Wellness and work usually are not thought to go together. Phrases such as “You will work yourself to death” and “work/life balance” have slipped into our lexicon. The Japanese even have a word for it – Karōshi which translated literally means work yourself to death. Beyond these terms, most have experienced stress eating or skipped workouts because we were either too tired or had an early morning call.
I used to think like that! I was the literal work iron man or so I thought. Before I changed my ways, I would work 16 hours days while eating Plucker’s fried wings and macaroni washed down with cupfuls of peanut M&M’s and Starbucks. I thought I was masterful but I was being mastered. It did not work out. By the end of 2014, I was an over-stressed, overweight, and disgruntled man trying to keep my head above water. I was neither felt well or worked well.
I began to realize that it was neither work over wellness or wellness over work. The key to working at your peak is to enact wellness that works! What do I mean by wellness that works? It is the synergistic effect that wellness and work can have on each other. Get more healthy and you can work more efficiently. Work more productively, then you have more time for wellness. Sounds too good to be true? Well, my story is a testament to the potential positive effects that wellness and work have on each other.
Let’s roll back to where I started off – the end of 2014. I had put work over wellness for many years. The end result of this exercise occurred in October, 2014. I was walking out of the delivery center at 3 AM – the last man out the door. Tired and sleepy, I missed a step, tripped and knocked myself out. When I came to, I could not lift myself off the ground with all the weight I was carrying. I ended up crawling until I could get to the bumper of my car and use it as leverage.
Then and there I vowed that I needed to do something different. So among other things (joining WW, going to the doctors), I enacted Don’s four rules for wellness that works:
(1) Well rested, well tested, never bested! – The first thing that I did was to get more sleep. Sounds easy? It wasn’t. At first, I thought I would miss something if I was not on each and every late night call. I was driven to be in the know and show the “manager’s flag” on every call.
But that attitude was making me unhealthy and also was not the best leadership style. Sure it is important to get on critical calls at critical times for support of your team and to add to the solution. But not every call and not all the time. Hovering over everyone makes them think you do not trust them and may even detract from the solution. It also makes you tired and unable to think.
It was really hard at first checking off the phone after providing guidance. But when I did, three things begun to happen. I sometimes came up with the answer as I rested and slept on it. My team realized I trusted them but was there when they needed me. Lastly, I was overall less stressed and unkind during the day. My team appreciated my new disposition and I appreciated feeling better. Bottom line: when anxiety starts to creep, go to sleep!
(2) Workout and Work Go Together! – I used to know this back in my Army days but forgot it as a consultant. As a soldier, we were paid to work out each morning. It was a necessary and important part of our job. Being fit helps you not to quit!
But as a leader in the private sector, I forgot that important point. My convenient excuse was that I couldn’t work out because I had to go to work. It was only after I again realized that you can work out while working and that working out helps you work that my life begun to change! I begun to block out time at least three times a week to workout and refused to take calls at that time. Also, I got an app on my iPhone that notified me every hour to do a simple set of exercises for 3-5 minutes. The best way to get rid of stress is to sweat it out. It also helps you stop the negative talk in your head as I wrote in this previous blog Stop the Negative Talk and Take A Walk.
(3) Work Hard, Play Hard! This is an old saying and a good one. But I give it a slightly different bent. Most people think you first must work hard to get to play. Others note that when you play too hard, you can’t go to work the next day! But you can have fun at work and playing hard can make you work harder. Take sometime to talk and joke with your team to break up the day. Find a hobby that helps you unwind. For me, I love Karaoke. I sometimes even sing in the woods, as this blog attests Why Not? I’m Singing in the Woods!
(4) Join Wellness that Works for wellness that works! The last rule is perhaps the most important. If you want to learn additional ways to increase your wellness and you work productivity, join Wellness that Works (the organization formerly known as Weight Watchers and still goes by WW). The weekly meeting provide more lessons on how to mix wellness with work such as mindfulness and goal setting. I could go on and on about WW (and I did in this blog The Why’s of Weight Watchers!), but rest assured it is wellness that works!
I will end with a picture that shows that work and wellness can go together. Here is me at Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin taking a call that ultimately resulted in us getting additional work. The old Don would have take the call in the hotel and skipped the time with my daughter. Instead I took it from the top of this mountain. If I was not well I could have not climbed up to get reception and do my work! Be well, do work!