By Roxanne Donovan - Wellness
Welcome to the final post in WellAcademic’s four-part series on ways to improve an out-of-sync professional-personal dance - that interplay between the oftentimes competing demands of work and life. The first step identified the problem, second step differentiated the professional from the personal, and the third step implemented efficiencies at home and at work that make life easier.
The last step is all about ritualizing health-sustaining practices. Four movements work together to make up this step.
Movement 1: Exercise regularly
If I told you there was a drug that could help increase health, lower weight, relieve stress, lift mood, and improve sleep without any side effects, would you take it? Of course you would! The bad news is no such drug exists. The good news is exercise can provide all those benefits. Yes, exercise! Okay...we all know that maintaining a regular exercise routine is hard. But there are ways to make a routine stick, and one of them is finding the right fit. After lots and lots and lots of experimentation, I found my fit is a gym that specializes in 60-minute high-intensity interval workouts. Although I really like the workouts, the key for me is that the gym charges me a fine if I reserve a spot in a class and no-show or cancel within 8 hours. Your fit might be a personal trainer, regular workout buddy, gym with childcare, dance classes, treadmill in your basement, hiking, or tai chi. Whatever it is, you won't find it until you start looking.
Movement 2: Seek deep sleep
Deep sleep - also known as delta sleep, stage 4 sleep, and N3 sleep- enables our brains to reset and heals us at a cellular level, making it essential to good health. Luckily, there are ways to increase the likelihood of cycling repeatedly into deep sleep, including sleeping at least seven hours nightly; limiting alcohol intake; beginning a wind-down routine 30-minutes prior to your desired bedtime; exercising regularly (see above); keeping your cell phone far away from your bed, preferably in another room; and darkening your sleep space by using blackout curtains and covering all those glowing lights from clocks, power strips, etc.
Movement 3: Address stressors directly
Let’s be honest, avoidance has appeal. Who really wants to address the overbearing coworker, demanding boss, rude server, or frustrating spouse, especially when doing so is anxiety-provoking? Isn’t it better to drink, eat, shop, post, or veg out in front of the TV? Unfortunately, no. In most cases, it is better for one’s self-esteem, mental health, and stress level to solve a problem versus avoid it. If taking action is hard for you, make a plan prior to moving forward and share the plan with your support network.
Movement 4: Pamper yourself
Many of us, particularly women, are so busy focusing on meeting the needs of others, we forget we have needs of our own to meet. This is problematic. We all require time to self-focus or else we risk resentment, burnout, and exhaustion. And what good are we then! Pamper activities that allow for self-focus include massages, pedicures, long baths, scheduled alone time, and overnight retreats. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you schedule it regularly.
What to do next?
Now that you have all the steps, putting them together in one fluid dance will require practice. Be gentle with yourself if the process takes longer than you would like. The path to change can be winding. But the destination - a more centered, connected, productive, and healthy version of yourself - will make the journey worthwhile.
In peace and solidarity,