The problem is that women are emotional creatures, and, at some point, the constant pressure in all spheres of our lives will begin to wear us down, especially if we are not taking care of our health. After all, sustained stress combined with poor diet and little exercise will eventually affect not only our sleep habits, but also our weight and even our fertility levels.
“Getting women to find the time for themselves can be well-nigh impossible, but, eventually, they do understand that they can’t be effective unless they learn to do so. Working 18-hour days does not mean you are being effective – in fact, you’re probably only being effective 20% to 50% of that time. However, if you are energised and at the peak of your health, and selffulfilled in the personal spheres of your life, you will be far more effective while working fewer hours,” she maintains.
Nicci observes that the South African workplace is an incredibly competitive one in which to operate, comparable with that of the hypercompetitive workplace in the United States of America. “To be seen to be at the office is an indicator of your work ethic in both these countries,” she notes. “I always contrast this with the work culture in Australia, where I have also consulted. Corporate Australia is just as productive and profitable as its United States and South African counterparts, but working Australians are far more laid-back. For Australian women and men alike, attending their child’s swimming gala and making it to the beach on a Friday afternoon are just as important as being effective while at the office,” Nicci continues.
“How I get through to some of my clients is to reinforce the fact that they can either reprioritise their lives and change their lifestyle once they are compelled to by some crisis – that is, when they are burnt out and are either on the verge of a divorce or lying in a hospital bed – or they can decide to be proactive and prevent any of these future crises.” Nicci proposes that women focus on the following to get sustainable results:
Exercise Your Body
Exercise is the best way to combat stress, and one needs to commit to at least one hour of exercise a day to get its full benefit. “I sometimes tell my clients that they are welcome to work 23 hours a day, as long as they set aside an hour for exercise,” she says, tongue firmly in cheek. Nicci admits, though, that not everyone takes to exercise easily, but that the myriad of benefits outweigh the initial pain of the exercises and getting into an exercise routine. Ensure your commitment by getting a personal trainer for a couple of weeks. At least then you have made a financial contribution to seeing it through, and there is less chance of doing yourself an injury and being put off exercising altogether.
Exercise Your Mind-set
Exercising your mind-set is just as important as exercising your body, she continues. “One of the contributing causes of stress is that we often believe that we have no choices in life, and so we focus on teaching people to change this perception. You always have a choice in how you approach your job, how much work you undertake to do, and what to do with your spare time. Helping to change someone’s mind-set is a process, though, and it sometimes takes at least 12 weeks before they are able to change a habit or a situation and turn the corner into being in a more positive space. This is natural, though, as the only pre-emptor for sudden change is a crisis, which is something we all want to avoid.”
Practise Good Nutrition
Healthy eating should be for life and is not something you just do for a defined period of time. So, suggests Nicci, learn all you can about good nutrition and healthy portion sizes. “I also advise clients to learn to love cooking and preparing meals, because, by doing so, they are taking responsibility for their own health. Learn to read food labels, and remember to pack yourself healthy snacks for those situations where you might not have access to healthy food. Finally, good nutrition is as much about healthy choices as it is about the pleasures in life, so do treat yourself occasionally with the very best you can afford – be it chocolate or champagne,” she elaborates.
“You wouldn’t let your company get into a crisis, so don’t let your life get into one either. Take time to take stock of your life, define yourself and your personal brand, think about how you want to look, and then design a strategy for realising your goals. You’ve got nothing to lose by doing so – but perhaps some stress – and loads to gain from it, including that worthwhile work–life balance,” concludes Nicci.
As businesswomen, we’re all used to planning for business success, so why, asks Nicci, do we not do the same to achieve that elusive work–life balance. “I see it all the time in my wellness coaching of women executives at companies ranging from small to large multinational,” she says. “Many women, thanks to the female syndrome of being unable to say ‘No’, suffer from sustained stress. Men and women are all under stress in the workplace, but, for some reason, women feel they are still playing catch-up and have to outdo their male counterparts at the office. In addition to that, they’re looking after their families and managing their households. In juggling their work and personal demands, ‘taking care of myself’ just gets bumped to the bottom of their daily to-do list,” explains Nicci.
WIMBEING | Strategise for Work-Life Harmony