"When did the chest pains begin?" the ER doctor questioned.
"Just a couple of hours ago. I feel like I can't breathe and I haven't done anything. I'm light-headed. I was just sitting in the car," I said. My responses triggered a flurry of activity and medical equipment began to record information from all the wires now attached to me.
After studying the tests, the doctor said, "You did the right thing. If you ever have these kinds of symptoms again, you should not hesitate to come to the emergency room. But today, this is not a heart attack, you're experiencing an anxiety attack with acid reflux. It feels just like a heart attack. Anxiety attacks are typically physical reactions to emotional or mental stress. It tends to start small and build up to what you just had -- a full blown episode. I have some bad news and some good news."
"What's the bad news?" I asked cringing.
"This is self-inflicted," he said.
"And the good news?" I asked hoping for some magical fix.
He winked, "This is self-inflicted."
That was the day I learned the five rules for protecting my health:
1) Take care of you first
Working out, eating right and sleeping must come first. It's too easy to put everyone's needs above your own. Create a hard fast rule, "Nothing before nine a.m." Regardless of the time you get up, pick a start time for the day. Everyone needs time to: wake up, stretch, plan the day's food, meditate, drink coffee, and spend time with the people in your house.
2) Plan the day
Ever hear the saying, "Plan your work and work your plan?" If you don't have a plan, the day can slip away from you. Keep a legal pad with you and write down anything that comes to mind that must be completed. You'll feel a sense of pride when you check off an item. If you don't know where to start your work day, start with a small job on the list. Keep a hard line quitting time. The list will be there tomorrow.
3) Set limits
Vital for success is learning to say "No." A well-meaning yes, can derail your time and energy. I'm not suggesting that we never say yes to others, but I am suggesting planning for them. Try keeping one day a week as a "give back" day. On my "give back" day, I do non-income earning work like: run errands for shut-ins, take someone out for lunch or baking cookies for the local fire-fighters. It's planned.
4) Work when it's work time, play when it's play time
Plan to play once a week. Jobs, in general, require creativity and high energy, by Friday there's nothing creative left. You might have to work from nine to noon completing business and marketing items, but then get out of the office and play. Set golf dates, kayaking or junk store shopping -- but play. You'll be much more productive being committed to down-time. Playing prevents burn out.
5) Live in the moment
When you're with your family, be with your family; your phone can wait. In this digital world that allows us to work from anywhere, it also can intrude anywhere. It takes time to train customers that you have work hours, and outside of those times be present in your life. Likewise, it takes time to teach friends and family that during work hours, you're working. If you treat your job as a business, then others will too.
Truth is; I love working for myself. I can set my schedule, and work on projects I'm passionate about. I don't have a boss looking over my shoulder and my commute is just down the hall. I work in sweats, with two dogs under my feet. But I keep the rules to protect myself, my family and the business. If I go, everything else goes with me.
The good news is creating your rules for balancing life and work, will afford you the rewards of better health, less stress and keep you out of the emergency room! Don't wait to hear it from an emergency room doctor, start today.
The bad news? Life happens. The good news? You can control most of it.