I’m working on it. For the most part, I eat well, exercise regularly, manage my stress and usually get enough sleep. I’ve even begun cutting back on the coffee. A little.
But if there is one thing that challenges the bounds of my healthiness, it is probably my work habits: namely that like the majority of my pals, I am prone to working too much. And sometimes I allow my work to interfere with my very best nutrition and fitness intentions.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty hardcore about following the advice I dole out to other people concerning healthy priorities and all that. But still, nine times out of 10, if I do miss a run, it’s because I’ve got my nose in my work. If I skip a meal, or settle for less-than-ideal-quality food, or get less than enough sleep, or sit so long in ye olde Aeron chair that I’ve got that telltale mesh pattern emblazoned on my backside, it’s almost always because of work.
For many of us, I think — even those of us who love what we do — the logistical and energetic challenges of work tend to throw up certain barriers to improving and sustaining our physical, mental and emotional well-being. But I take a certain amount of comfort in knowing that if it weren’t work, it would be something else.
Oh, we might think that if we were working half time, or working from home, or working somewhere where the vending machines dispensed hot and cold running dandelion greens and the elevators were replaced with climbing walls, that everything would be jolly. We’d be the model of health and life balance. But I kinda doubt it.
The real issue, at least for me, is never so much about what’s going on “out there,” in any particular office building, or even in my own work schedule. It’s about what’s going on in here — in my emotional life, my priorities, my beliefs. When I am clear about my choices and fully committed to being healthy, I find a way to get myself out of my chair and to yoga every Monday night. I find a way to pack a healthy lunch and to say “no thanks” when the Twizzlers start getting passed around the conference table. I get better at managing my time so that regular water breaks — and stretch breaks and sleep breaks and fun breaks — happen.
Speaking of breaks, a couple years ago I wrote a piece called “The High Cost of Being Hurried.” The article (available in our March/April 2002 archive at lifetimefitness.com/magazine) relates the story of the time I broke my foot while in the throes of a work-related snit fit. I still think back on that experience every time I’m midway through a busy week in which I haven’t done quite enough to take care of myself. I remember how rushing and pushing myself to do more, more, more once backfired in a most un-delightful way.
What I took away from that experience was a deeper appreciation for the present moment, and the fact that it is possible in any given moment to make different, healthier, more generous and loving choices — toward ourselves and others. I guess to me, this is what healthy work is all about: slowing down long enough, and often enough, to consider if what we are doing, and the way we are doing it, makes sense.
I know, for example, that my Monday night yoga class is one of the things that keeps me sane and gives my back the strength and flexibility to tolerate a few too many hours at my desk when I ask it to. I know that long runs are what give me the perspective I need to handle frustrating situations that might otherwise send me flying off the handle. I know that making sure I get enough healthy food, even on busy days, is what keeps my mind and body sharp enough to make good use of my time.
Being healthy at work, and having healthy attitudes about work, serves not just us but everyone around us. It helps us offer more of ourselves, and to see more of the best in other people. So I hope this issue inspires you to take better care of yourself in some way, no matter where you work or what you do. And if you think you are just way too busy and what you have to do today is just way too important, check out Last Word.