I was flying into an extinct volcano crater in an open-door helicopter on the Hawaiian island of Kauai when I realised something was wrong. We descended into the crater like a scene out of Jurassic Park – the crisp coastal air was blowing through the cabin, and we were surrounded by lush rainforest canopies in a gorge that had views of the incredible Nā Pali coast, but instead of wide-eyed amazement, I fell asleep. Twice. I was only two days into a 10-day shoot across Hawaii and already I was in trouble.
A few months earlier I’d started what I thought was my dream job, but two and a half months into the role, I’d clocked up a ridiculous 53 days in overtime across four different countries. On top of that, I was still running my site THIS ISLAND LIFE in what non-existent time I had. I was exhausted, stressed and completely overwhelmed. I had no capacity to think creatively, no time or energy to exercise, and was ignoring my body’s crucial warning signs.
A few days after the helicopter microsleeps, I woke up in severe pain. I was on the island of Oahu and still had another week of work to complete before flying back to Australia. I doped myself up on painkillers and finished the trip, but the seriousness kicked in when I got back home to Sydney. Within a few days I was having surgery for something pretty serious – it was a massive wake-up call for someone who was otherwise young and healthy.
It took four months and another surgery to fully recover, but I got away relativity unscathed. I was lucky, really lucky. I found a new job and I’ve now redesigned my life for a healthier and more balanced future.
If you’ve had your own wake-up call or just want to avoid one, here are eight simple ways to slow down and put your health first:
- Get eight hours sleep
Eight hours sleep each night is the minimum time your body needs to repair while you sleep.
TIP: Once a week, have an alarm free day where you let your body sleep for as long as it needs to, where you wake up naturally.
- Meditate every day
Even if it’s for just 20 minutes, get in the habit of truly relaxing your body and mind.
TIP: A guided meditation recording is a great way to start – find one you like and download it to your phone so you can do it anywhere.
- Cap your screen time
If you work all day in front of a computer it’s important to give your mind and body a rest from staring at a screen – even if it is full of awesomeness.
TIP: If you usually jump online as soon as you get home, make plans with friends after work and break the habit.
- Have a digital detox
Once a week take a self-imposed media blackout. Ban your phone, tablet and computer and be free from social media, phone calls and texts.
TIP: Utilise your phone functions and only accept calls from people who know you’re on a blackout and would only contact you in an emergency.
- Exercise to feel good
Don’t focus on superficial goals – instead focus on making your body as happy and healthy as possible through physical activity you enjoy.
TIP: Stay away from gyms where people stare themselves and each other out in the mirrors.
- Listen to your body
If you’re tired, sleep; if you have a headache, take a break; and if you don’t feel like doing your regular cardio session at the gym, don’t.
TIP: Give yourself permission to rest and take it easy – routines are made to be broken.
- Ground yourself – literally
Slipping off your shoes and connecting with nature is a really great way to ground yourself and boost your body’s vitality.
TIP: Tie it in with your daily meditation routine and find a place outside where you can relax your mind.
- Laugh as much as possible
Laughter is a proven form of stress release and can even strengthen your immune system, relieve pain and improve your mood.
TIP: If you’re friends and family aren’t cracking you up on a regular basis, watch more funny movies.
PS. I still work as a copywriter at an advertising agency in Sydney, but I now only do that four days a week – giving me more time to grow my passion THIS ISLAND LIFE and focus on my health.
PPS. I wrote this post in December last year when I got the all clear after my second surgery, but wasn’t sure whether to post this story. While I share my summer travel adventures and fashion finds throughout THIS ISLAND LIFE, I’ve never really shared much about myself personally. I hope that this post offers a little behind-the-scenes insight into my world, but most of all I hope it gets you thinking about your own work/life balance, so you won’t ever find yourself sleeping through life’s adventures.