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Can You Be Well and Work 80 Hours a Week is the Wrong Question.

Ana Polanco

Wellness ChallengeMost people ask if they can sustain an 80 hour work week and be well. Instead ask yourself do I want to work 80 hours a week? What could I be doing if I wasn’t working 80 hours a week?  That’s a much more interesting proposition for your well being. I asked a good friend of mine recently to come by to talk to me and another friend about a business opportunity. I have always thought of him as financially savvy, healthy, and well-adjusted person and welcome the opportunity to hear about new ideas. However, today he seemed tired and even though he was dressed well and knew what he was talking about he simply lacked the bright energy he normally has. More importantly, he almost missed the opportunity to seal the deal in part because he was exhausted.

As he began to speak, I would at times share a thought or a comment to bridge to what he was telling me. Instead of being able to engage me in those comments, I noticed he would push forward through his presentation and miss those opportunities to connect with my thoughts or ideas.  At the end, he had no idea what my status for investment was and assumed I would not be ready to invest and directed himself at my friend. I was most disappointed as this was a good friend and had been the second time I had heard this from him. As I had a time to reflect on the situation, I thought about how we miss opportunities with others, when we are not cultivating our wellness.

Many philosophers, spiritual leaders and religions have referred to the need for cultivating the mind, body and spirit as a way to have a greater sense of self. Today that manifests into this concept of wellness. The more we balance and care for all three, the more conscious we become of our purpose and how to intentionally build relationships with others in order to manifest our vision. The goal is not to be perfect all the time, but to learn to bring our attention back more quickly to the choices we are making and whether they are in our interest and making us successful and productive. Here are four things to consider as you search for wellness:

Get Rest to Increase Productivity

Everyone who has complained to me about being tired this month is not sleeping or exercising. They are working 80 hours a week with bad sleep hours and no exercise. They are using coffee, red bull and other stimulants on a daily basis to maintain alertness. Even if you look healthy on the outside, over time, excessive use of stimulants damages your internal organs and how your body heals itself. These stimulants also interfere with deep sleep patterns and grow addictive behaviors. Most importantly they make you so alert or exhausted that you ultimately may miss those moments of connection with others.  Sleeping at least 6 hours a day is essential to well-being. If you can’t get 6 consecutive hours, then you should find a way to take a 25 minute power nap in the afternoon. Exercise is also key here.

Exercise is a natural stimulant.

Exercise is key to your success because it raises endorphins in your body which generate happy feelings. The happier you are the more positive energy and confidence you emit which attracts others around you who want to connect with you. Exercising outdoors can actually maximize your energy and creativity levels to meet today’s business challenges. Diversifying your exercise routine by taking walks, going for a hike, running, outdoor yoga or joining your local sports league can lift your energy levels. Being outdoors often helps me see myself as enough which is key to building confidence and an authentic voice. Schedule exercise into your day as a regular meeting can reduce the likelihood that you would miss this wellness time that is just for you.

You Are What You Drink

Even if you are getting sleep and exercising, if your body becomes reliant on stimulants like coffee, alcohol and other prescribed drugs, the more difficult it will be to focus during the day.  I used to use coffee to stay awake and alcohol to let go of the stresses of the day. Eventually one cup of coffee, glass of wine or whiskey every day isn’t enough and soon you’re literally drinking more of each. These stimulants are replacing your body’s natural cycles of repair, rest and cleaning.  One of the best ways to reset food habits particularly around stimulants is to let them go for 30-60 days to discover why you think you need them and what you might be avoiding. Are you only funny when you’re two or four wine glasses in? We often use stimulants as liquid courage to do the things we can’t do when we’re sober. Or we eat to mask or avoid stepping into our true selves. It’s time to look carefully at what you eat and drink and how you use it to mask your authentic self.

Mindfulness does not equal meditation.

When I say mindfulness, you say…meditation? No. While meditation is a great tool to clarify your own thoughts and emotions, it’s not the only way to get there. For some people exercise is a way to let go of the day and for others praying at their place of worship fills them up with joy. Mindfulness for me is about connecting to my spiritual self so I can bring more love into the world. Mindfulness allows me to fill my heart with love and deepen my listening skills. I do meditate, but I also run, take photographs, dance and read as a form of mindfulness.

Each of these activities contributes to my well-being in different ways but all of them teach me to be more conscious of my own emotions and how I am caring for them. Spending time in mindful activities, makes me more thoughtful about how I engage my clients, friends and family. I find that I don’t need to tell clients what to do and instead help them explore where they want to go? I support their journey instead of trying to design it for them. This leaves me very fulfilled and whole.

Your turn: How are you taking care of your mind, body and spirit? Tell us your story.

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