Health Considerations in the Data Management Space

In the data management space, or indeed just about every aspect of human endeavor, health is an important consideration.

And I don’t mean the health of your data, your queries, your hardware, or anything like that. I’m talking about the health of the most critical machine, your body.

Steve Jones recently published an article on SQL Server Central encouraging readers to “don’t (always) be a hero.” Steve relates an experience early in his career when he was supporting an installation of SQL Server 4.2 on OS/2 1.2 on New Year’s Eve. Just as he was prepping to leave 30 minutes into the new year, the install locked up.

In short, Steve didn’t leave until early on Jan. 2nd. “I was a hero that January, as were my co-workers, with all of us logging around 100 hours each week that month,” Steve reports.

You’ve probably been there once or twice … or two or three dozen times. Something hits the fan and the idea of “9 to 5” and any personal plans go out the window for the foreseeable future. To be sure, anyone in this space who is expecting 9 to 5 probably needs to see a therapist, but working 60 hours a week or more should be rare, not normal.

Steve’s point is:

We need to be heroes at times, but those ought to be emergencies, and they ought to be rare. Most IT professionals (and others) I know will work longer or harder when needed, but the need can’t be constant or even regular. It should be an unusual situation. If it’s not, then something has to change, at least for me.

Most jobs involve some stress, and that’s almost unavoidable. The problem is when the stress is constant. Chronic stress is recognized as a risk factor for mental diseases and disease states, including cardiovascular disease.

Heart rate variability, or HRV, is a useful measure for stress. High variability is specifically associated low stress, leading to reduced mortality and improved well-being and quality of life. If that sentence wasn’t worded how you expected, think of low variability as always being in a “fight or flight” mode. Your heart is constantly racing, so the heartrate remains high … and variability is low.

So now the good news. Wearable devices, including Apple Watches, can help you track HRV. Equipped with this knowledge, you can work on (or at least try to work on) relieving your stress. Meditation, short walks, breathing exercises, visualization … these and other techniques can all help.

Quality sleep is another key part of maintaining your health. More good news: the Wall Street Journal recently reported on a study that showed getting less than eight hours of sleep is not as bad as previously thought:

Sleep “regularity”—going to bed and waking up at consistent times with few mid-slumber interruptions—matters more than how long you sleep. Sleeping six hours every night on a consistent schedule was associated with a lower risk of early death than sleeping eight hours with very irregular habits.

Sleep duration was still important: People who got long, consistent sleep had the lowest mortality risk, says Angus Burns, a research fellow at Harvard Medical School who co-wrote the study. But shorter, regular sleep was generally associated with lower mortality than longer, inconsistent sleep.

Diet is another key consideration. Instead of getting into that, just consider these: Cut back on sugar-laden soda, and instead of chips or other high calorie snacks, try veggies (baby carrots, anyone?) or fruit. It’s an easy switch that can make a big difference.

If your health is suffering, you’re not as much of an asset to your employer, so it’s in their and your best interests to ensure as much “balance” as possible. In Steve’s words, don’t be a hero. If you’re struggling and don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, speak up.

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