Remember the intern at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) that passed away in 2013? He was my friend. We interned on the spring week together at BAML in 2012. I still have him as a Facebook friend to this day. Looking at his Facebook wall that has been empty for five years is a saddening experience for me, recalling how his eyes lit up while talking to me about his hopes for the future. Working for 72 hours in a row may have helped to take those dreams away.
Pushing the physical boundary working in investment banking as Moritz did is not uncommon. Within my small circle of banking friends, Moritz is dead, two friends in London went on medical leave, and one in Hong Kong fainted at work.
The investment banking life is both a blessing and a curse. The pressure can be extreme, both mentally and physically, and your health can suffer tremendously as a consequence. I've listed some of the most common health issues below, with some advice about small changes that may make a difference. You don't want to die doing this job. Nor do you want to shorten your life expectancy by 10 years.
(Note: I am not a medical professional, hence everything here is for reference purposes only. If in doubt, always consult a doctor.)
1. Constant heart palpitations
When your heart is racing, pounding or fluttering in banking it's often caused by the constant flow of caffeinated stimulants, energy drinks and stress. Everyone I've known in finance has experienced heart palpitations at some point. Never ignore them. If left unattended, heart palpitations could likely lead to you fainting at work - once your heart beats too fast, your blood pressure can drop rapidly and you can faint. Go easy on the caffeine; hydrate yourself well with large water bottles on your desk - and limit your sugar intake.
2. Eye and hand pain
Most people who stare at the screens for 12-16 hours a day experience rapidly declining eyesight, as well as a whole host of eye strains and pains. The medical term for these is 'Computer Vision Syndrome.' Similarly, using your keyboard and mouse repeatedly for those hours for a few years will also give you numbness, tingling pain, and weakness on your hands/fingers. This can be come very painful. The medical terms for these are Repetitive Strain Injury, Carpal Tunnel or Tendinitis. I know several people who developed these conditions. - It's why you shouldn't laugh at quants and traders with those funny keyboards, and get those same tools for yourself.
3. Hair loss and/or grey hair
You probably know two or three young people in your extended team who are either completely or partially bald. Hair loss, thinning hair (and/ or widespread grey hair in some cases) can be a consequence of the high level of stress in banking, plus the nutrient deficiency that comes with the job. Medication for hair loss includes "Rogaine" or "Propecia".
4. Weight gain and/or diabetes
Then there's the lack of overall physical condition. Impulsive eating, unhealthy diets, Coke and Red Bull every night, sugar in your drink/coffee/tea and pretty much everything you eat. - They all cause problems.
High sugar intake is a major problem in banking. Too much sugar can firstly cause energy crash/fatigue unless you fuel your sugar addiction every day. In the long run, it causes diabetes, blood sugar problems, heart disease and fuels cancerous cells. Watch what you eat - there's no need for the sugar binge, but you'll have to ween yourself off. Similarly, don't max out on your dinner allowance just because you can.
5. Mental health problems
I've also seen a host of mental health problems in banks. Some tired and stressed people have short fuses. Others are depressed or chronically anxious.
My advice is to exercise. Try to move daily. If you can't manage to exercise, walk 30 minutes a day to work or to get lunch, use stairs instead of elevators, or use a standing desk. If you can exercise, even 10-20 mins daily can go a long way, or 3x30 minutes a week.
You can also try guided meditation apps, self-reflection or keeping a journal. Inner peace will extend your patience, lower your temper and allow you to keep up with your personal relationships outside of work.
Stay healthy and good luck!
Mai Le was an investment banking associate at Goldman Sachs before she left to found several of her own ventures. Besides writing on her own blog (lequynhmai.com), she also runs a cover-letter sharing community called Cover Letter Library (coverletterlibrary.com) and a learning and community platform for analysts called Next Analyst (nextanalyst.com).
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