‘One of the major issues plaguing human potential in the corporate world today is work-life balance. The term itself diminishes our ability to make the case that work can be a richly rewarding part of a person’s life and should in many ways be personal.’
In the jungle there’s a chaos of sounds from the inhabitant animals at any point in time….there’s a lion’s mighty roar, the wolves’ howl and growl, the buzzing and chirping sounds from insects and birds, some trumpeting from elephants and contributions from many others.
In a similar way the human mind can serve up a cocktail of competing ideas, thoughts and sensations at the same time and one needs to learn to compartmentalise and train it to be calm.
For the workaholics and extreme overachievers, there’s a tendency to do too much in so little time. It may give you a sense of fulfilment – that you did it despite having to do it alone or by sacrificing sleep and rest. The danger however is when you crash and there lies my story.
I fully ascribe to the famous mantra “Nothing is impossible.” I also believe if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing in the best possible way. That belief has always helped me but I fall short of one thing. As one person, I can only do so much at a go.
Don’t get me wrong here, I delegate very well with details on how exactly I want things done – it can get pretty annoying but I add my signature ‘niceness’ to dilute the pressure…at least I hope it does 😂 .
In the absence of any support, I struggle to decide what aspect of the work I can complete and the timeline I can set. It’s very difficult for me to prioritise and not push to complete it all at the same time.
You see, I don’t want to stand out as the one with the excuse of being without support and thereby needing more time to complete tasks. So it means long days and nights, no breaks (except the occasional glance through social media to laugh a little) and mind planning even when I sleep (unhealthy sleep pattern, gosh!)
This has been my work pattern for years now and although it’s earned me a positive reputation, it’s given my family and doctor way too much stress.
Notice how I forgot to acknowledge what damage I’ve done to the real victim here, my poor brain. I don’t quite know when I started having migraines, but recent episodes of these have been quite excruciating. I would ease up a little, take the strongest pain meds and go right back to my duties. A few times, my amazing doctor pushed for CT scans and some tests but we found nothing.
It’s Sunday, 9am and I’m in pain. As usual, the body is used to it and feeling very proud that I was able to complete a very daunting task a few hours before. I laid down hoping the pain would reduce. In good time, I slept a bit but woke up to even more excruciating pain.
It was time to go back to the kind Dr. Haizel who understands my fear of hospitals. She, armed with her own brand of diplomacy, insisted I go for another CT scan (a claustrophobic’s nightmare) plus a few other tests. I wanted painkillers that I could ingest and be on my way but Doc was not having it. She insisted on an injection, reduced the dose and added some pills. She detained me briefly because of the side effects of the pain meds injected. Truth be told, the meds knocked me off my feet, hard girl that I am 😂!
Back home it was business as usual even though I had been literally commanded to stay off work for 3 days. I followed up on issues, reviewed documents and initiated activities. With hindsight, I should have taken it easy but then my coconut head won’t allow it. Doc. Haizel informed me that the CT Scan had finally picked up the possible reasons for the headaches and migraines. Glory! I can finally get some relief, or at least that’s what I immediately started looking forward to.
Flash forward to Wednesday night, I started feeling sick again after a good day of achieving so much and planning well for my resumption to work. Curly wig revamped, dress ironed (actually one that needed no ironing selected😂), bag packed and everything ready for work the next day.
Last person I spoke to was my sister who warned me to take better care of myself. I told her I was not feeling too good but it was at a level that I had gotten used to. A few minutes later, here I was on the bed shaking & shivering like never before with throbbing headaches like a load of blocks had been placed on my head and feeling so weak, I could barely walk three steps. I found myself rushed back to the hospital at dawn and this time, I slept there. As much I detested having to sleep over in a hospital, I hated the pain and discomfort I was in more.
The entire hospital experience was not bad (we can talk about this hospital with excellent services and staff later). Miss-I-Know myself was certain that I had COVID but the doctor’s diagnosis ruled that out based on the lab tests.
Thursday morning – I was discharged with drugs to take and another caution to take it easy. I was just so relieved that the level of pain had gone down drastically. I was still weak, but my body is sort of used to a certain degree of pain at this point so I joined a presentation scheduled and gave my thoughts before finally requesting permission to exit.
It was not until later in the day that the events of the previous day and the fear I had came back to mind that I asked my doctor what she thought was happening to me. Her 3 words were, ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’. As usual I looked it up on Google.
‘A disease characterised by profound fatigue, sleep abnormalities, pain and other symptoms that are made worse by exertion.’
Now this is what has brought me here. As professionals, we are constantly aiming to give off our best and go beyond the ordinary to achieve the perceived impossible. While all of that is important, we need to take care of ourselves. We cannot wait to get to the point I got to, crash and have to face this ordeal.
Others are equally doing great things without breaking down their bodies. At the end of the day, so much may be lost. In my case I may have to forfeit a very important presentation as we speak. Writing is therapeutic for me and in my quest to avoid too much social media and office work, I decided to share my story.
Are you taking on too much?
Are you not resting enough – don’t lie to yourself that working from home is some form of rest…
Do you put off the hospital visits because it goes away eventually?
Do you hate to be away from work?
Do you put work ahead of weekend leisure activities?
Well then, take better care of yourself. The key word I guess is balance. Jessica Simpson (look for the song) sings that:
'Simple and true, what they say A little bit goes a long way A little less talk, a little more do A little more me, a little less you Baby at the end of the day A little bit goes a long way'
It’s been over 30 minutes of writing and my mind is getting tired so I’ll stop here but feel free to reach out and I can tell you what I plan to do to make things better.
You owe it to yourself to work better, live better and take better care of you!
CX Head, UBA Ghana
Nat. Organiser. CXP Ghana