How simple was your life when you were growing up, and how complex is it now? Think back about the days when life was indeed simpler!
T. S. Eliot wrote, “Finding a way to live the simple life is one of life’s supreme complications.”
Each of us, at one time or another, has felt overwhelmed. We hesitate to take a holiday because when we return, the paperwork will be piled sky-high. We hesitate to attend a professional development program because when we return, our development will be stifled by the amount of work that has been generated during our absence.
Now that I no longer work 100 hours per week, my life seems simple. In reality, life is not that simple – is it because of the plethora of material things in our lives?
Think back to your childhood. My dad was a contractor, so we had lots of bathrooms in our home, and even with 5 kids sharing bedrooms, we did not have to share a bath. My best friend’s family consisted of mom and dad, plus two teenage girls. They had a 4 bedroom home with only one bathroom, and there were constant battles to see who got to use the bathroom first. If someone had a date, or required additional prep time, the coveted bathroom could in inaccessible.
In my home, we lacked closet space, and most hanging space seemed to come from freestanding dressers with closet rods. When I think of how our own kids have grown up, with private rooms most of the time, luxury kitchens, wonderful yards, a phone in every room and more…I wonder how we existed. When our daughters ask me how we managed without pantyhose, I smile and think back to the days of nursing school with garter belts and hose.
Fast forward and think of your own kids and how much ‘stuff’ they have! Think about how complex their lives are. Would they benefit from simplicity? Do they need T.S. Eliot to help them find the simple life?
With a balance between work and home, comes greater control of where your focus remains. If you leave your work at the office, your full attention will be on your home life and your relationships, giving them the attention they deserve. When spending time with your partner, children or friends, your mind should be solely focused on the experience you are having, rather than thinking of work concurrently. Similarly, if you are in the office, greater focus should be paid on the tasks at hand. In turn, this makes you more efficient and demonstrates one of the many benefits of achieving a work-life balance.
How often do you bring work home from the office? How often do you ignore those most important to you to ‘just finish this project?”
We are all aware of the fact that “It takes TEAMWORK to make the DREAM WORK!” John C. Maxwell tells us so. Last night, the Chicago Cubs demonstrated true teamwork, just as they have throughout the season and throughout the series.
Andrew Carnegie tell us, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
What are you doing to realize your dreams? How are you working as a team to make that happen?
Today, I had the privilege, and that it was, of sewing patches onto my granddaughter’s Daisy tunic!
What is a Daisy tunic? Let’s start with what is a ‘daisy?’ It is so much more than a flower; it is the designation for grades K-1 in the Girl Scout organization. Perhaps you have been a Girl Scout or Brownie; perhaps your daughter is involved in a troop. As mom to two daughters, I was familiar with Brownies and Girl Scouts, but not with the Daisy, until Julia asked me to work on her tunic.
What fun it was to follow the template and arrange the little badges in the designated spots. What a challenge it was to align them and get everything prepared for tomorrow’s meeting.
It’s about more than the chocolate mint cookies, although I have consumed my fair share. The best part of being cookie chair for the troop was having access to all of those cookies. Yes, Julia will be selling those cookies, and I’ll be an avid customer/consumer. It is so much more than that! It’s about a 5 year old’s leadership journey: exploring nature, making new friends, helping others, working as a team player…and yes, selling those cookies!
As U.S. Advisor to Central Clinical Hospital of the President of the Russian Federation (CCH), I worked with my U.S. hospital partners and Russian colleagues to create a state-of-the-art International Patient Department (IPD). As a contractor, I also taught contingency planning, negotiation skills, and leadership to a cadre of future healthcare leaders.
I rented a small apartment (43 meters) not far from Red Square, at 8 Ulitsa Malaya Polyanka, and like they say in real estate, “Location, location, location.” Adjacent to the French Embassy, and the local Dannon Store, it was in a ‘safe’ area and within walking distance of two metro stations.
The Central Clinical Hospital of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation (Центральная клиническая больница c поликлиникой Управления делами Президента Российской Федерации) (also called “Kremlin Hospital”) is a heavily guarded, 10-Corpus (building) facility in an exclusive, wooded suburban area known as Kuntsevo. Many consider CCH to be the best hospital in Russia, and my colleagues on both sides of the ocean worked diligently to make it so. Forget HIPAA…patients included Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko, multiple Ambassadors, and of course, President Boris Yeltsin.
For U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, political violence was to be expected. Yet no one expected the turmoil that occurred in October of 1993 when the Russian White House burned. While Embassy staff were protected in the underground gymnasium within the compound, those of us less privileged professionals were subject to a firsthand view of the resistance. Deadly street-fighting ensued, and the streets were cleared of as many civilians as possible.
My friends at CCH were concerned for my safety, and their goal was to ‘place me in hiding for 24 hours’ and then escort me to Sheremetyevo II Airport for a swift departure to Western Europe or the U.S. They decided that the safest place to hide would be at Michurinsky Hospital, and that while I was ‘in hiding,’ I could also provide nursing care to the wounded. Among the wounded was a reporter from The New York Post, and I gladly provided care for the young man, contacted his mother in NYC by phone, and arranged for follow-up for him once he arrived home.
Although I was accustomed to working in the NIS/CEE countries for two weeks out of every month for over 10 years, and although I had worked in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Tirana, and beyond, I did not expect to be a part of an evacuation procedure. Although I had taught contingency planning in the International Nursing Leadership Institute (INLI), I did not anticipate practicing those contingencies myself. Forty-eight hours later, I was on a plane bound for the U.S. through Stockholm…and happy to be heading home!
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You probably remember the story of the man in the yellow hat, and his curious little sidekick, a monkey aptly named, “Curious George.” I read this book to my kids, and to my young grandkids, and I enjoyed the series more with each reading. Georgie, as we affectionately called him, was a class act, always one step ahead of the game, always CURIOUS.
Are you…curious, that is? Do you, as an adult, have the same level of curiosity that you exhibited as a young child – when everything was new and exciting – when you saw things through the eyes of an innocent child?
Some little-known facts about George: he lived in New York City (yes, the man with the yellow hat had a permit to keep him housed in a NY apartment). George is what is known as a ‘little monkey’ – yet, he has no tail, and that means that he is probably an ape.
The book, written by Hans Augusto Rey and Margret Rey has been popular for decades among children of all ages. What makes George so attractive? It is his sense of curiosity, of course.
The master of childhood entertainment, Walt Disney, once said, “We keep moving forward, opening up new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Are you ready to enter a new path? Are you prepared to learn more, do more, and to be more? Perhaps it is time to stay curious…just like George, and never stop questioning.
Think stress doesn’t have an impact on your body, your memory, and your outlook on life?
Check out these statistics:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 60% to 70% of all disease and illness is stress-related.
- An estimated 75% to 90% of visits to physicians are stress related.
- According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association, 60% of women surveyed said work stress was their biggest problem.
- Job pressures cause more health complaints than any other stressor, says the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Resisting Change: The Allure of the Status Quo
I can guess what you’re thinking… here’s one more thing I have to worry about. Let me tell you straight away that when you invest in the program I’m about to share with you, your whole life will improve.
Some helpful information about stress
You can’t – nor do you ever want to – eliminate stress altogether. Some stress is beneficial. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that stress by itself is never actually harmful or bad. It’s your reaction to stress that creates problems.
We’re simply trained to ignore the signs of stress in an attempt to keep the problems at bay. No wonder: changing life-long behaviors is in itself stressful.
This is a classic mind-body disconnect.
The Three Phases of Stress
As you know, just being in business today creates stress. Here’s how most people react to a stressor (such as: earnings announcement, problem at home, manufacturing flaw, countless and mind-numbing meetings):
- First, in what is called the “Alarm Phase”, they react to the stressor. This might result in a burst of anger, shock, or surprise.
- Second, they move into the “Resistance Phase,” when they begin to adapt to the stressor. They learn to cope with the dysfunction, lack of sleep, or 16-hour work days. This phase can last for years, and after awhile will feel very “normal.”
- Third, the body finally loses steam. They go into the “Exhaustion Phase,” where their ability to resist is reduced. They’ll feel tired, unable to concentrate, and will often catch colds or become ill – the body’s way of slowing them down.
I know from experience that there are many ways to more effectively handle the everyday stressors, as well as those big once-in-awhile stressors. I’ve taught meditation, mindfulness training, breathing exercises, and disseminated countless bits of information on general nutrition and the benefits of regular exercise.
But, I can’t be there with you to keep you going when all bedlam breaks loose at the office. And, in times of trouble, the first thing to go – always – is personal care. I don’t care if you’re the CEO or the Janitor. When stressors hit, self-care is the first thing to go.
At what point in your childhood did you ever experience bullying and a feeling of ‘not belonging?’ How did you respond? Who did you tell? Who did you turn to, and what was the outcome? Did you ever feel as if you were not a member of the team, a cherished friend and colleague, and equal counterpart? Chances are your response is, “Yes.”
Think “Dory” – an adorable, memory-challenged hatchling living the safe life with mom and dad – not a fear in the world, other than the frequent memory lapses. Fast forward to adventure, the process of growing up, finding friends within the Marine Life Institute, and paying it forward. Dory is able to overcome chaos and in the process, celebrate her cognitive and physical differences. She is indeed ‘different’ and yet, so very special. Dory teaches viewers that solidarity and kinship matter – that friends and family are critical to one’s being.
Forget bullying and being excluded from the group, the team, the game! Embrace the story and Dory’s true strengths as she demonstrates inclusivity at its finest!
Sunbathing, swimming, barbequing and outdoor sports are all part of summertime fun. However, without the right precautions these leisure activities can be major hazards and lead to skin cancer, heat stroke, food poisoning, dehydration and drowning.
Health Hazzard #1: Skin Cancer
This is the most common form of cancer in the United States- one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. Due to the increased amount of time people spend outside during the summer months, overexposure to the sun’s rays can lead to skin cancer.
People Who Have a Higher Risk for Skin Cancer:
- Have spent a long amount of time in the sun or have been sunburned
- Have fair skin, hair and eyes
- Have a family member who has had skin cancer
- Are over the age 50
Preventing Skin Cancer
- Use sunscreen: Choose a sunscreen that uses at least SPF 15.
- Wear protective clothing: Wear clothing and hats to protect your skin from harmful rays.
- Avoid Direct Sun: Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. is when the sun’s rays are strongest. Avoid prolonged sun exposure during this time.
Health Hazard #2: Heat Stroke
This form of hyperthermia occurs when the body cannot rid itself of heat. Heat stroke is caused by extreme heat, high humidity or vigorous activity in the sun.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke
- Disorienation or confusion
- Hot, dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty
- Fatigue and headache
- Rapid heart beat
Preventing Heat Stroke
- Drink Fluids: Hydrate your body with water frequently when participating in outside activities.
- Avoid coffee, soda, tea and alcohol; these can actually cause dehydration.
- Plan for the Day: Schedule outside activities before or after the hottest times of the day (between 10
- a.m. and 4 p.m.).
- Dress Appropriately: Wear light-weight, loose-fitting clothing.
Health Hazard#3: Food Poisoning
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are about 76 million cases of food poisoning each year. Due to the use of grills and coolers, and food being left out in the sun, food poisoning increases drastically during the summer months.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low grade fever
- Diarrhea and abdominal cramping
Preventing Food Poisoning
- Smart Shopping: Look at expiration dates while shopping, and get your frozen section items last before heading home. Look for supermarkets that have clean deli sections and that keep food at the correct temperature.
- Washing: Even produce you peel needs to be washed before consumption. Don’t forget to also wash your hands, countertops, knives and cutting boards for each food item.
- Temperature: Bacteria multiply the fastest between 40 and 140 degrees. Make sure that you cook meat thoroughly and keep foods needing refrigeration cold. Make sure to also reheat leftovers to at least 165 degrees before eating.
Health Hazard #4: Dehydration
Your body’s weight being 75 percent water, it is extremely important to replenish your body frequently. Dehydration is when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount going in it.
Causes of Dehydration
- Drink Water: Because your body releases so much water, (through sweating, bowel movements, and breathing) you need to rehydrate it with water often. A good rule of thumb is to drink one ounce of water for every two pounds of your body weight each day.
- Avoid Heat: Again, planning outdoor activities before or after the hottest part of the day will lower your chances of dehydration. Also, remember to take advantage of shaded areas which can be up to 10 degrees cooler than areas in the direct sun.
Health Hazard #5: Drowning
Each year more than 3,000 people die from drowning, and nearly 20 percent of child drowning deaths take place at a public pool where a trained lifeguard was on the scene. With summertime fun, remember safety when it comes to water activities.
Water Safety Tips
- Put a fence around all pools and spas.
- Always wear life jackets, especially in open water areas. Do not let yourself or children swim alone.
- Take CPR and life-saving classes.
From infusion to evolution
I am often asked how I could write infusion therapy textbooks for 25 years, and then write about work/life balance. How is it possible to shift paradigms so dramatically and connect the dots? I am often asked how I could possibly transition from the world of sick-care and chronic disease to the wonderful world of wellness. What was the trigger that I was out of balance, and that I needed to do something about it? And, how, after so many years, could I evolve into a wellness professional and seek balance for myself?
My story could easily be your story. Working 100+ hours per week, and well aware of the toll that this schedule placed on my own body/mind/family/relationships, I knew that something had to change. And, it was my global work colleagues who introduced me to the concept of work/life balance.Picture this. During the month of August, hospitals in the former Soviet Union traditionally close to allow time for the staff to visit a remote Sanatoria for a 24-day respite. Who do you know in this country that offers 24 days of vacation time to all employees, regardless of status, and then mandates that they actually take the time for a much-needed rest? Maternity leave in that part of the world is a minimum of two years, during which your job is held for you! Who do you know in this country that offers extended parental leave time equal to two years? If you are like me, no one measures up to those standards. And while I was not considering parental leave for myself, nor would I ever stay in one place long enough for a 24-day rest, I did start to think about working less and playing more. I was intrigued by the concept of a life in balance and what that might look like.
Picture this. During the month of August, hospitals in the former Soviet Union traditionally close to allow time for the staff to visit a remote Sanatoria for a 24-day respite. Who do you know in this country that offers 24 days of vacation time to all employees, regardless of status, and then mandates that they actually take the time for a much-needed rest? Maternity leave in that part of the world is a minimum of two years, during which your job is held for you! Who do you know in this country that offers extended parental leave time equal to two years? If you are like me, no one measures up to those standards. And while I was not considering parental leave for myself, nor would I ever stay in one place long enough for a 24-day rest, I did start to think about working less and playing more. I was intrigued by the concept of a life in balance and what that might look like.
Perhaps you have had the same experience…perhaps you realize that your work and home life are intertwined and that there is no longer time for you and those near and dear to you. Perhaps you have thought, “What if I could take that much-needed vacation, attend that graduation, or just relax?”
The Art of Reinvention
I chose to reinvent myself as a wellness professional with a focus on health prevention and promotion, rather than on managing chronic disease and acute illness. I thought about the words of Harold Whitman, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I decided to come alive, enjoy life, family, career, and more – and to write about the experience.
It’s time to reinvent a new us that will take us through our second adulthood. I have done it, and so can you. So who are you? Who do you want to be when you grow up – a question that my kids often ask of me? This time, you get to decide.
Use these steps to relieve the stressors that are holding you back:
Decide what’s most important in your life.
Identify three areas of your life that are most important; for me, the three include (1) health and well-being, (2) family, and (3) professional work. If health is a priority for you, take time to achieve it. Eat well, be well, do well – begin an exercise program, if you have not already done so.
Know your purpose.
Life purpose is what gives meaning to our lives and a reason why we are here on earth. Each individual life has a natural reason for being. Think about what brings you the greatest joy in your life, and pursue it.
To be successful in our lives, we must set goals. So, know your purpose, and then set goals. In order to be a goal, it must first be specific and measurable.
Know your Limitations
We just do not know how to say ‘no.’ In B is for Balance, I talk about ‘no’ being a complete sentence, and it is okay to learn how to use the word to bring balance to our lives. If something does not fall within your priorities, it is okay to say the magic word, ‘no.’ You must avoid taking on more than you can possibly handle. Negotiate for workplace balance by knowing yourself and your limitations. “No” can be the best time management tool that you have!
How to Seek Help
Successful, balanced professionals are not afraid to ask for help. Everyone needs help from time to time, and reaching out is an admirable skill. Be acutely aware of the stressors in your schedule and in your life. Know thyself first! Manage yourself, and take advantage of counseling, coaches, professional peers, mentors and more.
Knowing my limitations allowed me to transition from the sick-care industry to the wellness industry. I connect those dots by using my nursing platform to share the wonderful world of wellness – one that is available to you as well, with you live a life in balance.
I just saw Zootopia! I have seen lots of kids’ movies and to see them with one’s grandchildren is so much fun. I admit that I love some of the storylines, and that I walk away from others wondering what they were all about. Of course, I admit that it took me awhile to figure out Back to the Future, and it was not until the spiritual leader in our congregation gave a ‘message’ from Back to the Future that I actually got it!
Zootopia is different! In Zootopia, the first rabbit to join the police force learns that she has to go the extra mile to demonstrate her expertise, to reach the boardroom and the pinnacle of success. From the largest elephant to the smallest shrew, the city of Zootopia is a mammal metropolis where various animals live and thrive. When our heroine rabbit leaves her family of multiples behind and goes to the big city of Zootopia to forge her police career, she learns lessons that we can all use. Judy Hopps is the first bunny cop and she quickly learns how tough it is to enforce the law. She also discovers that breaking barriers can be an uphill climb, especially when the other cops in the force are imposing in size and personality.
Judy has what it takes – resilience and she jumps at the opportunity to solve a mysterious case even though it requires her to work with someone quite challenging, sly, and pushy. Might that describe someone with whom you have worked? Might you be Judy? Did you ever have to go the extra mile to prove your worth and to advance within your profession?
Zootopia teaches that stereotypes hurt everyone, bullying comes in all shapes and sizes, life is sometimes unfair, and change is possible! Is your mind open to the possibilities out there? Do you have what it takes to be Judy?
So you are the Chief – Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer or Chief Information Officer! What is that “C” contributing to your stress levels, and what are you willing to do to relieve the stress. Do you really think that stress doesn’t have an impact on your body, your memory, your ability to function as a Chief, and your outlook on life?
The numbers tell it all about body
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 60% to 70% of all disease and illness is stress-related.
• An estimated 75% to 90% of visits to physicians are stress related.
• According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association, 60% of women surveyed said work stress was their biggest problem.
• Job pressures cause more health complaints than any other stressor, says the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
I can guess what you’re thinking… here’s one more thing I have to worry about. As a senior executive, you need to worry! You can’t – nor do you ever want to – eliminate stress altogether. Some stress is beneficial. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that stress by itself is never actually harmful or bad. It’s your reaction to stress that creates problems. It’s your outlook that counts!
We’re simply trained to ignore the signs of stress in an attempt to keep the problems at bay. No wonder: changing life-long behaviors is in itself stressful. This is a classic mind-body disconnect.
The Three Phases of Stress
As you know, just being in business today creates stress, and at your level, stress is more prevalent. Here’s how most people react to a stressor (such as: earnings announcement, problem at home, manufacturing flaw, countless and mind-numbing meetings):
• First, in what is called the “Alarm Phase,” they react to the stressor. This might result in a burst of anger, shock, or surprise.
• Second, they move into the “Resistance Phase,” when they begin to adapt to the stressor. They learn to cope with the dysfunction, lack of sleep, or 16-hour work days. This phase can last for years, and after a while will feel very “normal.”
• Third, the body finally loses steam. They go into the “Exhaustion Phase,” where their ability to resist is reduced. They’ll feel tired, unable to concentrate, and will often catch colds or become ill – the body’s way of slowing them down.
I know from experience that there are many ways to more effectively handle the everyday stressors, as well as those big once-in-awhile stressors. I’ve taught meditation, mindfulness training, breathing exercises, and disseminated countless bits of information on general nutrition and the benefits of regular exercise. Perhaps, as the C-suite executive, it is time for you to learn how to relax!
Squeeze a few minutes of relaxation into each day
Far too many of us lead lives that are frenzied and hurried from the moment we wake up in the morning to the moment we crawl into bed at night. The more packed every moment of your day is the more you need to make time to relax; for a few minutes of deep breathing to 20 minutes of deep relaxation or yoga. Making this a habit will keep you in better stress shape for the day that chronic stress knocks on your door, which it almost certainly will if it hasn’t already. After all, in your senior position, the problems land at your door.
The human system can tolerate a tremendous amount of stress. Over the years, however, too much stress breaks down your resistance to illness and disease and impacts your memory. Remember, the negative consequences of your stress are strongly influenced by your rest habits. Since stress is unlikely to diminish in our high-pressured American lifestyle, take the time throughout your day for the natural unwinding of your stress response.
There are only 24 hours in each day
You don’t have time to rest, you say? You have more time than you think you do. You could:
• Do deep breathing while driving to work and during other stressful moments throughout your day.
• Get up 15 minutes earlier and spend the time doing deep relaxation, yoga or journaling.
• Take 2 minutes several times a day to tense tight muscle groups for 10 to 15 seconds, and then relax them completely. Repeat this two to three times each round.
So you are the Chief
How is the C-Suite treating you today? There is no better time to consider the actions that you will take to enhance your role and to preserve your ability to function as a Chief.
About the Author
Sharon is an energetic, motivating and highly skilled speaker who educates others, enriches their lives, and empowers them to achieve balance in their own lives. Sharon draws on her own life experiences to help others gain control of their life purpose. Sharon is Adjunct Clinical Professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, College of Nursing and a member of the Kaplan University School of Nursing Advisory Board. She is a Fellow of the American College of Wellness and the American Academy of Nursing.
Sharon is a member of the National Speakers Association, and she’s available to address Stress Management with your C-Suite executives!