One of the biggest challenges we face is prioritizing our health above all else. We can blame work, we can blame our children’s busy schedule, or some other life circumstance, but in the end each of us has ample time to make significant changes that can heal our minds and bodies. I saw a patient a few months ago who struggled with insulin resistance and an autoimmune condition. She was a busy working mother who struggled to take better care of herself between work and family demands. She decided to quit her job to focus on her health. This worked for a few months, but on our most recent clinic visit she shared with me how hectic her life has become as she tries to juggle her children’s school, extracurricular and social events. Her labs and overall health are spiraling back down to where they were when she was working.
Unfortunately many of us here in Silicon Valley and elsewhere around the world are wired to be constantly busy whether we are working or not. Our default operating system deletes precious time we should be putting aside for ourselves to be active, to meditate, to sleep more, to prepare healthier meals, etc. and fills it in with busy work, much of which is not time-sensitive or urgent, but we’ve convinced ourselves it is.
One of the tragedies is that so many of my patients have a wealth of resources available at their work place, but are still not taking advantage of them. A recent Fortune magazine article featuring the work I do with my medical group (Palo Alto Medical Foundation) highlighted some common health issues involving our fast-paced, high-tech work force. I often remind employees to take advantage of the onsite fitness facility, the yoga class, the healthier options served in the cafeteria, the onsite clinic or screening event which can check their cholesterol, etc. The HR staff at these companies are incredibly dedicated in providing a host of resources to help with physical and emotional health. Instead of blaming work for our health circumstance, I ask you to instead explore the resources at work and in your surrounding community that can improve your health.
For example, after driving to San Francisco once a month for board meetings for my medical group, I decided to take public transportation last week. I didn’t realize there was a Caltrain stop that was just a 15 minute walk from work. Instead of sitting in a car and stressing through San Francisco traffic, I took a wonderful train ride into the city during which I was able to meditate for 20 minutes and clear out some of my work inbox. I had the opportunity to walk 8,000 more steps than if I had driven and I returned that evening energized rather than worn out. Are you missing opportunities like this in your own life? I guarantee they are all around you. Share some of the simple shifts you made at work, at home or in your community that have improved your overall health.