Tag Archive for health

The Importance of Down Time

It’s a strange word to some of us. Down time. The life we live and the businesses we run can eat every spare moment that we give it. I know people who have looked at me very strangely when I’ve told them I try to take weekends off. There’s always more to be doing, business wise, if you don’t have recording (or in my case, editing) to do, there’s always some clerical or marketing task left undone. I know that I’ve often felt guilty when I take time for myself, but my recent illness helped remind me that I need to make that space.

Without it, the stresses and strains of the work day build up like fatigue poisons in your muscles during hard labor. If you don’t make an effort to let those go, it’s easy to make a poor judgement, or get angry when you don’t need to, or any one of a number of mistakes because your resources are short when you need them to be. Maybe you feel like you don’t need that time, and perhaps you eat work for breakfast and thrive on daily tussle with whatever comes your way. But I bet even you, fire-eater, could use a break once in a while. An hour in a coffee shop. A relaxing hot bath. Even if the break is brief, I still bet it would renew and rejuvenate you more than you might realize.

There’s a common thread in entrepreneurial thought these days that you have to work yourself to the bone to make it. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing? I know that there’s the old fashioned ‘Protestant work ethic’ but I don’t want to assume that it’s only an American idea. I really fight against the idea, nonetheless. I believe that it makes for staler work, and a far less healthy you. Better to proceed a touch slower on the ladder to success and enjoy my journey a bit more. What do you want to remember, at the end of your life?

Personally, I take refuge in a couple of hobbies to help spend my down time. I like to paint and write, (the image for this blog is a painting I did a while back.) and also to play video games and read books. I’ve never been one much for TV. But honestly it doesn’t matter so much what you do as long as you have something that allows you to relax and forget for a little while all the things you have to do and the pressure of business.

Hope you can find something to enjoy today!

The Year (I was as sick as a) Dog Part 5

So as I was writing my series here, I got another indicator that my brains are still recovering a bit. See, I forgot to mention the fundraiser when I was telling my story! This was such an important thing to leave out, and something that was so important to this journey.

So, like many people, I’ve had trouble paying the costs of health insurance premiums. As a single woman with a freelance job, it doesn’t always work out for me to be able to hit them every month for a year and sure enough, this year my coverage had lapsed.

At the end of October, when my friends Laura Bealko, Jen Reilly, and Lauren McCullough realized I was doing very poorly, the three of them came to me with the idea of doing a fundraiser for enough money to cover my thyroid surgery. (Remember, this was before I found out it was my heart, not my thyroid.) I was a little reluctant. I was raised in a good old ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ type of household, and I hated the idea of asking for money from people I didn’t know. But I had to face facts. I was declining and just living was getting harder and harder every day. So I said yes, and these three angels put things together for me.

And then the proverbial heavenly choir descended. So, so many people donated, and so quickly! I was funded, and more, in less than a single day. I still don’t have words for how amazing everyone who contributed or passed on info is. I’ve spent the past 7 years serving the community to the best of my ability, trying to be a good smile and creative people connector, but this was the first time I had really seen (other than people who hire me, of course.) just how much people cared for me as a person, and the kind of impact I was able to create.

My friends, when I was a little girl, my mom died at the age of 37. When I turned 30 a few years ago, I took stock of my life and considered than in 8 years, I’d be older than my mother ever would be. That was quite sobering. Then I thought about the fact that despite how long she’s been gone (More than 30 years, she died in 1988) people still remember her, still speak well of her, talk about how much of a delight and a light she was as a person. I decided that was my life goal. Regardless of what you believe, the only real immortality we have in this world is in the memories of others. I wanted to leave memories behind like my mother did. That fundraiser was the first (and quite stunning) indication that I’d proceeded a bit of the way to my goal!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who participated in the fundraiser, and thank you to everyone who sent me a check, a paypal payment, or by whatever means. You are all angels in my eyes and although I needed it for a different reason, every penny has been more needed than I realized at the time it would be!

Thank you to my parents and brothers, for your love, hospital visits, much gas and parking and gummy bears spent upon. You were more of a comfort than you know.

And last but not least, thank you to my three archangels. You are beautiful people, and I quite literally owe you my life. Thank you for everything.

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 4

Life lessons learned on the cardiology floor, continued!

Don’t take your life or health for granted. Period: This one hit me two ways. I heard so many codes called on that floor at all hours, and saw some seriously shaken nurses when someone didn’t make it. Life and death were all around me, and it’s times like that when you realize how fragile it is. The second way this one hit me was far more personal. Once I had started on my Pee Marathon, I had my eyes opened to just how sick I had been. My head was so much clearer once all the water started to come off that I realized just how much my mental function had suffered along the way and how much that had probably influenced my decision making and everything else. The truth was, I’d been slipping up on project deadlines and many other things for a long time, and it was only the kindness of others that saved me from disaster more than once. I’m going to make next year my year to work on my leg and numerous other issues!

Take Time Off: Some of us in this business are better than others and regularly schedule vacations and weekends. I’ve always tried to give myself nights and weekends off, but as I’m sure you can imagine, it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve found more than once that if I have only one task during a day, if I’m not careful I can make that task last the whoooooooole day! I (and you, yes, you) need time off to reflect, consider your business and your life, and appreciate where you are. If I could rewind, I’d’ve made myself take more than one pause, and hopefully I would have had time to realize how I was feeling, and how different it was from how I should be!

Gratitude: It’s in every silly meme on Facebook, and is touted all over the place, I know. You’re probably sick of seeing the very word. I know I am sometimes. But it’s also very true if you ignore the gnat cloud of sugary meme nonsense and think about what it really means. People will stand by you in a crisis in ways that you didn’t think were possible, and I think it’s vital to take the time to feel that presence, and what it means for your life. This can be your blood family, or the family that you make for yourself. Yes you could have more, or different, but there’s always something to be grateful for, even the tiniest of things. And when it’s a solid presence when you’re scared and alone, that’s no small thing.

Next post will be my last entry in this series, telling one more story, and shelling out some serious thank yous.

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 3

So what did I learn from being in the hospital at 36 for heart failure? Plenty!

Periodically assess yourself: Many of the changes in my body and health were small things that accumulated over time. In the business and rush of my daily life it was really easy to ignore just how much I had changed, how low my energy had gotten, and how much I was suffering needlessly. I needed to stop, take a long step back, and really consider just where I was and what I was doing, instead of dismissing my own instincts and the words of others. (which leads to-)

Don’t dismiss the things you don’t want to hear: More times than I would like to admit along the way friends and loved ones told me that I was in danger, that my health was starting to spiral, and I needed to take stronger action. I pushed this aside for a lot of reasons, most of them things that didn’t matter in the long run, and certainly didn’t stack up when measured against how close I was to having a far less happy ending to this health saga of mine. Listen to the people who love and know you. You don’t have to do what they say, but if they’re good people, really stop and consider their point of view whether you like it or not. If it twinges, it’s often something that’s uncomfortably true.

Fix it now, not later: This is one I struggle with and have most of my life, as much as I try to fight it. If I’d paid attention and dealt with the problem sooner, it would not have taken me quite so long to beat it, and probably would have been easier to do in the bargain. Don’t let the needed things go, if you can fix it now, do it and get it over with. I can’t tell you the number of things in my life this has applied to, work or otherwise, and I bet many of you can think of the same kind of examples.

Take risks, even at the worst times: It’s a long, complicated personal story, but during this time, I gave my trust to someone close to me who had lost it a long time ago, and was astounded to find out how much that person had matured. They were willing to put aside some things that had kept us apart, and to see and help me as a person who needed it badly. (and not just the physical help of driving places but the emotional support of holy crap hospitals are scary!)

I’ll be delving into some more lessons learned in my next post!

 

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 2

I was 36! Congestive heart failure was something that happened to old people! What on earth could be causing this?

Bewildered, but still very sick, over the next couple days I endured. The local hospital did their best to run some tests and figure out what was going on.

The real cause of my swelling, my exhaustion, and my trouble breathing, and this reality of heart trouble had nothing to do with my thyroid. It was an old, complicated medical condition I’ve had for a very long time called an Arteriovenous Malformation. (I’ve linked an article if you want to find out what it is in more detail.) My AVM is a sizeable growth on my left thigh that has been there for about 25+ years. After some searching and attempts at treatment in my mid 20’s, I had kind of given up doing anything about it, other than enduring the regular pain. My treatments hadn’t been covered, and were expensive and difficult to manage on a grocery store job insurance/paycheck.

But as the local hospital was bundling me up and sending me to the big city hospital, I was discovering that all this time, the bad connections in my growth had been putting strain on my heart, and this was what was sending me into heart failure.

I settled into my new room, with the cascade of doctors and residents that comes from being in a teaching hospital, and began the long road back to some semblance of health. The first thing I had to do was pee.

A lot.

Seriously. Apparently all this swelling on my body was not fat as I had thought, but as often goes along with heart failure, it was water. With lots of medicine, I ended up 64 pounds lighter! And at this slimmer, svelter size I was finally able to undergo the definitive testing that would allow the doctors to take measurements and do scans that would pinpoint what they needed to do and where to go next. The scans and relevant indignities undergone, they sent me home just in time for thanksgiving. (And oh was I thankful.)

But those 13 days in 2 hospitals gave me a lot of time to think, and I wanted to share some of these thoughts with my friends, colleagues, clients, and dear readers in general–you’ll find some of those in the next post!

Archive Thursday: The Importance of Holidays

Happy-HolidaysThis week’s Archive Thursday was originally posted on February 3rd, 2015.

In past years, I never took a break from my work. I worked seven days a week, whenever there was something to do, and to whatever hour it took me to finish my work. And frankly, I never had time for myself and wasn’t particularly happy.

More recently I decided to regulate my working hours. I get up at the same time every day, work until 5pm, and have the evening hours to myself. This doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t work outside of that time, but I make an effort to get everything done within my typical working day. The ability to have a few hours free every day is great incentive to get more work done. I also take weekends off and use the time to catch up on chores and pursue my personal and artistic projects. (I paint, for example.)

The fact that I do these things causes astonishment, and in some cases derision from people that I talk to. I fully recognize that my schedule would not work for many people who have full time jobs, families and children to care for. I would never intimate that what works for me is required for someone else–however, the importance of taking a break, of having some time away from the microphone and the DAW is absolutely vital. Giving your mind, fingers, and vocal cords a break (even if it’s a ten minute walk around the block) will give you a chance to refresh on all levels and make your next piece or section of work better, and you’ll feel better about it, which is worth those few moments, don’t you think?

Archive Thursdays: Relax and Let Go

f45c2045-ab12-48cd-839c-c518a056e7c6-Relaxation-for-Mind-and-BodyThis week’s Archive Thursday was originally published January 28th, 2013

A bit more than a month ago, I stayed with Melissa Exelberth and Liz de Nesnera while attending the NY VO Mixer. Those two amazing ladies reminded me of an important life lesson while I stayed with them.  When I was with Melissa and Liz I was so excited to go see everyone that I was bouncing all around the house, and both ladies had to calm me down by reminding me that we’d get there when we got there, and I needed to just go with the flow-thus getting me thinking and inspiring this post. It’s important to not worry and fuss about the unimportant things in life. It’s so easy to cause yourself lots of unnecessary stress by focusing on all the little things.

There are many ways that you can control your life and the things that happen to you. But there are things that happen to us which you have no control over. In those situations there is only one thing you can control, which is your reaction to the things that happen. It’s a balance, like anything else in life. Worries and obsessions are something to allow yourself to feel, (Pushing them away can easily make things worse when they come back to bite you later!) and then make the effort to let go of.

Letting go is hard. It’s just as hard as taking control and putting forth the effort to change your life. (Which I’ve written about here) There have been many many studies done on the profound and long term effects that stress has on your body and mind. It can and will damage your health and make it harder for you to accomplish the things that you want to. The two polarites of making an effort to take control and change direction and letting things go sound like they should be mutually exclusive, but they aren’t. Mastering both is the task of a lifetime, but one truly worth striving for. No one can do both perfectly, making mistakes and falling off the wagon is not only expected but understandable.

So the next time you feel yourself knot up with tension, your stomach sour with worry, stop. Just stop. Take a deep breath, and close your eyes. Remember that in the long run, whatever you’re worrying about will probably not seem as important as it does in this moment. Relax your muscles. Take a break from whatever you’re doing, maybe walk around for a few minutes, and let your mind drift. When you step back to work, you’re a lot more likely to come up with a solution or an idea that you were too tense to think of a few minutes ago. Focus on the elements of the situation that you are able to control, not what other people are doing or saying. Do this–or whatever relaxes you–when the worries threaten to take over, and I bet before you know it you’ll find yourself with less worries than before.

Morgan Barnhart starts my interview series next week, talking on Social Media!

Gratitude

gratitudeI’ve written recently about how I’ve gotten a second job in addition to my virtual assistant work. That job has taught me a lot of things, including how out of shape I was-whew!-but one of the most important things I’ve learned is perspective. We who work from home live in a pretty awesome little fishbowl, and it’s really easy to forget how big and how different the world outside is.

I’d forgotten how lucky I am. I had forgotten what it was like to work in an environment that is not only mentally stressful, but physically stressful. There is never enough time, and there is always more to do. Customers are often unhappy, and many times-since I’m not working one on one with them-it’s not something that I did or can control, but I have to handle the fallout. There are good and bad things about this other job of mine, but the ‘real world’ is quite a bit different than I remember it.

It’s often valuable to take a moment and realize how many good things you have in your life. Working like we do has it’s own unique set of challenges, no question, but there’s also a lot of great things about it. I’m glad that I’ve been forced to see things from a different angle, it’s definitely given me a fresh view on my work!

A Circle’s Round…

a_circle_is_round_it-66271It has no end, that’s how long I want to be your friend…

Sorry if I just got that song stuck in your head. I sang it in Girl Scouts way back when, and it ties in with what I want to write about today.

Friendship. The digital age has brought us all far closer together, and at the same time, much farther apart. These days, who doesn’t have a friend or closer relative that we feel twinges about because we know we should call them, but…? Or more than one? Life requires so much from us some days, not like the raw physical labor of previous generations, necessarily, but crowding every element of our lives so close together that it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed, no matter what you do for a living.

But I believe that it’s vital to reach out, to touch base and maintain those connections as much as possible. What makes human beings happy and fulfilled in life is the quality of their connections with others, and it’s amazing how great it can make you feel even just to write to someone you’ve meant to keep in touch with. Just to say, ‘hey, I was thinking about you..’. How often do you hear something like that? Not asking for something, just wanting to connect?

Even if it’s just one email, one facebook message, one voicemail, take the time to reach out this week to someone you’ve meant to keep in touch with. I believe you’ll be surprised at how much positive energy you can bring into your life just by the act of reaching out, and renewing old ties.

Stand up and be counted!

2015-03-21 21.42.47I’ve been using computers since I was a teenager. (My parents wondered why I stopped going outside, but computer games were the answer! Ah, Windows 95…) For all that time, I’ve spent many hours sitting on my behind, and never thought a thing of it. When I started work as a Virtual Assistant, I continued in the same way, creating my work area on the presumption that I would be sitting all the time.

After a while, I noticed that I was sore and uncomfortable, and I certainly wasn’t feeling very good physically. Sitting down all day made me feel lethargic and groggy. I browse a lot of articles linked through Facebook, and one caught my idea about the idea of a standing desk, specifically for something called a geek desk. I absolutely loved this idea, although the price was a little too high for me, so I put it on the back burner of my mind.

A while later, I had gotten frustrated with my sitting situation, and I decided to take measures into my own hands. I had long had a sturdy kitchen table from Ikea, and it struck me that it would make a good base for a possible desk. With some hunting, I found a smallish TV stand that would hold monitor and speakers. Further exploration resulted in the small, two shelf stand that would work with my keyboard whether I was standing or sitting. I got a computer chair mat-I do sit sometimes, when I’m not feeling well, or am sore from some other activity-and a chef mat to stand on.

And that’s how I work! I find that this position is much better for my health-I feel more energetic, and it’s much easier to keep my mind sharp than it was before. One unanticipated side effect was the fact that it’s also too easy to walk away from things, since I don’t have to undergo the extra effort of getting up first! 🙂 It’s not for everyone-although some people take it even farther and put a treadmill underneath and walk while they work-but for many people I think it can have some excellent health benefits, and greater long term affects for the body.

 

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