One of the positive things that has come out of the technology age and workplaces offering flexible options for staff to structure their days is work-life integration. This is where we adopt a strategy of blending our professional and personal life to make it all work. We have the advantages of slotting personal stuff like going to a mindfulness class, attending a school event, taking elderly relative to a doctor’s appointment during traditional working hours and attending to conference calls and other work related activities in traditional ‘out of hours.’
As a single parent with a high preference for variety, I am all for the flexibility. With increase in single parent families, increase of aging population, luxury of technology and connectivity, the flexibility to integrate work and life is helpful and attractive. Yet, one risk is that we are never ‘off’…that we have our minds looping around work either front of mind or back of mind for much of our waking hours. What is the knock on effect for our sleep patterns? Our adrenalin and cortisol levels which drive inflammation and underpin heart disease, insulin resistance, arthritis, autoimmune disease is one of modern society’s greatest health challenges.
As a coach whose primary focus is on the emotional and physical wellbeing of professionals and business owners, I recognize that work-life integration is very relevant today and here to stay.
In wanting to run our life on our own terms in a calm, guilt free way, we want to maximise our overall sense of gratification whilst keeping stress to a minimum and maintaining bouncing health. So, what are some of the factors that will help us master this? From a health perspective, the most important thing to be aware of is our balance between adrenalin, cortisol, pro-inflammatory cytokine, dopamine and melatonin. These factors all represent the neurochemical interplay between stress, sleep, cancer, insulin resistance, inflammation and immunity – the greatest health challenges today. At the root of all this is really managing our stress and our sleep quality.
Poor sleep quality and its connection with cancer has been confirmed many times over, mainly because melatonin production is disrupted (1) Melatonin is an important sleep hormone and a potent anti-cancer agent. Recent research found that poor or insufficient sleep was the strongest predictor for widespread pain in adults over 50. (3)
Poor sleep can actually impact virtually every aspect of our health, and the reason for this is because our circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) actually “drives” the rhythms of biological activity at the cellular level. Hence disruptions tend to cascade outward throughout our entire body. For example, disruptions in sleep harm our brain by halting new neuron production and contribute to a pre-diabetic state, making us feel hungry even if we’ve already eaten, which can lead to weight gain, contributing to premature aging by interfering with our growth hormone production, normally released by our pituitary gland during deep sleep.
From a coaching perspective, one of the quickest ways to successfully master integrating work and life activities whilst controlling our stress response is this: learning to ‘move in and out of states’, which comes to us from the world of NLP. All states are caused by the interaction between our thinking patterns, our physiology and our neurochemicals. Changing any of these can influence our state.
Consider this: the quality of our performance is affected by the quality of our states.
Our ability to move ‘cleanly’ (being fully present emotionally, cognitively and sensory to the moment at hand) from one task or situation to the next is achieved by:
1. Asking ourselves, irrespective of task or desired outcome: “What state do I want to be in to make this easy?” By asking ourselves this question, every time we move between a work and life activity. It will become our ‘trigger’ to get into a suitable state for the situation at hand.
2. Making a committed choice to be here and now and step into the appropriate state e.g. work: decisive plus problem solving plus focus plus thinking on my feet. For personal life it might be: easy going plus playful plus affectionate.
3. Engage with every one of our senses so that we are very mindful to the activity at hand and can therefore ‘screen out’ any carry over thoughts and feelings from the previous activity. This means we are fully and completely present. This affords us a sense of control while minimising overwhelms thus keeping our adrenalin and cortisol in check.
Gratifying and successful work life integration doesn’t have to mean burnout.
This is where my recent client, Peter, got to through coaching:
“I was prepared for the first time with a solid mental game with the tools to overcome any mental stresses that came up! This confidence has really improved my whole life outlook. I think it improves my professional game – and will be vital in my next steps professionally and personally. For the first time, I have a family, I have a team, I am a boss, and I am okay with that – because I am deserving of it and I allow myself to have that work life success.”
I would love to hear some of the ways that you have integrated your professional and personal life that works for you.