Thursday, May 29, 2008

Feel Better - Lifeguard On Duty?

If think self care and worklife balance is for wussies, we just met with the American Diabetes Association and learned some good reasons for you to take strong action in support of your well being:

  • Every 21 seconds someone is diagnosed with diabetes in the US.

  • Diabetes represents 11% of US healthcare expenditures, or $174 Billion dollars

  • And if you're charged with fiscal fitness in your organization, it's important to know that the average employee costs for employees with diabetes are 2.4 times higher than employees without diabetes.

  • By the end of this decade, 1 in 3 employees will have diabetes. If employees are minorities, that number goes up to 1 in 2.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common in the US and is a state that emerges when the systems in your body go out of whack. Basically the sugar in your body stops responding to insulin, the chemical that normally breaks it down. It's that simple. When you eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can cause many problems:

  • Right away, your cells may be starved for energy which can make you feel depleted and very burnt out. Diabetes-associated depression is not unusual.

  • Over time, high blood glucose levels may hurt your eyes (blindness), kidneys, nerves (damage to the central nervous system) or heart.

  • Circulatory issues can impact your sensitivity, reflexes, and strength felt through your limbs. So yes, this is scary - AMPUTATIONS.

Avoiding diabetes means being a good lifeguard, and no one can do this for you. This may require abandoning habits you have held for decades or a lifetime, and adopting new ones. Staying healthy means getting solid guidelines from qualified professionals on adopting sustainable eating, exercise and sleep habits. Asking friends or family will likely not do the trick because often our community holds the very same habits that we do.

If you do get help, just a warning: you're going to hear about are predictable - regular exercise, regular sleep, cut back on alcohol, improve your diet (no more fast food/carry out), etc. But the difference is this - these things aren't just a good IDEA or new age cool. No, forget the Hallmark warm and fuzzy. These actions just may save you a limb, keep you from needing psychoactive drug treatment, and countless other life "inconveniences".

To learn more, pop into the ADA website and check out the risk test and FAQ. As one of the fastest growing diseases and one liked so strongly to behavioral patterns and lifestyle, it's worth knowing if the patterns described sound like you or people you love.

GET THE SCOOP IN PERSON! If you're in the New York area - come to the ADA's summer work/life wellness event. Held in the city on July 16th, Balance Integration will be there on the panel to discuss ways people and companies can adopt sustainable success practices to keep employee and organization functioning! Call or write Dorothy Harper, 212 -725-4925, ext 3414 or Charnee Skeete ,, ext. 3416 for more information.

Think Better - Apocalyptically Happy Now

In a recent study reported by the New York Times, current MBA students ranked their priorities for work. Surprise: compensation was not #1. Unlike post-boomer predecessors, millenials apparently have a different set of appetites. To the new best and brightest, the most important element of work is "challenging responsibilities" at 64%, followed by a closely tied compensation 48% and worklife balance 45%.

What's happened? Since boomers joined the ranks of the working public a lot has changed about how the up and coming establishment see and experience the world, and it's taking some adjustment to make the two worlds meet rather than collide. Heck, Balance Integration even wrote an article on exactly that for and upcoming issue of CIO magazine, offering coaching-based dialogue models for engagement and contribution.

But among the BalanceBreak community we can come clean with a bigger question: who is to say what ranks as a challenge and what doesn't? Think about it: isn't it a huge challenge to deal with beauraucracy or politics? Isn't it a huge responsibility to find meaning in what can be called the "routine" or "tedium" of everyday life? Isn't it a challenging responsibility to turn your life into a meaning filled experience no matter what's going on or not going on?

Michigan homeboy Francis Ford Coppola (pictured above) says - forget perfection, any job becomes a job you hate. As he explored in Apocalypse Now, the dark moments we experience in life originate within us and are an experience and journey we ALL share. So the bigger question is how do we break it to the happy-seeking folks among us (including the happy-seeker within us) that REAL happy only happens within? That happy is a practice? That as the Bhagavad Gita says, you've got the right to the work, but not to the fruit of the work. Translated - you gotta get in there and participate in every part of life with your whole heart no matter the parameters and conditions, and no matter the outcome. It is the darkness within us that stands between us and "happy".

Wishing for challenge? Get ready to struggle deeply, because Challenging Responsibilities feel exactly like that - a struggle that casts us into uncertainty, that force us to question ourselves and our choices, that de-stabilize our sense of who we are. That we face them with dignity and full presence is both the challenge and our responsibility. The sooner we move into this form of thinking, the sooner we get away from transactional spirituality and into a sense of centeredness no matter how made to order our lives feel. When Martin Luther King admonished us to "sweep streets as Michelangelo painted", he was pointing to a path of freedom and happiness that have nothing to do with title, comp or worklife issues or whether you ever "attract" a BMW.

This isn't a very PC message, but when it comes to thinking better about any aspect of life, the sooner you get into agreement that whatever is unfolding IS your challenging responsibility, the sooner you get happy. The Challenging Responsibilities that life gives us don't come with an "accept" or "reject" option. They don't come because we put them onto our wish list or ordered them from Amazon. And they rarely come in the form we fantasized about. Our lives are rarely the movie we might have imagined, but life always holds the potential for epic proportions.

The point is: how willing are you to play the part fully no matter where the story takes you?

Lead Better - Joy to You & Me

Gandhi advised that until you find God in the person in front of you, you must travel no further. Happening upon the guy pictured above and his fish on a long drive in the Smoky Mountains, I was reminded that we also have to look within.

If the G-word is troublesome to you, fill in with another huge, blank, encompassing concept. One like kindness, beauty, compassion, wisdom - a word is beyond analysis. Because when you think of fishermen and their fishes, it doesn't take images of the christian Christ, Allah or Yahweh to find a lesson that resonates. And if you are willing to give Gandhi the benefit of the doubt, God is always worth finding.

In this case, we found it when driving down a twisty mountain road just on the boarder between North Carolina and Tennessee and stopped to observe a fight for dear life. In this fight the fisherman above had hooked his catch, and she was fighting for hers. Her fight was one of those epic struggles. I-got-her, I-lost-her, I-got-her, I-lost-her ran the comments from the fisherman. No romance, after more than a half-hour of drama the fisherman successfully pulled her from the water and we caught this picture. Happy to see his joy, the part of me that likes to think meat comes from packages lamented his success and was quickly cheered when he put her back in the water to go FREE.

Within seconds the oddest thing happened: the fisherman became very concerned with FINDING the fish again. This made no sense at all. Why would someone fight so tenaciously to catch a fish, immediately let it go, then be distressed that it is gone?

If you fish or hang out with people who do, you already know this: animals who are stalked for a prolonged period will die from the fight. Fish, the mice my cat chases (and yes, catches), even humans having heart attacks on sunday nights before going to work on Monday morning - we often more threatened by our response to fear than we are from the actual source of danger.

As he looked for his fish, I was told if he did not care for her now, she would give up. The lactic acid in her body (effect of adrenaline) would literally shut down her systems and she would die. Thrashing through the water he found her belly up in the reeds, and turned her right side up, rubbing his hands over her gills repeatedly for several minutes literally calming her down.

This striking lesson from nature is one we need to learn: fear-triggered adrenaline taxes our many systems. Prolonged states of perceived threat generates to cortisol, a common factor in many stress-related diseases. Sure, there's no hook in your mouth, but how frequently are you hooked on worries about issues at work, concerns about achievement, social standing, financial status or familial approval?

In this case the fish was lucky enough to have an expert there to set her straight (literally), and calm her back into a survivable state. But most of us don't have a kindly fisherman or other big daddy/mommy to point out the warning signs for us. From behavioral red flags such as insomnia, irritability or irrationality, sexual torpor or eating disorders, burnout to physical dysfunctions that may be digestive, circulatory or immune, there's a lot going on to remind us to be our own wise fisherman. Take a time out, take a breath, realign with life and remember that unlike the little fishy, most of our suffering is caused by fears about social survival. In such moments you just might find God (wisdom, beauty or whatever word you prefer) within.

The fish lived, after all. And if we're smart and conscious, for a time so will we.