Entries in health (62)


The Work-Life Balance Myth

No one likes to bear bad news. When a teammate asked recently about how to approach work-life balance, I dreaded the conversation.

Because work-life balance doesn’t exist.

In reality, you can’t separate work and life on the ends of a teeter-totter and expect them to balance. Sometimes work will and should take the predominance of a person’s time and energy and sometimes life should and will require the largest focus. How they weigh depend on a constellation of factors surrounding goals, events, and perspectives.

Further, I’d argue it overly simplistic to categorize existence into “work” and “life” buckets. In light of your goals and priorities, the way you spend your limited budget of time and energy should accord with what matters to you in the short and long term.

In discussing this with my teammate, I had a couple recent examples:

  • On impulse, a continuing-education course on a historical era sounded fun. I’d gotten as far as bookmarking it for registration, but I chose to pass shortly before enrollment opened.
  • For the last two years, I’ve passed on captaining—or even participating on—a team for a long-distance, long-weekend relay race.

Neither activity fit into my current schedule, which I align with achieving goals that include short-term incremental milestones along a larger picture path.

And lest you accuse me of giving up all fun for obligations, don’t forget: Goals and priorities shouldn’t include only professional life facets. You should incorporate other aspects of your life as well: Family, health, friends, and beyond.

Passing on enjoyable activities doesn’t feel all that bad when I make the decision with bigger and more exciting objectives in mind. Instead of ruing the loss of something that sounded fun, I focus on the fantastic activities underway and ahead. My “busy” takes me in the right direction—one I don’t constrain just to work.

I make smart decisions based on where I want to go in life—work, life, and other—rather than flying by the seat of my pants and hoping I land somewhere good. I live my life with intention, rather than by accident.

And that means work-life balance doesn’t make sense.

How do you assess work-life balance? Or do you?


Fortunate for Friendships

Over a couple recent conversations, I discovered that not everyone has the deep friendships I’ve worked hard to cultivate since I drafted my goals a couple years ago and realized that close friendships give me a kind of happiness and comfort nothing else matches—and that I’d neglected the people most important to me.

I don’t mean people—acquaintances, contacts, buddies—seen at parties or in small groups to whom I can talk about a great deal of nothing. I mean people to whom I can confide, turn for help, rely on for support, and debate questions and concerns and issues.

Real friends.

In other posts, I’ve defined friendship, written about friends from different times in my life, noted the friends for whom I’d sacrifice almost anything, and even talked about the especial friendships between single women.

By now, we’ve all read the research on the importance of deep relationships to our mental and physical health. A six-year study found that friendships lower the risk of heart attack and stroke—only smoking cessation has as great an effect. Another study found that when faced with hiking a hill with a heavy load, people preparing for the challenge alongside a friend assessed the route as less steep than participants planning to summit it solo.

Do your own search on the topic: You’ll find reams of research confirming the importance of friendships. Yet likely all of it will seem obvious if you have close friends.

I’ve noticed the difference in my happiness, resilience, and health since I initiated a concerted effort to nurture and build my friendships. I wish I had more hours in the day to spend with the amazing people I count myself lucky to call friends, but I make it a point to carve out time for the people in my life who matter.

I make my friendships a priority. I hope you do, too.

Do you nurture your friendships? If so, how?


The Value of Exhaustion

My mother has often said that tired feels good at the end of the day. As a youth, this seemed like another thing that adults say that has little resonance (like my grandmother and her “time flies” repetitions).

It didn’t help my youthful impression that I hadn’t yet turned into a morning person, which meant that I felt zingingly alert at what anyone else would have called “the end of the day.” After all, I’d only awakened twelve hours before—or fewer.

Most adolescents sleep until all hours, but I started in childhood. I never watched morning cartoons. I slept through them.

Then, meet now.

As an adult with all the perspective life experience brings and as a morning person who gets up early enough to see the full day stretch ahead of her, I love the feeling that I could fall asleep between when I pull back the covers and drop into bed.

Yet when I search the Web for articles on the physical and psychological value of exhaustion, I find only information about dodging tiredness: “How to Never Feel Tired Again.”

That sounds awful.

I don’t want to feel tired during the day or to wake up tired. I’ve experienced both types of exhaustion, neither of which I’ve particularly enjoyed. But avoiding exhaustion entirely?

No way.

I get satisfaction from reaching the end of the day and feeling that I gave it everything I had. I left it all on the field. I did hard, good things. I challenged my fitness, my career skills, my mental acuity, my emotional horizons. I jumped in with both feet and yanked every iota from the day that I could have. The exhaustion I feel on the back end says, “Good job.”

I wouldn’t want to lose that feeling.


Single Women and Nurturing

I’d venture without much beyond observational evidence that women friends—single and in relationships—nurture each other more than male friends do. And I’d agree with my friend Joan in her observation that single female friends naturally take more direct care of each other than paired-up women do with their friends. In fact, it seems especial nurturing between single women doesn’t even need requesting.

It just happens. Naturally.

We check in and pitch in when one of us ails. If we haven’t connected in a while, we ensure no adverse events have befallen our buddy and ensure she doesn’t need help with something. We provide emotional and physical support with daily chores (house and car maintenance, errands, rides to and from medical appointments) and through life milestones (deaths, birthdays, promotions, terminations). We convene more often than we might if we had partners (partly because we have more flexibility in how we spend our time).

My conversation with Joan reminded me of a previous post I’ve written about men and singlehood. Could lack of nurturing from male friends prove another factor in men’s greater difficulty with singlehood than women—especially given the complexities inherent in friendships between single males and single or paired females?

Yet how can I say that single men don’t nurture each other in the same way that single women do? Without any direct experience of single malehood and without having spoken with any men I know about the level of nurturing in their friendships, I speak purely from assumption. I may be completely mistaken.

And so I ask: Single men and men single recently enough to remember, what say you? Do single men provide each other especial nurturing and caretaking?

Or is it just a single female thing?


Why I’ll Skip the Quantified-self Movement

You may as well ask if I’ve eaten as ask if I’ve exercised. I work out every day. Some days more than others. I can’t imagine life without it.

I don’t need encouragement, prompts, or prods. If I had my druthers, I’d spend my day in athletic gear playing.

So the “quantified self” movement—which mainly centers on fitness, though some aspects relate to general wellness including sleep and moods—intrigues me in the way it would tempt any athletic nerdy type. When I enter stores that sell these devices, I fondle the packages and read all the various options. I try to decide which one would best fit into my lifestyle.

But I haven’t bought one—and I won’t.

First, their ridiculous inaccuracy bothers me. Sure, if you need a general notion of whether you’ve gotten more or less activity than the day or week prior, primarily with an eye to increasing or maintaining your exercise levels, then activity tracking devices make sense. I don’t need the reminder. If I bought such a contraption, I’d want it to give me highly precise data to improve my workouts. These don’t.

Further, I obsess enough already. I obsess about what I eat, when and at what exertion level I exercise, how I structure my time, each item I add to my to-do list, what goes on my calendar, and whether my activities align with my goals. As it stands, I’ve had to place limits on exercising, rather than the opposite. I don’t need a device to make me obsess more.

And about my goals: The ease of hitting my exercise targets tempts me to overdo workouts at the expense of other objectives. Last year, I began to track each workout in a spreadsheet that detailed length, level, distance (for running), and how it felt. The intense focus on minutes and seconds and how I’d fueled to achieve my results had me exercising up to and above two hours a day. I had to stop. With exercise, as with everything, returns diminish after a certain threshold. And in the meantime, I’d let my other goals languish.

Have you bought into the quantified-self movement? Why?

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