Wellness in the Workplace: A Cautionary Tale

wellness in the workplaace

It was the summer of 2014, and I was haggard.

Haggard may even be an understatement.

I had developed a pretty severe case of sciatica in the spring, to the point where I couldn’t sit and could barely walk. Being vertical or horizontal – nothing in between – was the only way I could function without writhing in pain.

I began working through physical therapy, and in addition to the therapy, the recommendation was to not sit so much. Of course. The sitting combined with stress was what caused the issues in the first place. But as we who work in the digital sphere know, sitting is an occupational hazard. Despite the standing desk phenomenon, I hadn’t found a great way to implement the trend that allowed me to still be productive, so I was still sitting for most of the day and standing during calls.

And as a historic “yes” person, I was taking on new projects, new clients, new ideas. I was up most nights thinking and worrying about all the things I needed to do.

Combine my overachieving work ethic with my full heart that beats for social adventure, and I was losing more sleep and energy by the second. I thought maybe I could balance the energy depletion with regular exercise. And I thought the workouts would also help combat the too-much-sitting.

I was concerned because if I can’t be 100% from a wellness perspective, I couldn’t give my clients and my team the high level of work they deserved. So, I decided to take a page out of Gini Dietrich’s book and buy Jawbone UP bands for myself and my team. I was curious to see exactly how much I really was sleeping and sitting, and the UP band tracks exactly those things. I thought that if I had a point of reference instead of a general, “I think I sit too much and sleep too little,” I could do something effective to fix it.

A Jawbone Craze

We ordered the UP bands at the end of August, and when they finally arrived at the beginning of September, I happened to be diagnosed with the shingles. It was just another side effect of my high stress levels getting the best of me. It seemed fitting that the UP band arrived as I was recovering, and I was anxious to get myself healthy.

I was excited to see how my teammates were doing with their goals, and loved comparing stories about walking around during conference calls and taking afternoon exercise breaks. It was less of a competition for us, and more of a team building activity where we encouraged and cheered each other on along the way.

When I was 100% recovered, I started paying more serious attention to my behaviors. I set the UP band to vibrate if I had been sitting for more than 1 hour. I set a 10,000 step moving goal each day and an 8 hour sleep goal each night. I noticed myself putting my purse on the other side of my body so I could make sure my UP wrist was free to move (had to get those steps!). I also found myself getting frustrated when the band would die midday because I wasn’t paying attention to the battery life. “I CAN’T GET THOSE STEPS BACK!” I would think to myself.

I would obsess over the sleep charts, wondering why I was always showing so much “light” sleep instead of “sound” sleep and trying to figure out why, even after 8-9 hours of sleep, I still felt groggy and tired.

It became a craze, a mania, and I began to realize that obsessing over my UP band numbers was contributing to my stress. And my body had already proven to me what stress can do to it.

I didn’t want to go through that again.

Breaking the Addiction

As some of you may know, I recently returned from a vacation (yes, a real live vacation!) in Madrid with my boyfriend. We decided that I would take this time away from work, which was different from other trips we’ve taken together – normally I bring my work wherever we go and we spend time together in the evenings on his vacations.

I had forgotten to charge my UP band earlier on the day of our departure, and as we were leaving for the airport, I spontaneously threw it off my wrist and on to the counter.

“i’m not bringing it!” I announced.

My boyfriend threw his on the table as well. Maybe in solidarity. Maybe because he never even liked the thing in the first place.

As we were walking through the airport to our gate, I felt freedom. It was ridiculous. I didn’t realize that I had been swinging my right arm more than what was natural to make sure I got my steps. I didn’t realize how much I worried whether or not it was still on my wrist. But by leaving the UP band at home, none of that mattered. My steps would be left uncounted! What a novel idea!

Moving UP

The truth is that using the band for six months did help me understand my habits and learn what 10,000 steps really looks like. I’m more conscious of how much I move, and I’ve been developing a better nighttime routine to help me get more sound sleep.

But not having another thing to charge or plug in or communicate with was a huge relief.

I still haven’t charged my band or put it back on my wrist since we returned last week, and I don’t plan on using it for a while. I’ve noticed several other members of my team haven’t used theirs in a while either. And I want to say that it’s okay. That not shackling some kind of manic obsessive fitness tracker to your body for 24 hours a day doesn’t make you less healthy or less awesome.

And that sometimes it’s about being conscious in your own mind of what your body needs, without the help of technology.

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Jess Tyson, CEO & Director of Calm

Jess is the founder and proud Director of Calm at Don’t Panic Management. (And yes, she invented that title because that’s what you do when you’re the boss!) She wrote the book on how building a successful relationship with a virtual assistant can make all the difference in helping business owners get to the next level. Her life is often a whirlwind of wrangling her toddler, speaking at conferences (virtual and beyond!), researching productivity hacks, and meticulously making matches between overworked entrepreneurs and focused virtual assistants. Jess's first book, Panic Proof: How the Right Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Sanity and Grow Your Business is available now: panicproofbook.com

  • Current location: Redding, CT
  • Go-to Karaoke song: “Hand in My Pocket” by Alanis Morissette
  • Favorite kind of cheese: Aged Goat Gouda
  • Beverage of choice: Champagne
  • Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
  • Superpower: Delivering miracles, especially when all hope is lost.

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