Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Intentional Recovery

By Sara Scheller BSN, RN, CCRN, NBC-HWC
Integrative Nurse Health Coach

What thoughts come up if I ask you about your work-life balance? Work-life balance isn’t always about how much yoga you do or how often you take a week’s long vacation (although both of these are really important!). Work-life balance is more how often we are we allowing our mind to feel safe so that it can repair, recover and rest on a regular basis. If I told you that we need an equal amount of rest as we do work, would you believe me? 

Let’s begin by unraveling the idea of “work”. You can define work as your job or career, but what about all of the other work we do as human beings? Caring for others, tending to our household duties, and even some hobbies can be work! When we look at our job or career, is it something we enjoy? There is a saying that goes, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” This is something as simple as a mindset. Are we feeling like the work we do is fulfilling a need, serving a greater good, and connecting us with our purpose? This does not mean we have to do world changing things! I’ll share a story about a recent interaction I had with a diner waitress. On several occasions, I went out for a weekend breakfast at a local diner. It did not take long to notice this one waitress in particular. She always had a great big smile on her face that could easily light up a room and she almost floated through the restaurant with her energy as she happily asked if I needed a refill on my coffee. Observing her, I could tell she just loved what she did. I took a moment to affirm that to her, “I can’t help but notice you look like you really enjoy your job.” She replied, “I really do, I have been working here for more than 20 years and even in times of my life that were really difficult, this place always gave me a sense of joy.” Her energy was infectious and her attitude was so motivational. What if we change the way we look at the work we do in our lives? Are we doing something because we want to or we have to? How can we find moments of joy in the work we are doing in our lives?

Next, are you setting aside time to actually rest and recover? I know your first answer or at least thought is probably, “But where do I find the time?” What if you set an intention to actually make the time? It may not be easy, but I assure you it will be worth it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be scheduled, but don’t just set it aside for “someday” because we all know someday may never come. You should not be stressed out about sticking to your schedule to get rest in, because that defeats the whole purpose! Internally, can you recognize when your mind is on overload and you need to find a moment of calm? Deepak Chopra recommends using the STOP technique to insert a pause to combat the cycle of stress: first Stop, then Take 3 deep breaths and smile, Observe how you are feeling in the moment and Proceed with awareness. Recognize that there may be times you may have to grind to get the work done that you need to do, but there are still small moments you can insert a pause to keep you going in order to prevent burnout. Externally, what are you doing in your free time? One way to create balance is to do the opposite of what is causing the stress. For example, if you have a busy job where you have to be on your feet and you are physically drained, rest for you may look like lying down and reading a good book. Or if you work a desk job where you are sitting at a computer all day, maybe you need to be active like going for a walk or a run in nature. Also, are you prioritizing sleep? Physiologically, sleep is a time when our brain gets rid of toxins, allowing our brain and body to repair, recover, and prepare for the next day. So, a good night sleep may literally clear the mind. A 2011 study in Sleep reported insomnia to have an estimated cost to U.S. companies of more than $63 billion a year in lost productivity.  Furthermore, how are you fueling your body? Are you feeding your body and mind high quality, fresh, nutrient rich food? When we allow our brain’s parasympathetic nervous system (think opposite of our stress response) to operate, we are able to rest and digest. Our body can make optimal use of the food we feed it.

Balance is not an endpoint, it is ongoing. Just when you think you have it all worked out, something changes. The only constant in life is change, and how we handle or react to the change, the more we can build our resilience. When we practice tools to build our resilience it allows us to bounce back with more ease, preventing dis-ease. We believe practice makes progress, not perfect. In health coaching, we guide you to find what stress management practices you can use to build your resiliency. We look at what has worked for you in the past and we hold you accountable for consistently using your strengths to live your best life. Together, we can co-create a life where you feel empowered to manage your own health.

To learn more about health coaching, visit our website at HackensackMeridianHealth.org/IntegrativeMedicine or call 732-263-7999.   

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