It is the nature of most working professionals to, well, work. And for many of us, that work comes at a pace that far exceeds the time generally allotted in a traditional workday. Unknowingly, we may oftentimes find ourselves investing more effort into our professional lives than we do personally. For many years, I did just that. It was only within the last couple of years that I made a deliberate attempt to maintain a better work-life balance.
The unfortunate thing is, while I yearned for more fulfilling personal time, I had grown accustomed to working in an incessantly busy manner, and it was difficult to abandon that habit. However, slowly but surely I have improved. I do little things that force me to relax, like making a deliberate effort to pick my nephew up from school or planning TV and date nights with my fiancé. Thankfully, I’ve been on the right path, but I really should have begun adopting such a regime years ago, because I have lost valuable personal time that I can never get back.
As I’ve matured in both age and perspective, I’ve learned that we invest so much time in the “now” that we fail to do the things that ensure a healthy future. And while physical health is immensely important to living a quality existence, it’s not the only thing that ensures good health. Stress plays a significant role in our lives, and it can directly result in adverse health effects including high blood pressure, stroke and even death. We — especially those of us with demanding careers — must strive to eliminate stress. Data suggests a couple of the simplest, most cost-effective ways to eliminate stress, thus lead healthier lives, is to be less self-absorbed and more socially engaged.
In 1983, psychologist Larry Scherwitz, then a psychologist at Baylor University, published a study that included taped conversations of nearly 600 men, a third of them with heart disease. During the conversations, Scherwitz counted how often the men used first-person pronouns — I, me, mine. Scherwitz discovered the men who used first-person pronouns the most were more likely to have heart disease.
Upon follow-up several years later, those men suffered heart attacks at higher rates than their less self-absorbed counterparts. Scherwitz advised: “Listen with regard when others talk. Give your time and energy to others; let others have their way; do things for reasons other than furthering your own needs.” Can you imagine how less stressful our professional and personal lives would be if we merely listened more attentively to others? It sounds simple enough.
For years, experts have also correlated social engagement with living longer lives. One study with more than 7,000 male and female participants found that people who were not socially engaged or connected to one another were three times “more likely to die over the course of nine years than those who had strong social ties.” The type of social engagement was less important than the act of engaging. This issue of Indiana Minority Business Magazine is focused on health and beauty. I implore you to venture outside the box by making a concerted effort to focus on your social and emotional health. Also, understand that beauty is more than the physical sense. The manner in which we treat one another makes us beautiful on the inside and out.
Be blessed — and healthy.