How a Health Scare Changed my Perspective on My Work-Life Balance

How to Create Work-Life Balance and Put Your Health First
by Laura Donovan
Photos Bloguettes | December 29, 2016
Sometimes you need to check your professional drive and re-evaluate what really matters.
I once interviewed for an assistant position at an explosively popular YouTube channel. I wasn’t jazzed about the role, which mostly entailed administrative tasks, but I was passionate about the company. The men behind it needed someone to manage their schedules and habits, as they were too busy to look out for themselves.

“We’re extremely unhealthy,” they said. “We never eat. We never even drink water because we don’t like wasting work time in the restroom. We’re looking for a person who can ensure we consume at least one meal a day no matter how busy we get.”

I laughed and assured them I was their girl, but couldn’t help wondering what would happen to these gentlemen if their bodies suddenly started asking for more. After all, it happens when you age. And if you don’t have your health, you can’t run a strong business or do your best work.
If you don't have your health, you can't run a strong business or do your best work.
Two months ago, my own body demanded I start treating it better. After a year of underemployment, more than a few uninspiring job interviews, and a whole lot of professional unknowns, I’d done some serious long-term damage to my system with constant stress, anxiety, and comfort food binges. It wasn’t until after several months that I started noticing my body’s unfavorable reaction to all these bad things. But they finally caught up with me, and recovering was not going to be an easy feat.

When I rushed to urgent care on a Wednesday morning, I was diagnosed with gastritis, arthritis, and a B-12 deficiency, all of which go together. Gastritis results from poor eating and stress, of which I had an abundance. Nevertheless, the doctor said my issue would fizzle once I took control of my life.

But a month went by and I still found myself having GI issues, leaving me at a loss for how to move forward. I’d just endured a year of professional uncertainty, and now I had something scarier on my hands: health uncertainty.

My fear was obvious to everyone at work, and a colleague was kind enough to ask if I was all right.

“The problem is back again,” I told her.

“That’s serious. Why don’t you go see a doctor today?”

“Because I have a presentation in two hours.”

“Someone else will do it,” she promised. “You need to get this checked out.”

I didn’t want to seem unreliable, and I definitely didn’t want to let my boss down, but when I explained my situation to him, he couldn’t have been nicer.

“Go to the doctor,” he said. “I’m here to help you.”

Luckily, I consulted a GI specialist that afternoon and even scheduled an endoscopy for the following week. My manager and coworkers were very understanding about giving me time off for the procedure. Their support meant so much to me, but I also appreciated that they recognized where I was coming from—my health would always be my top priority.

The medical procedure revealed I also have esophagitis, an inflammation of the esophagus, which means I have to be careful about what I eat for the rest of my life. Coffee and alcohol must be kept to a minimum, and tomatoes are almost completely off-limits. It’s a pain to make major lifestyle adjustments like that, but being sick is much worse. Having lost a parent to cancer early in life, I know I want to be around a long time for my own (future) kids, and in order to do that, I have to start taking care of myself while I’m young and resilient enough to make changes. 

In another life, I could pretend to be a lady who runs a successful career with no sleep, no food, no water, and no vitamins, but the reality is that I need to feel well in order to thrive professionally and personally. Eventually, poor health catches up with you, and no amount of ambition can change that. 

Media mogul Arianna Huffington knows this all too well. The self-proclaimed sleep evangelist knew she was pushing herself too hard when she collapsed from exhaustion from too many long days.
Eventually, poor health catches up with you, and no amount of ambition can change that.
“I was successful by all standards, but I was clearly not successful if I was lying in a pool of blood on the floor of my office,” Huffington told HuffPost Live of the horrific wake-up call. “I thought I might have a brain tumor … [but] what was wrong with me was the way I was leading my life. And what was wrong with me is what’s wrong with a lot of people.”

There are many ways to get caught up in the chaos of work, and while the stress of losing one’s job is terrifying on many levels, it doesn’t compare to the thought of losing one’s life. Whether I grow to be as powerful as Arianna Huffington or continue leading a modest professional existence, health will always win.