I woke up in the middle of the night on the cold bathroom floor wondering how I got there. And what was that loud noise I heard?
I am founder and CTO of two software companies and love the work I do. The idea of solving complex business challenges through software completely fascinates me. The very thought that the software I built helped a business grow its revenue or increase its productivity, that somehow I had taken a part in creating new jobs or making someone's life easier, that is what drives me.
But growing businesses do come with their own challenges. Between managing product releases, juggling multiple client projects, working with teams across two continents and being mom to a school going girl, life gets busy. And as it always happens in such cases, sleep takes the hit. As the businesses grew, so did my work load, and my sleep hours kept going down. I did not complain, thinking it was necessary, even normal.
I sometimes read blogs and articles on the dangers of overwork and exhaustion, and appreciated them at some level, but did not really think that they apply to me. It doesn't count as real work as long as you enjoy doing it, right? Burnout and exhaustion were for others, for those who do not like what they do. I love my work so I cannot be exhausted, right? Turns out I was very wrong.
One day I watched a video on The Huffington Post about Arianna Huffington and how she crashed on the floor from exhaustion, but I chose to ignore it. Maybe the universe was trying to warn me in the form of that video, but did I listen? Nope, I was too busy building software.
So, I woke up that night on the cold bathroom floor, having passed out from exhaustion. The loud noise I heard was my head crashing on the floor and I could feel the painful bump forming. I did not know how long I lay there unconscious and was clueless on what could have happened to me. But later, as I lay on bed mentally creating a checklist of all the illnesses I thought I had, that video on Arianna Huffington fainting suddenly popped up in my mind and in that eureka moment I realized that I had the "Arianna Huffington experience." I visited the doctor to rule out any health issues, but in my heart I knew that my lifestyle needed a drastic change.
Since then I have made some changes. I make it a point to sleep at least five hours every night (which doesn't sound like much, but is a huge improvement over what I used to get). I try to include some exercise and meditation into my daily routine. And I have noticed that small changes do make a big difference in your overall well-being. That is the good news. I discovered that you don't have to make earth-shattering changes to see the benefits; even small steps matter a lot.
So, thanks to leaders like Arianna Huffington who are lending their own life experience to sound the alarm bell for overworked, exhausted, love-my-work, head-buried-in-sand people like us. But an alarm bell is only as good as our response to it. It cannot do any good if we choose to ignore it. So, please listen. It just might save your life. Or at least transform it. It certainly transformed mine.