As I’ve shared before, I previously worked as a senior Ad Exec for nearly 20 years, and during that time, devoted everything I had to my career. The good news is my investment paid-off, allowing me to take a year-long hiatus then shift to pursue a new, more-flexible and entrepreneurial career path as I always dreamed. The bad part is that it significantly depleted my mind, body and spirit. And truth be told, that “hiatus” was as much a requirement to rebuild myself as it was a choice. If I had known then what I know now, I could have skipped that time-off and stayed the course or gone straight into my next career endeavor (although, I most certainly won’t complain about it.) That said, I know for most, extended time-off may not be the right choice or available opportunity, so I wanted to share some key wellness tips I learned during this period to help YOU thrive and sustain in your current role.
First, you may already know that sustainability is the name of the game in any career. In addition to relevant education and experience, you need energy and a receptive mindset to solve problems effectively and unlock greater creativity. You need strength and confidence to be a solid teammate and leader. You need fortitude to handle inevitable challenges and bumps in the road. You need a basic level of health to meet the demands of long-hours, travel, and the occasional sleepless night. Finally, you often need an affable manner and patient demeanor to be a respected mentor and attractive business partner (a splash of charisma and passion will help too.) But how do you cultivate that? Proper wellness behaviors help enable all these things.
I am fortunate to possess a keen sense of self-awareness. I recognized that my emotional and physical chemistry was off-balance to enable me to most-effectively embody these ideal sustainability attributes with ease and grace, but I didn’t have knowledge of the right solutions to correct the situation. While your symptoms may present differently, my strung-out behavior was more “bull-in-a-china-shop-esque”: still highly productive, but lacking finesse and long-term viability. It reminds me of when my 4-year-old daughter is over-tired – instead of just going to bed, she often hits spaz-mode. I’m sure it happens to the best of us now and again, especially those in a hard-working, oft-traveling, dual-income household with kids, pets, or other significant life-demands which only compound things. But, this shaken-not-stirred cocktail is where I hit my breaking point. But, I know now that there is a more positive, motivating and gentle way to work through challenges to achieve your best-self. I hope my words of advice will empower you to avoid a similar breaking-point, and instead, become a better, more sustainable employee, colleague and company leader.
Here are just 3 key things I wish I had done better for my wellness when working an intense, full-time job:
1. Practiced more self-care.
Self-care is defined as the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress. Especially when you’re a parent, or don’t have enough time to go to the bathroom during the day at the office let alone schedule time for self-care, it’s easy to de-prioritize it. But, for these type of situations, it’s perhaps, the most important thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your job. You must respect yourself enough to not neglect your body’s needs.
My integrative practitioner advised that I should get a massage at least twice a month to support my overall wellness. I had generally reserved perceived luxuries like that for birthdays or Mother’s Days, but if the doctor prescribed it, how could I resist? And financially, I told my husband that it was obviously a matter of life-or-death…was I exaggerating? [shrug] Who’s to say? 😉
If regular massages are understandably too pricey for you, just be sure to do something you love for yourself on-the-regular…reading novels, journal writing, playing an instrument, picking up a paint brush, playing a round of golf, pursuing photography…or whatever strikes your fancy. You deserve it, and your wellness demands it.
2. Made fitness a regular weekday priority.
I realize this is a tall-order for an already-full plate, but I truly wish I had carved out just 30 minutes a few times a week to workout (even if just at home for minimal schedule impact.) Whether you’re a morning worker-outer, or an evening person, they say the best workout is the one you do regardless of what time of day. In fact, here are some interesting facts specific to men on the benefits of working out in the morning vs. the evening (but worth a look regardless of your gender.) Whatever your choice, this isn’t about vanity…it’s a basic wellness requirement for a long list of reasons – both mind and body. Keeping this critical benefit in mind could be a small, but important shift in your regular motivation. And, setting your boundaries at work to protect that time for critical self-maintenance is highly recommended.
In addition to employing simple tricks like laying out your workout clothes the night before and scheduling unmovable workout-time on your busy calendar, there are so many awesome fitness resources out there these days that enable a super effective workout with the benefits of time-efficiency at-home. Allow yourself to experiment with different exercise styles and resources to see what works for you! In my case, I haven’t been shy to say I’m a big Peloton fan and you don’t even have to own the bike to get access to thousands of classes featuring cycling, running, bootcamp, yoga, outdoor fitness and strength training for a considerably lower price than most gym memberships. I use it in combination with other mindful workouts like yoga and hiking throughout the week.
My biggest struggles with consistency outside of laziness or peer-pressure to hit the bar, was that I wasn’t comfortable jogging by myself in the dark of morning or night, nor wanted to lose time getting to-and-from a gym which took away from precious time with my young child. An at-home workout solution is perfect for the busy professional! And, the numerous Peloton “tribes” on Facebook (I happen to be a member of the #fitfab40s) also offer awesome, relevant communities of like-minded and/or aged people to support your training (and offer a variety of other helpful, crowd-sourced therapy and recommendation topics) which has also been a huge help in my consistent interest in working out – this most definitely isn’t your mom’s old jazzercise or step-aerobics tapes!
3. Invested in an Integrative Medicine visit to get a pulse on my wellness and personalized recommendations for optimal health.
For those unfamiliar, Integrative Medicine (also called holistic or functional) is described as “healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative.” Read more about the details from Dr. Weil, one of the greatest leaders in the field, in this link. Instead of visiting a doctor primarily when you’re broken, these mix of Eastern and Western medical practices gives you a roadmap for optimal health to avoid or reduce the instances of illness…often exacerbated by your busy, stressful lifestyle.
Here in Atlanta, my visit at CentreSpring MD during my hiatus helped me get a baseline evaluation of my wellness, an effective maintenance plan, and basic knowledge about:
- What vitamin deficiencies I had which affected my energy levels
- What supplements I could be taking to support better digestion, sleep patterns, and mood
- What previously-undetected food allergies I had (unaware since I didn’t have outward symptoms), which were subtly affecting my health
- How much stress hormone I had been producing which also negatively affected my sleep, mood and energy, and how I could reduce that naturally
- And, finally, just some other great, personalized tips to live my healthiest, happiest, more-balanced life
It was such a positive experience for me and the greatest catalyst for my new wellness-focused career path and renewed spirit. If I had known about this before stumbling upon it during my hiatus (where I had more time to read things other than trade blogs and client briefs), I most certainly would have been better-enabled to sustain in my previous professional role. I obviously can’t guarantee you’ll achieve the same results, but in my opinion, it’s worth the investigation to see if you may experience a similar, positive outcome that will contribute to a state of improved health and happiness.
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I hope these tips will help you achieve a happier, healthier, sustainable professional career and personal life. There is no greater achievement in life than living it to the fullest!