“We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.” - Michelle Obama
There I was, sitting in my cubicle with a fan blowing on my face. I was sweating. My breathing was labored. I bent down and put my sweaty forehead on my desk, trying to slow my heartrate. Nothing seemed to work. Soon, I would escape to my car and continue to experience my panic attack out of view of my coworkers.
At this time, I weighed the most I had ever weighed in my entire life. I wasn’t exercising, eating right, or maintaining my health in any way. I was letting life happen to me, and it was taking its toll. I was also extremely stressed out by work which added to my poor meals, long hours, and little movement.
It was a vicious cycle of failing to take care of myself; I would become even more sluggish which would lead me to get further behind and become more stressed. I wasn’t alone. This is what is happening to the office culture today. We continue to have more and more work to do, but we fail to maintain personal health.
Take any popular TV show about office culture, and you will find a lot of stressed-out people who aren’t taking care of themselves. Ultimately, someone has a mental or physical health crisis. Our office cultures don’t always promote the importance of taking care of ourselves in order to get our work done.
It should be fairly obvious: Our physical health impacts our productivity. Once we acknowledge this simple truth, we can begin to change not only our work life but the rest of our life as well.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy
I writer this because of my own experience of being unhealthy and stressed out. I used to think I could power through the stress and unhealthy habits, and once I got caught up, I could focus on my health.
I eventually realized that those who are making healthy decisions and being productive never have to “power through.” Being healthy is the starting point for productivity; it’s not the result. We need to understand what our poor health is doing to us and our success.
Our Poor Health Habits and Productivity
Let’s start with the basics. We need to understand what it means to be unhealthy. When I think about unhealthy living and our productivity, I am talking about stress, exhaustion, and physical aches brought on by poor eating, being overweight, and lack of exercise.
These poor health habits and situations affect every aspect of our lives, including how we approach, experience, and complete our work. When we are in the depths of unhealthy living, our productivity drops so dramatically that we almost don’t even want to do any better.
We become so overwhelmed that we experience physical manifestations of stress, and we try to cope with it haphazardly, finding contentment in unhealthy foods and a sedentary lifestyle. We just want to be comfortable because we feel so uncomfortable.
This unhealthy eating, lack of movement, and high level of stress causes mental fog, lack of direction, physical exhaustion, and even varying levels of depression.
Healthy Living Increase Productivity Which Increase Healthy Living
Eating right, exercising, and learning to relieve stress effectively helps us experience work differently. We begin to have more energy even though we are actually moving more. We experience mental clarity and an overall sense of direction.
When we take care of our bodies, our bodies respond positively, and we are able to do things we didn't believe we could do before. Sure, there are aches and pains along the way from using muscles you might not have known existed, but you will begin to feel so much better.
A healthy lifestyle also changes how we experience and cope with stress. While a chicken salad may not comfort you in the same way as a super-sized double cheeseburger, it will help your body feel better so you don’t add physical discomfort to the stress you experience.
Stress begins to fade away when we exercise and eat right. It feels better to feel better. Our exhaustion dissipates and our energy builds. The foggy mental focus begins to shift into mental clarity. And our lack of direction turns into a clear course along a specific route.
We can be more productive when we are healthy. And when we are more productive, we can create more margin to become more healthy. With that simple truth, we have the power to change everything.