Sacrificing Your Health for Success Can Have the Opposite Effect

By: Kristen Kimmell

I travel — a lot. In fact, some days I think I may be on a first-name basis with all the TSA and gate agents at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.

I’m in good company, I know. And if you are a fellow road warrior, you know that with extensive travel comes long days, hours in airports, and a strange familiarity with fast and quick food. It also often means no time to exercise, to meditate, or to breathe.

Oddly enough, it’s a lifestyle that my experience as a working mom prepared me well for. Between my two girls, I spent probably a decade running home to pick them up from school only to grab food at the nearest fast-food joint and shuttle them to whatever activity they had on their schedule that night.

I didn’t really have much time to take care of me. As a result, I was tired, stressed, and often on auto-pilot as I moved from one task to the next. I loved what I was doing for them and with them, but I wasn’t my best self, so I was unable to truly enjoy many of the great moments in the midst of the busyness.

[Related: Reprogram Your Autopilot and Take Your Leadership to a New Level]

What I didn’t realize then was how important it is to take care of yourself — particularly when you’re so busy you think you can’t. Your health has a direct impact on your performance at work and in life.

I recently attended an event for senior female executives at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Rather than jumping right into a packed agenda, we began our day by walking on treadmills while the first presenter spent an hour talking to us about the importance of being active and the health risks of sitting too much.

None of this was new information to us. But it was nonetheless a valuable reminder that no matter how busy we are at work and at home, our health shouldn’t take a backseat to life’s other priorities.

How can you be present if you’re tired? How can you make tough decisions if you’re stressed? Not very well, and I say this from years of experience!

Corporations figured out the connection between health and employee success years ago and quickly started rolling out wellness programs to encourage healthy lifestyle choices. Wellness programs like RBC’s Living Well program support employees by helping them understand their current health and offering incentives to participate in healthy activities that improve mental, emotional, financial, and physical well-being. Couple that with the fact that many office buildings have added on-site fitness centers for tenants, and it’s clear that opportunities to take some time out of your day to work on your health are greater than ever before.

[Related: The Complex Nature of Employee Happiness]

But many of us continue to put it on the back-burner. Work gets in the way. Life gets in the way. Family takes priority.

Peter Arvai, the co-founder and CEO of Prezi, wrote a great piece for Forbes a few years ago on the prevalence of undernourished leaders in Corporate America. An undernourished leader, he said, is “someone who gives away more energy than he or she takes in and sustains themselves on unhealthy habits (physical and mental).”

It’s pretty easy to become an undernourished leader, employee, parent, or caretaker. I know I’m guilty, but I’m trying to get better. Here’s how:

1) Commitment.

I’ve committed to strength training at least once per week, running twice per week, and yoga 2–3 times per week.

2) Accountability.

To hold myself accountable, I schedule time for those workouts in my calendar — even if it’s on the weekend!

3) Accessibility.

To make workouts more accessible, I found a place downtown just blocks away from my office where I can do my strength days.

While I am not always able to put myself first — let’s face it, the demands of life make it nearly impossible for any of us to do so — I have made great strides to move myself up a lot higher on my priority list. Doing so not only benefits me, but everyone and everything else in my life.

[Related: How to Achieve New Year’s Resolutions — Not Just Make Them]

As chief of staff, Kristen Kimmell is the point person on several key RBC Wealth Management — U.S. initiatives, including the ongoing partnership with City National Bank, the firm’s securities-based lending platform; and brand marketing. She and her team also help coordinate processes and procedures managing administrative, communication, financial, policy and risk factors across the firm.

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