The word balance connotes images of a scale where the two sides are equal in weight in order to have equilibrium.
As a working mother of 2 children who runs a Branding and Marketing Agency, is very committed to daily exercise, and juggles a handful of other professional and personal commitments, I've learned to accept that balance doesn't really exist. (And I know I am NOT alone!) The elusive work-life balance is BS.
Years back, people worked what we call 9-5 or forty-hour weeks. Today, we live in a world that is half online and half offline, and society tends to demand for us to be responsive on all platforms at all times. Technology has advanced the pace at which we work, which explains why we are seeing more anxiety across the board, so much that in 2018 Barnes and Noble announced a 25% surge in the sales of books on anxiety, up from 2017.
Rather than a balance, work-life has become more of integration for me, in which I just embrace the chaos. With this shifted perspective, I am less anxious, more fulfilled and am not beating myself up about trying to separate work and life. Below are 6 tips that have helped me refine the work-life balance to more of a work-life integration:
Resist the Time Wasters and Distractions.
We are targeted by over 4,000 ads per day, and that's a conservative number. For those of us who wake up to our smartphones (yes, me included), think of how many messages you see in the first 5 minutes of your day that truly don't add value to your work-life objectives for that day. Be it the eNewsletters from YETI's latest collection to the 25% off discount from Crate & Barrel, or the Instagram scrolling that turns you away from your own personal agenda and goals for the day, these couple of minutes of time-wasters add up. Social media, in particular, clutters your brain when it's at its freshest. Now think of how many times during the day you pull yourself into social media or get caught in the trap of click-bait articles. Try logging these minutes and soon you'll realize that these "time-wasters" can be limited. Instead, set times when you're not hovering over email, turn off or disable most of your phone notifications, and be focused on the task at hand.
Sort out your Priorities and Learn to Say No
Be it making it to your son's baseball game or finishing a project on deadline, determine what is most important and will deliver most value to you. The most productive people don't have less on their plates; rather, they simply come to the table with an organized plan. Limit-multi-tasking and give people and projects the focused attention they deserve. This applies to personal time dedicated to your wellness and happiness just as much as it does for work time. Don't be afraid to say "No" to opportunities or events that come your way if they are truly not worthwhile. The FOMO, judging and guilt of saying now has been built up by today's "crazy busy" and caffeine drive lifestyles; however, once you accustom yourself to say no, you realize what's most important to you.
Trusting and empowering others to help you achieve your goals is difficult to do. Luckily, I use to compete at an elite level in the sport of rowing, where I learned that teamwork truly does make the "dream work" for as cliché as it sounds. (If you're less into sports and more into music and entertainment, the recent Bohemian Rhapsody film reinforced that for as big as Freddie Mercury was, he was unable to succeed as a star without his team. The rock band Queen was a team.) Figure out what you are able to do best and what others are able to help you with. Maximize the skill sets around you and hire people that do the jobs you need done better than you. My colleagues at work are more talented than I am in their specific skill sets and that's what makes our team so harmonious and effective. So, embrace a "We" as opposed to a "Me" mentality when it comes to getting things done. The same goes for family life. Sort our tasks and responsibilities with your partner or kids, so that more can be accomplished efficiently day to day.
Be Realistic and Accept Limitations
When I say that I embrace the chaos, I also mean that I am realistic to accept limitations. Find inner peace and shift your mindset to a more positive one that embraces constraints. Ask yourself, "How can I be as effective as possible within these constraints?" So for example, "If I have only 4 hours per day to work, how can I finish that project or make as much money as possible?" Or, "If I can only exercise 4 hours per week, what are the most effective workouts I can do to lose weight?" Then use positive affirmations ("I can do this!") as opposed to negative ones ("It's not enough time") to accomplish your plans. Positive affirmations might not work for everyone, but they do for most. Try it and you may learn that constraints might even boost performance!
Ride the Wave and Cherish The Slow
We feel this need to be busy, busy, busy, go, go, go, because if we are not, there must be something wrong with us, right? Wrong. Try this: Stop chasing busy. I know that after a big work event, pitch or even a workout (think of savannas after yoga), there tends to be a slower period. For me, it was in December of last year when work slowed down, and for others, it could be a seasonal cycle of when sales are strongest for their products; think of sunblock or beach accessories in the summer. When you have these moments: Take. Advantage. Don't feel the need to fill your schedule for the sake of it, rather do something to embrace the slower time. Be it a pedicure, going for a run-walk (find more info here), or a cooking class you've wanted to try, a special activity with your family or lunch with your friends, make those things happen. And if you're one who feels the need to continue to work on your business, use the slower time to asses your business from a 360 degree perspective, for instance, update your portfolio, refresh your web site, do some research and meet new people. Ideally, you will have more clarity to remember your "Why" and benefit your business and well-being to a new degree.
Make time for yourself.
Scheduling time for yourself is a keystone to wellness, and it doesn't need to be earned. Even for those of us who love our work, it's important to let go of "the good stress" and plan time for you. This is Non-Negotiable. Bottom line, most of us tend to live off of everyone's else's schedules these days (our kids, our clients, etc.) and we no longer follow our own internal compass. The more you do things that you want to do, the more fulfillment and happiness you will get out of work and life.
Luckily, workplace flexibility is allowing for more of this work-life integration, as the 9-5 workday is about as existent as payphone at a train station. Stop chasing the 50/50 balance, because it doesn't exist. Rather, embrace the chaos, and be as true as you can to who you want to be and what makes you feel most fulfilled.
With so many groundbreaking medical advances being revealed to the world every single day, you would imagine there would be some advancement on the plethora of many female-prevalent diseases (think female cancers, Alzheimer's, depression, heart conditions etc.) that women are fighting every single day.
For Anna Villarreal and her team, there frankly wasn't enough being done. In turn, she developed a method that diagnoses these diseases earlier than traditional methods, using a pretty untraditional method in itself: through your menstrual blood.
Getting from point A to point B wasn't so easy though. Villarreal was battling a disease herself and through that experience. “I wondered if there was a way to test menstrual blood for female specific diseases," she says. "Perhaps my situation could have been prevented or at least better managed. This led me to begin researching menstrual blood as a diagnostic source. For reasons the scientific and medical community do not fully understand, certain diseases impact women differently than men. The research shows that clinical trials have a disproportionate focus on male research subjects despite clear evidence that many diseases impact more women than men."
There's also no denying that gap in women's healthcare in clinical research involving female subjects - which is exactly what inspired Villarreal to launch her company, LifeStory Health. She says that, “with my personal experience everything was brought full circle."
“There is a challenge and a need in the medical community for more sex-specific research. I believe the omission of females as research subjects is putting women's health at risk and we need to fuel a conversation that will improve women's healthcare.,"
Her brand new biotech company is committed to changing the women's healthcare market through technology, innovation and vocalization and through extensive research and testing. She is working to develop the first ever, non-invasive, menstrual blood diagnostic and has partnered with a top Boston-area University on research and has won awards from The International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Northeastern University's RISE.
How does it work exactly? Proteins are discovered in menstrual blood that can quickly and easily detect, manage and track diseases in women, resulting in diseases that can be earlier detected, treated and even prevented in the first place. The menstrual blood is easy to collect and since it's a relatively unexplored diagnostic it's honestly a really revolutionary concept, too.
So far, the reactions of this innovative research has been nothing but excitement. “The reactions have been incredibly positive." she shares with SWAAY. “Currently, menstrual blood is discarded as bio waste, but it could carry the potential for new breakthroughs in diagnosis. When I educate women on the lack of female subjects used in research and clinical trials, they are surprised and very excited at the prospect that LifeStory Health may provide a solution and the key to early detection."
To give a doctor's input, and a little bit more of an explanation as to why this really works, Dr. Pat Salber, MD, and Founder of The Doctor Weighs In comments: “researchers have been studying stem cells derived from menstrual blood for more than a decade. Stem cells are cells that have the capability of differentiating into different types of tissues. There are two major types of stem cells, embryonic and adult. Adult stem cells have a more limited differentiation potential, but avoid the ethical issues that have surrounded research with embryonic stem cells. Stem cells from menstrual blood are adult stem cells."
These stem cells are so important when it comes to new findings. “Stem cells serve as the backbone of research in the field of regenerative medicine – the focus which is to grow tissues, such as skin, to repair burn and other types of serious skin wounds.
A certain type of stem cell, known as mesenchymal stem cells (MenSCs) derived from menstrual blood has been found to both grow well in the lab and have the capability to differentiate in various cell types, including skin. In addition to being used to grow tissues, their properties can be studied that will elucidate many different aspects of cell function," Dr. Salber explains.
To show the outpour of support for her efforts and this major girl power research, Villarreal remarks, “women are volunteering their samples happily report the arrival of their periods by giving samples to our lab announcing “de-identified sample number XXX arrived today!" It's a far cry from the stereotype of when “it's that time of the month."
How are these collections being done? “Although it might sound odd to collect menstrual blood, plastic cups have been developed to use in the collection process. This is similar to menstrual products, called menstrual cups, that have been on the market for many years," Dr. Salber says.
Equally shocking and innovative, this might be something that becomes more common practice in the future. And according to Dr. Salber, women may be able to not only use the menstrual blood for early detection, but be able to store the stem cells from it to help treat future diseases. “Companies are working to commercialize the use of menstrual blood stem cells. One company, for example, is offering a patented service to store menstrual blood stem cells for use in tissue generation if the need arises."