Get Well

What Working Hard and Playing Hard Means in Today’s Digital and Wellness Focused World

by Maggie Suszka

August was National Wellness Month and I kicked it off by contracting walking pneumonia. How ironic.

Let me back track: I’m going through a breakup. Which in turn meant filling my social calendar up beyond its max capacity – finally introducing myself to the cute guys downstairs, making plans for every night of the week, and not leaving myself a moment to breathe. 

The doctors asked me if I had been traveling, spent any time in hospitals or in a nursing home recently. In my head, I thought “No, the culprit of this is the last sleep-ridden, tequila-driven 8 weeks of my being.” 

For eight weeks this is how my schedule broke down: Monday night was spent in Run Club, followed by The Bachelorette with the cute boys from downstairs (weed and wine included). Tuesdays were happy hour, spent at Taco Tuesdays and filled with spicy margaritas. Next, you guessed it, Wine Wednesdays. Thursday nights were spent at Night Market at
The Bungalow, and ended with late night scary movies, McChickens, and McNuggets with the boys. Fridays and Saturdays were a whirlwind of events and learning to surf. Then, repeat.

In that time span, I also spent three back to back weekends out of town in Chicago, San Diego, and Wisconsin. Suddenly, I couldn’t walk across a room without feeling short of breath.

I couldn’t go to work without feeling anxious or behind. I could no longer keep up, physically or mentally. I literally did not leave myself a moment to breathe. (Hello lungs! I’m so sorry!) 

I thought I was treating myself with love; living in a swarm of workout classes, squeezing in face masks and diving into self-love books on the plane rides between cities. I was content with a packed schedule. In a two-punch combo, I felt emotionally and mentally soothed. But I wasn’t paying much attention to that one pretty vital – physical part – of myself while I burnt the candle at both ends. 

While I felt I had finally acquired the elusive “work hard, play hard” mentality so many strive after, I didn’t check in with myself, my financial spending (thank you to the boys downstairs for more often than not picking up our drinks & drunk eats tabs), my drinking habits, and, most importantly, my health. 

So, I took two weeks to figure some shit out. These are the keys to embodying working hard and playing hard with your wellness in check.

Pay Attention to What and How Much You Are Drinking 

The same cute boys downstairs were the ones to introduce me to “black and blues”, after pregaming with white claws and having one too many tequila shots at the bar. As many (if not all) of us know, mixing alcohol gets risky. And it was recently uncovered that drinking any alcohol puts a damper on our mental health (specifically speaking for women). By choosing to give up alcohol, women are likely to see a positive boost in their mental health. The study found that women who never drank alcohol reported the highest levels of mental well-being, and that women who started out as moderate drinkers and quit during the 4-year study period had the greatest improvements in mental health. 

Listen To Your Body and Give It What It Needs 

This is a lot easier said than done. But when it comes to sleep, it is critical. There will be mornings when you want to peel yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn to squeeze in an early workout, and that’s awesome. But there will come mornings where that extra hour or two of sleep is a healthier option than that barre or spin class. You might be hard on yourself and say that hour was wasted and will affect your overall productivity- but it could also be what ends up saving you in the long run. If you need more convincing, check out circadian neuroscientist Russell Foster’s Ted Talk on Why We Sleep.

Mix Up Your Workouts 

Keep yourself on your toes, literally! Try that new barre class, swap your usual 30 minute elliptical session for a crossfit class, or go out to the ocean and catch a few waves. Switching up your workouts and the way you move your body can do a number of things for you. It can beat workout boredom, build new muscles and even help you break through a weight loss plateau.

The Importance of Buying Your Time 

Individuals constantly feel pressed for time. I felt this head-on trying to squeeze in early morning workouts, the work day, meetings for my nonprofit, writing for myself, dinner with friends and going out at night (even writing out that sentence exhausted me) in one day. People are scrambling for more time, all the time. And it’s directly linked to our overall wellbeing.

In a study about how buying time promotes happiness, evidence shows that using (a little) money to buy time can promote future happiness. Treat yourself (within your means) to something that buys you time once or twice a week. Depending on your lifestyle, it could be grocery shopping online, getting dinner delivered instead of cooking, or someone to clean your apartment. 

Even More Importantly: Protect Your Motherf*king Time 

This one isn’t backed by a study. It’s a way of life that I have only recently learned the importance. Protect your time. Protect what you’re doing with it. Staying up until 4AM with the boy that broke your heart to listen to him tell you he misses you? That’s not protecting your time, that’s wasting it. Get your Zzzz’s instead.

This isn’t just about your personal life, it’s about your work life – all parts of your life. Prioritize and give grades to the good, the bad, the ugly and stick to the A’s and B’s. You deserve to be doing the things and spending time with the people that inspire, motivate and bring you happiness. Not everything is sunshine and rainbows, but protecting your time can help get you there. 

Practice Prudence with your Phone At Work (And In General)

I can’t say turn your phone off all day, this is unrealistic. Today’s day in age, most careers require you to be on call at all times – to be a text or phone call away for anything regarding work.

Although I’m still a work in progress, but the days I’ve gone phone-free in the office have been filled with much needed productivity, focus, and a collected mental state.

It’s difficult when everyone else in the room is scrolling between meetings, taking snaps or texting under the table. Rise above them! Allow yourself to be disconnected when you don’t need to be. Work to be fully present in meetings, and preparing prior. It is also a boost when you check it after four hours and you have 97 messages in your group text. Overwhelming, but still fun! Challenge yourself to do this when you’re outside of work as well, turning it off to enjoy every moment of cooking dinner while you’re home or the company you’re with on the weekend. 

Try something new (Or pick up something Old)

Pick up the thing – or hobby – from your childhood that brings you joy. Maybe it’s tennis, knitting, volunteering, fashion or guitar. Falling back into something you once loved will feel natural and be a source of life and light for you. For me, it was tennis. So even better, I had endorphins running to the max while I played doubles with new friends in my neighborhood.

I also picked up something new: surfing. It is intoxicating. To feel completely out of control and in control in the lapse of thirty seconds. To feel on top of the world – and for me, get over a fear (the water!). Being a student again and learning something new, was (is) empowering. It lifts your spirits – and knowledge is power. 

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Protect your time. Protect your health. Surround yourself with those who lift you up and make you feel good.  You can even do it digitally: mute accounts that don’t make you feel like your best self, turn off your phone and spend time with yourself without distractions.

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