The Dangers of Not Finding the Right Work-Life Balance

Are there really dangers to not finding the right work-life balance? Do we have any choice in this rapidly paced world? Surely that is a luxury for the rich and famous? But I love this adrenaline rush. It makes me feel alive, you say. Can it really be risky?

Paul, a lawyer, is 40 years old. He is extremely ambitious and driven. He became a partner in the firm at a young age. On top of his legal degree he also has an MBA which he studied part time. He has always been a go-getter and high achiever. He always sets himself lots of goals. As a senior partner he works incredibly hard. He takes on all kinds of additional tasks and projects to maintain his credibility among his peers.

As a result he works long hours at work and then takes work home as well. This has been a way of life for him the past 10 years. His work-life balance is non-existent. He has been married for over 20 years. He and his wife do not have children. So they travel a great deal.  He is a marathon runner and likes to run 10 kms at least 4 times during the week. Weekends he either does marathons or runs longer distances. Paul says he needs little sleep and gets by with 5-6 hours a night. He thrives on an adrenaline rush. His motto? Live life to the full!

He was recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-immune disease. He finds himself experiencing pain on a regular basis in various joints.

Although he has been told it is stress related he is somehow unable to break his crazy life style. He feels he is much too young to consider a different kind of lifestyle. He fails to see that he needs a better work-life balance. As a result he remains in a lot of pain and discomfort.

Warning signs

There are always warning signs before the development of a chronic disease or serious health scare. The following are definite behaviours of poor work-life balance and the seeds of adrenal burnout:

  • Skipping meals or eating fast-foods
  • No or very little exercise (or too much exercise)
  • Not making time for relaxation
  • Getting insufficient sleep
  • Pushing yourself past your own level of tiredness
  • Over-use of caffeinated drinks, stimulants
  • Worrying
  • Hectic work schedule
  • Staying on the activity treadmill

What happens during this “over drive” phase of poor work-life balance? Our adrenal glands release cortisol and DHEA that weaken our immune system and speed up the aging process. Depleted adrenal reserves lead to, among others:

  • Anxiety
  • Diseases: autoimmune, chronic fatigue, depression, type 2 diabetes, heart disease
  • Insomnia, heart palpitations, stiff neck

Many of these conditions are influenced by our thoughts and beliefs. The study of Psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI) highlights how our thoughts and beliefs influence our heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, immunity. In fact all our bodily functions. So if you are always thinking that you have to protect or cover yourself at work or work to prove yourself, you will deplete healthy calming neuro-transmitters. Always feeling you have to compete will have an impact on your physical and emotional well-being at some time.

In the end you need to weigh up what is more important: your health and life…. or proving yourself at work? What do you need to prove and to whom?

Younger executives are leaving their high powered positions after a few years. They realise that at some stage it will take its toll on their health, never mind the family relationships. They are able to reframe their move out as an opportunity, not a sign of failure. Instead it is about enjoying the time they have left and living a moderate life doing things they enjoy with the people they love. Work-life balance becomes more important to them.

Is it really worth putting yourself at risk? Is it really worth your pride or ego ruling your life? Life is short and precious. So if you are tired of being on the treadmill and want to experience a sense of well-being you would benefit from some one on one sessions.

Posted in Well-being.