America is often viewed as an individualistic culture, with the majority of people looking out for No. 1 in order to reach that bigger, better thing in life. However, this drive to succeed can actually prevent many people from taking care of their physical, mental and emotional state. It turns the passionate into people-pleasers, who deny themselves time to unwind; and that leaves them unable to enjoy the quality of life they have worked hard to attain.
Dr. Courtney Linsenmeyer-O’Brien, Ph.D, is a mental health therapist, who knows this type well.
“There are those who typically set no boundaries with their own life and allow others to set their schedule based upon their needs, emotions and moods,” Linsenmeyer-O’Brien says. “These are the enablers who take a backseat to everyone else and may cope with their own and other’s stress in negative ways, such as [through] sex, eating, smoking, gaming, etc.”
Balance between time for the self, family and others is an essential exercise in prioritizing. The consequences of giving too much to one area can be damaging.
“If we don’t have balance, we feel overwhelmed, angry, taken for granted and even may have difficulty keeping relationships due to mood swings or compulsive schedules,” she says.
The quality of downtime is also important. For instance, spending hours on social media or watching television may not be as beneficial to some people as time spent doing yoga or meditation. Once a person decides what works best for them, Linsenmeyer-O’Brien suggests they create a plan and put it into action.
“Engaging in alone time can help a person relax, focus on priorities, better manage thoughts and behaviors and learn to better appreciate who they are by looking inward as opposed to [looking to] others for validation,” she says. “Having ‘me time’ and being alone at times promotes a healthy sense of self awareness, independence and knowledge of personal growth.”
Near or far, travel can have a transformative effect. Lisa Kollath, a travel advisor at Warren Place Travel in Tulsa, can personally attest to the claim.
“Travel changed me in many ways, and it opened my eyes to the world around me,” she says. “I think it has helped me through some adversities in my life, and I just feel it’s an integral part of everybody’s life. I’m very passionate about it.”
Considering that Gallup polls conducted in 2013 and 2014 found at least half of American adults employed fulltime work longer than the 40-hour-week (four in ten reported working at least 50 hours a week), using the paid time off afforded by most employers is more necessary than ever.
And while many people plan their vacations around relaxation, there’s much more to reap from excursions near and abroad, Kollath says.
“There’s so much more to travel than just relaxing. It’s bonding with family, friends and loved ones; it’s learning about different cultures, it’s about experiencing the food and different festivals,” she says. “A lot of travel is about healing. It gets you away from everyday life…It opens your eyes and lets you get some perspective in the world.”
Experience also broadens understanding and creativity, both of which can be applied to everyday life. Just as useful are the lessons learned from encounters with new situations, languages, customs and people.
“A lot of the time,” she adds, “it can take you out of the comfort zones you’re in, and it helps you handle little adversities that come into your life.”
In Good Health
Everyone is busy these days, and often that means they are too busy to exercise, eat right and find time to center. Sooner than expected, many people find themselves halfway through life with health problems that could have been prevented years earlier.
“Basically, if you start off eating, sleeping, meditating, exercising and taking care of yourself, you’re going to live longer,” says Dr. Diana Kennedy, a primary care physician, endocrinologist and MDVIP affiliate in Oklahoma City. “I can’t tell you the number of people – as they hit menopause and after – that regret the fact that they didn’t do better in their thirties, forties, fifties because they have a lot of pain and weight putting a lot of pressure on joints.”
Kennedy says people can make a promising start to good health by getting a pedometer, which will shed light on how little they actually move throughout the day. It’s a small investment in time and money that will pay off big later in better health and quality of life.
“We sometimes forget that we need to stay physically active,” she says. “Almost all of us can go for a walk at noon. We all have enough time to get up, walk around the building or the parking lot for fifteen, twenty minutes instead of sitting through the lunch break.”
Kennedy says the best way to maintain a workout program is to find an outside source that can keep one focused on their goals.
“You’ve got to have somebody that is encouraging you,” she says. “You’ve got to have somebody that is making you accountable.”
A good personal trainer is just that person, not only for accountability, but also to tailor activities and nutrition plans specific to clients.
“A personal trainer will help make sure you have the right program for any special needs,” says John Jackson, a personal trainer at the St. John Siegfried Health Club.
Some people are put-off by the perceived high cost of working out with a personal trainer, foregoing the individual attention for video instruction and routines. While that may work from some, others can greatly benefit from the expertise and advisement a trainer can provide in several areas of health.
“The thing about it is [that] it’s hard to attain the goals you want unless you have someone making a program for you,” Jackson says.
Qualified trainers take into account physical issues, such as joint problems, heart health and respiratory conditions. Many are also knowledgeable of healthy nutrition habits. Jackson says he helps his clients better understand the basics of good nutrition – carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats – and incorporate them into their lives.
As for the cost, Jackson says that some independent personal trainers often are willing to accommodate new clients at more affordable rates if the trainee shows a commitment to following through the program. That commitment could pay off in other ways.
“A lot of businesses award their employees with activity bonuses,” he said. “It’s more on the preventative side of caring for yourself, and it helps the company, too.”
Kennedy says good health is something everyone can afford.
“I will guarantee that if we could get people to go on fruits, vegetables and whole grains; decrease the amount of fatty foods and meat; and exercise that everybody would have more energy, sleep better and be more mentally fit.”