Are you too busy to be sick?
That is a huge sign of a life out of balance.
I recently returned from a four day weekend trip with cold-like symptoms, that turned into difficultly breathing and fever.
As a busy person, driven to optimize each moment of the day.
I had not planned for sickness nor recovery, I was too busy to be sick. When I first started to feel poorly, I foolishly believed that I would give myself a day to get better. The fever disagreed and I found myself at work, unable to walk without becoming very weak. At the time I was working within an environment in which I need permission from my boss to go home.
I asked for permission, and I was allowed to go home to rest.
I went to see the doctor the next day.
My doc diagnosed me with asthma, gave me a bag of medications and told me to stay home for the next two days…which turned into 10 days.
The problem was that I had so much work I needed to get done with specific deadlines or expectations placed on me by my employer.
In all fairness to my employer… I agreed to these deadlines.
I was really worried that I would not be able to get my job done…as if I am the ONLY one that can do these items. I thought I would be letting other people down as well.
The first day with a high fever, it was easy to go home and rest or rather collapse, waking up the next day. The problem came when I recovered from the fever which lasted two days and returned to the doctor’s office for another appointment. At this appointment although I thought I was better, my recovery was not as rapid as expected. The doc was concerned that I had developed a greater problem and sent me to the emergency room for further evaluation. My ER visit lasted 8 hours and I was medically cleared and sent home, told to “rest”.
The sad thing…I had the hardest time slowing down.
I kept thinking about all those things I needed to get done. I thought at one moment I could still go into work and just work for a little while in an effort to knock down my list of things to do. Each time I would try to head out to work, I just could not do it. I was exhausted.
I began to reflect on how I found myself in such a place of poor life/work balance.
I got caught up in the belief that I had total control over my life and schedule.
I believed that I was smarter and more clever than most and could finish a project quickly, since I was a subject matter expert. Also I believed I was the only person that could complete that job..because I am so smart and clever.
Over the course of ten days as I recovered, I reflected on the following items to help bring my life back into balance. My hope is that you find these helpful now before you are hit with an illness that causes you to stop for an underdetermined amount of time.
My Inventory of Obligations:
What were my current obligations?
Review of my email and calendar notations provided me with a list of obligations I agreed to complete.
I reworked my calendar times, setting up an appointment time to actually complete the task, giving myself enough time to finish the project. This helped me to visualize my commitments.
Learn to say NO, respectfully.
Let’s practice it together… “no”. Or “no thank you”. Or “I appreciate your invitation, but I am unable to participate”. Most importantly, make it very clear this is a “no” not a “maybe” or a “perhaps”..a NO.
In a calm voice.
At first this was be difficult for me, but I am committed to make this a standard answer until I can get my current obligations under-control.
24 hours in a day.
8 hours for sleep.
I currently am working in an contractual agreement of 11 hour work days, five days a week.
That leaves 5 hours each work day for restoring balance. I typically would just catch up on the weekend days…but that has not really been helpful. I need to restore balance in each day to include work days and weekends.
When you break down your time and really see the areas of time-sucking activities it can be a real motivator to make some positive changes.
Reflecting on my work days, I have 5 hours available to me to restore balance into my life. Restoring balance means not just doing one thing all the time at the detriment of your health and relationships. For me my health was the huge warning sign that I need to make some changes right away. For others it may be a relationship that has drifted away. Or your children may be having some behavior concerns or isolating you from their life.
These are all symptoms of a life out of balance.
Find your symptoms and begin treating them accordingly.
If your relationship is drifting, begin to discover ways you can improve.
If your children are isolating you or their behaviors are concerning, begin to learn modifications you can do to help them.
For me, it was all about my health and how I was dealing with stress.
I monitored my diet and removed those items I know are harmful.
I adjusted my schedule to add one hour of exercise to each day.
I set my alarm to go off 15 minutes earlier to complete 10 minutes of mediation into my regular schedule.
I journal my thoughts and reflect on each day…the good and bad.
And most importantly I provided time for boredom. Time to just walk around or sit with no specific purpose. Not reading, Not listening to a podcast (which I love to do), not surfing the internet, not waiting for something or someone….really nothing. This one event in my day was by far the most difficult to execute. After all…I have so much to do.
I will tell you this is a daily challenge for me. I see the benefits in that I am sleeping better…without medication, and I have more energy during the day.
As balance is restored, I am able to give more heart felt attention to my clients, my family and to myself. Restoration is a continuous process and even a mental health professional like myself needs reminding from time to time.