Honor Your Body in Life and Career

I recently listened to Arianna Huffington’s book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time, and it changed my life. I knew that sleep was essential for health and wellbeing but I felt caught up in the myth of how hard working and successful people must sacrifice their life for their career. That is a dangerous roller coaster to be on and it’s a constant reminder that we all must set our personal boundaries.

At the 2016 Indiana Conference for Women I heard Huffington speak about how long hours don’t translate into productivity and the false badge of honor that people wear for being sleep deprived and over worked is extremely unhealthy and unsustainable, not to mention unnecessary.

She urged us to refocus and place the emphasis on productivity and not on the number of hours we toil at work. “If success looks like overwork, constant stress and sleeplessness — I don’t want it!” said Huffington. Giving thousands of women at the conference and millions who have read her book permission to self-nurture, honor your body, and define success on your own terms was empowering.

The lessons are simple and implementable. Design a unique life that replenishes your energy and honors your body.

Sleep is Non Negotiable

Getting a good night’s sleep has many benefits you may not have considered. It can lead to:

· Better sex

· Weight loss

· Stronger immune system

· Clarity of mind

Every adult should get between 7–9 hours of sleep a night and you alone can determine your best sleep number. Of course, there are occasions when the baby gets up in the middle of the night, or your partner’s snoring keeps your awake. Life happens! Create a bedtime ritual and sleep schedule that permits you to focus on your sleep and be more in control on a regular basis so the occasional sleep disturbances are minimal.

Bedtime Ritual

Huffington talks about the nightly preparation of going to bed, which signals to your body that it’s time to relax and rejuvenate after a long day.

· Wear specific bedclothes (pajamas, night shirt, etc.) and not garments you would wear during the day.

· Put your digital devices to bed — outside of your bedroom and out of eyesight and earshot. Digital detox is essential for peaceful sleep.

· Eliminate alcohol, caffeine and digital screens a few hours (caffeine varies with each person) prior to bed to give your brain and your body time to prepare for sleep.

· Consider your alarm clock and adjust the sound to a soothing tone to awaken you gently and not frighten you awake with a startling noise.

Overworking is Not a Badge of Honor

Sleep deprivation is dangerous and those who constantly burn the midnight oil without resting deplete their bodies of energy needed to restore and heal each day. Sleep nurtures the brain and the most important thing we bring to work is our judgment. Prolonged lack of sleep is similar to alcohol or drug abuse in that motor skill functions and mental clarity are severely impaired.

We know that driving while drunk is dangerous and unlawful yet millions go to work sleep deprived, which parallels an intoxicated state with lack of clarity and poor judgment.

Respect your body with rest. Huffington cites on her book that 70% of stress related health conditions could be reduced or eliminated with proper sleep. What matters is your energy and focus, not the time you put into things. Consider how you can work smarter and not longer to be more productive in life and career.

Make Time to Play

Design thinking was beautifully articulated by authors: Bill Burnett and Dave Evans in their book, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life.

They posed a question that gave me pause to seriously re-evaluate my life. How much time to you devote to play in your life? Think of play as something that brings you pure joy. Disqualify competitive sports or working out if there is a goal attached like winning a game or losing weight, etc. Joy should bring you great happiness and pleasure without stress or an end goal.

Perhaps you find joy hiking with your dog in the woods or cooking a special meal for loved ones, or traveling to a location that brings you bliss. Think about how you make room (or not!) for joy in your life and consider how you can design a life with more joyful opportunities.

Joy — the state of elation, happiness and delight is by nature a reliever of stress. By making more time for play in your life — you will mitigate your stress level and create space for happiness.

Even with 8 hours of sleep each night, a regular exercise regimen, healthy eating and a renewed focus on joy in my life — I still succumb to stress. I get stressed thinking about how to get rid of my stress. So what’s a savvy professional to do? I recently learned about the practice of floating and I’m eager to give it a try.

Float Your Stress Away

While most can relate to the soothing relief of a warm bath, floating is a wellness practice that takes relaxation to a new level. Flotation tanks are full-body bathtubs filled with 160 gallons of body temperature water. The H2O is salted with 1,000 pounds of magnesium sulfate, which detoxifies the body, eases sore muscles, and reduces inflammation.

If the Zen-like float experience leaves you concerned about hygiene — don’t fret. A filtration cleansing system purifies the tub after each participant. The salt and magnesium infused water detoxes your body in a gravity free environment. Your spine literally lengthens and the dream like state promotes clear thinking, creativity and the opportunity to recover, rejuvenate, and relax.

A typical float lasts 90 minutes but the tranquility and wellness benefits are long lasting afterwards. Life will always be busy and floating gives you permission to reconnect with yourself before you go back to the frenzy.

While floating is becoming more widely known as a stress reducing therapy, flotation centers can be hard to find. Happily, A Place to Float has just opened up near me in Indianapolis and my New Year will be filled with floating. My first float experience was extraordinary and gave me a glimpse into the restorative power of being still. I’m eager to make this part of my wellness practice.

Reset Your Intention Work/Life Priorities

The myth of burning the candle at both ends for success and promotion is not worthy of perpetuating. Making room for rest and joy in life as well as work and productivity will lead to a healthier populace and a less stressful integration of life and career.

Consider how you can be a role model in your place of work by setting an example and creating a culture that leads to wellness and a strong work ethic without sacrificing play and rest. Making time for the things in life that matter will lead to recruiting and retaining talent in organizations regardless of their generation. This is a unique time for a major shift in the world of work and life.

Arianna Huffington’s new media platform Thrive Global will provide resources and action steps to help you live a life that honors your health, well-being, and your professional endeavors.

“For far too long we have been operating under a collective delusion that burning out is the necessary price for achieving success. This couldn’t be less true. All the latest science is conclusive that, in fact, not only is there no trade-off between living a well-rounded life and high performance, but performance is actually improved when we prioritize our health and well-being. It’s time to move from knowing what to do to actually doing it.”
- Arianna Huffington

The Only Body You Have

Most impactful for me is the concept of relinquishing control. Huffington shared, “Life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen.” and I for one am trying to move from struggle to grace.

I will always be ambitious, focused, determined and goal oriented but I now understand that if I honor my body with sleep and try to mitigate stress, my body will honor me back with wellness of mind and spirit. Sleep for me is part of adding more joy to my life. I feel refreshed, energized and nurtured after a great night’s sleep. I’m less concerned about working longer and instead being efficient and more productive. I’m also ready to float away my stress. Onwards to a New Year to focus on what really matters!

Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book “This Is Not the Career I Ordered” now in the 2nd edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Executive Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to Huffington Post, Ellevate Network, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. She hosts and produces an online show: Thrive! about career & life empowerment for women on YouTube. Caroline also hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life— on iTunes. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.