is finally starting to be broken down around mental health and it is becoming more talked about. Meditating and mindfulness – when practiced often – have proven mental health benefits that can help ease anxiety, stress and depression. There are plenty of apps that can be downloaded straight to your smartphone, such as Calm and Headspace. Their guided meditation sessions can help you to ground yourself and unwind.

Whip out the tunes: NorthShore has researched the effect of music on emotions, and the results they found may or may not surprise you! Listening to music can improve your mood, decrease pain and anxiety and create opportunities for emotional expression. Not to mention, it’s great for a dance party on-site!

Talk to someone regularly: We don’t necessarily mean a professional, but speaking to a family member, partner or mate about what’s on your mind is important for your mental health. Failing to do so can result in bottling up emotions which can lead to decreased mental health. If you’ve got things going on that you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know about, there are services out there where you can speak to a professional.

Looking after physical and mental health as a tradie is important to achieve the best quality of life for you and those around you. While the things listed above are a guide, there are certainly many more that we haven’t covered.