I started in controls and automation at the age of nineteen, nearly twenty years ago. At the time, I had no idea what lay in store for my future and, little did I know, I was right where I was supposed to be.
At the start of my career, the mill I worked at was just approved for a $100mm expansion and I was going to be doing the HMI/SCADA graphics for the project as well as more programming than I realized I was capable of.
I was eager to learn, energetic and absorbed everything I could. The one hundred-hour weeks were great for a beginner’s paycheck and my young strong back and weak mind could handle it.
Fast forward ten years later, I was thirty pounds heavier and taking blood pressure medication and this was due to many reasons, but the general reason was that I wasn’t taking care of myself.
I wasn’t paying attention during the high school health classes and in hind sight, no one really talked about health in my circles. If they were, I wasn’t listening. It took a few wake-up calls for me, but eventually I started making changes. The more I made, the better my overall health became.
I have found many people in our field of work have to deal with both the physical and mental strains that are placed on our bodies. When I say physical, it can be the lack of exercise more than physical strain.
In fact, if you are getting a lack of exercise, your heart is working harder than it should be and that causes lasting damage. Mentally, I cannot count the number of days I have left work for my home feeling like I was in a whirlwind all day and my mind spinning from keeping up with so many tasks and opportunities.
I knew taking medicine for my blood pressure was not something I wanted to do the rest of my life and I finally decided to do something about it.
I lost thirty pounds in eight months and have kept it off since. I changed my diet completely over time, eating more fruits and vegetables and less of the things I didn’t need to.
I also started stretching, yoga and core building exercises to keep myself functioning at a much better level than it was during the years of neglect.
More and more studies have shown, stress is one of the leading causes of death in the world, both directly and indirectly.
Stress can be caused both inside the work environment and outside the work environment, so unless you are able to get away from it and learn to deal with it correctly, it can and will take years from your life.
I have experienced stress over the years both inside and outside the work environment and I have found two things that work for me. What works for me will be different than what works for you, but whatever is needed for you, you must make a priority in your life so that you don’t become stressed to the point it makes your body physically sick.
For me, #1 is fishing. Give me a rod & reel, a plastic worm and a hundred cypress trees to pitch it next to and I can come back mentally refreshed. #2 Yoga and Meditation. A practice of yoga and meditation three to four days a week will dramatically refresh your mind and body and contribute significantly to your overall well-being.
I know way too many people who have things they love to do, but do not make time for them regularly and it takes a toll on their well-being.
To perform at the levels that we must in the control and automation world, day after day, year after year, we must take care of ourselves both mentally and physically. I was not prepared for the journey ahead of me in many aspects and had to learn these simple, but crucial lessons the hard way.
Thankfully, I have learned from my initial lack of knowledge and made it priority to take care of myself for the long term both mentally and physically, so I can be the best me.
Written by Brandon Cooper
Senior Controls Engineer and Freelance Writer