Episode 092: Minding Your Health When Your Mind Is On Work
This week marks the second anniversary of The Live FAB Life Podcast!
In this episode, I discuss having an epiphany, with the help of some friends, on my unique position to help women in tech bring health and wellness to the forefront of their careers and lives.
You'll hear me share my work experience of working in startups to large corporate environments, the different stressors I experienced and how being micro-managed directly impacted my health and how I learned to reframe and deal with the situation for the better.
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Welcome back to The Live FAB Life Podcast. I’m your host, Naomi Nakamura.
And this my friend, is a pretty momentous week!
First, this week marks my 21st San Francisco-versary! Yep, I’ve been living here in the Bay Area for 21 years and I still have to pinch myself to remind me of how lucky I am to be here!
One day I’ll tell you the story of how it all came to be, but there's something else to celebrate this week - the second anniversary of this podcast! I can hardly believe its been two years because it feels like yesterday that I was trying to figure out how to set-up the tech stuff, learn how to edit audio files and drum up the courage to put myself out there.
But truth be told, this was something that I HAD to do. I’d been sitting on the idea for over two years and if I didn’t take action and just do it, I knew that it would always bother me.
It has been a fun experiment and growing experience! From getting to meet cool people who have been guests on the show, to letting myself share things here that I’d never share anywhere else. And the best part has been connecting with so many of you who graciously take time out of your week to listen to what I have to say.
And so from the bottom of my heart, thank you for supporting me! I hope I’ve been able to share things that you’ve found interesting, valuable and helpful and I hope I’m able to to continue to do so for years to come!
For months I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to talk about on this second anniversary show and it really didn’t come to be until about ten days before this episode airs.
I was in Portland, having dinner at Bamboo Sushi with Genevieve Blair, who was a guest on episode 043 and Melinda Staehling who was a guest on Episodes 041 and 046. So we were having dinner, chatting, catching each other up on life and business and the discussion came around to how I’m in a unique position to really help women in tech bring health and wellness to the forefront of their lives, because, well, I’m a woman in tech!
It was one of those profound moments where even though it was an obvious situation, my brain started moving a mile-a-minute as I thought about all the challenges that women in tech face, especially when it comes to prioritizing their health and how I’ve been able to work through them. I also realized that a large percentage of the clients that I’ve worked with have indeed, been women in tech! I realized that these girls were on to something!
And so while I’ve shared my story way back in Episode 001, when I launched this podcast two years ago, and I’ve talked about the different root causes of my health issues in a number of different episodes, I haven’t really shared how, my almost 20 years of working in high tech, also played a role in my health journey.
And so that’s what I’m going to talk about today, and hopefully have this be the first of many conversations devoted to helping women in tech, and really, all professional women, bring health and wellness to the forefront of your life.
But before I get to that, I want to be sure that you’re following me over on Instagram because starting tomorrow, I’m doing three giveaways of prizes from past guests on this show to celebrate my podcast-a-versary! So if you’re not already, be sure to give me a follow at @livefablifewithnaomi.
Okay, so let me tell you a little story…
I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area way back in August 1998, like I said, making this week my 21st San Franciscoversary. For the first two years I worked for a company that taught soft skills training - like HR type of training to professionals. In this case, it was a company that taught presentation and communication skills.
I worked for them right in the Financial District of San Francisco. And while the work itself wasn’t stressful, the commute into the City was. I live on the Peninsula, just south of the City, and for those of you who don’t live in the Bay Area, those of us who do live here, don’t call it “San Fran” or “Frisco”, we call San Francisco proper, “The City.”
It’s quite an effort to get to work if you do work in The City. At the time my cousin did too so we’d carpool to the BART station (BART stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit and is our mass transit system). This was important because there wasn’t enough parking at the BART train stations so if we carpooled together, we got a special parking pass with premium parking.
During those two years, the commute really was the most stressful part of work.
Then my cousin got another job down in Palo Alto which meant no more commute buddy which meant I had to get another job too.
By then it was the year 2000 in the midst of the dot.com craze. I went ahead and got myself a job at a company ironically called, “Startups.com.” With a name like that you’d think it would be crazy, busy but nope - it was like a summer job where a bunch of us sat around and pretended like we were busy but really we were bored to death.
After that “summer job” ended, I went to work for another startup that no longer exists and that was where I began to understand what it was like to work in high tech. The company serviced the hospitality industry, trying to automate many operational functions in hotels. Things like ordering routine housekeeping supplies and the sorts.
I had a long commute - not too bad in distance but showed with traffic. I’d get to the office before 7 am and stay well past 7 pm. I was often called in at the last minute to put out fires on weekends. But besides the long hours and the commute, it was the pressure that was really intense. The pressure to execute - at an unrealistic rate. Looking back, it was pretty unbelievable but being the Type A person that I am, I thrived on it.
As with most startups during that time, it went belly up in the dot com bust, but I was able to get out before it did and I ended up working for Nokia. At the time it was the largest company I’d ever work for and working for a big company did have its perks!
The offices were beautiful, the benefits were amazing (seriously, if you ever have the opportunity to work for a European-based company - do it! They’re very employee-friendly!) and I got to travel internationally - the only time I’ve ever been to Helskinki!
But then 9/11 happened, the economy collapsed and I was laid off for the first and only time in my career. That was pretty stressful and a hit to my ego, but being a European company, they treated us well, even though I hadn’t been there for very long.
Luckily, I was able to find another job right away in an area of the tech industry that I’ve worked ever since - 17 years and counting.
I worked in a role where I managed training programs that had a lot of moving parts that were dependent upon each other. Meaning, certain things had to happen for forward progress to be made.
That in and of itself was pretty stressful but again, I thrived off of it.
But in the years following 9/11, it became a regular thing in high tech to have layoffs often. It became a quarterly event, whenever earnings were announced and being a single person in the Bay Area, that definitely caused me to feel a lot of anxiety.
But it wasn’t until I started at the company that I work with now, did I truly experience workplace stress.
When I first started with the company, almost 12 years ago, I worked with an entirely different group of people. People who still had the startup mentality but in a large company.
They were audacious with their goals, tenacious with execution and relentless with micro-management. I don’t think there’s anything that anyone could do to me that would cause so much angst and anxiety than to be micromanaged.
To be constantly questioned about everything, including my body language. To have to defend every word, every decision, every cough. It was too much, even for me, and I like to think that I’m someone who can tolerate a lot.
The daily anticipation of it all cause an unparalleled level of anxiety that I felt every day. This was probably the biggest stressor for me. Every morning I’d drive to the office with a knot in my belly dreading the day. I braced myself for every email, every phone call, every meeting, every hallway conversation because I just didn’t know what would set someone off.
Then there was the expectation to always be on, always be connected. If you didn’t respond to an email or instant message within seconds, you’d be tracked down - evenings and weekends included. I absolutely hated my work blackberry that sat on my desk waiting for me from the very first day I started.
I was so glad I had kept two phones - a personal one that I enjoyed using and that blasted Blackberry that I wanted to let the battery die and never charge again.
You would think that by then, 12 years into my career, I’d know how to handle this situation. But I didn’t, because I’d never experienced something so appalling.
And it was sad because the work itself, I enjoyed - truly I did. It stretched me, but I knew I was good at it. When the pressure wasn’t on and we were able to relax and let down our hair, I enjoyed my peers very much.
But I’d never lived so hard for Fridays and feared Mondays so much that the Sunday Night Dread was unbearable.
It was about this time that I started seeing my therapist. I had to figure out a way to cope with the mounting stress because it was affecting my sleep, my digestion and Lord knows what else.
It was one of the best decisions I made because it helped me find ways to cope with difficult situations and how to focus on controlling what I could control (like my response) and let go of what I couldn’t (other people’s behaviors).
This is also ultimately why I turned to long-distance running. It was something where I could just stick my headphones in my ears, run and just forget about everything for a couple of hours. Combine the relief it gave me along with my Type A personality and its no wonder I eventually overtrained.
Despite my work with therapist it was still stressful but the breaking point for me came almost two years after I started - yeah, I somehow managed to live through that horrible situation for that long.
We’d had a big round of layoffs and my closest colleague, my sounding board, the one who kept me sane was let go. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt of being the one retained, but also resentment about being left behind.
The expectation was that not only was I to continue doing my job, but to also pick up hers - an entire second job.
The anger and pressure trumped the anxiety and suddenly I found my voice and began to stand up for myself. Not in the most pleasant or respectful way but I something had to give.
And this is when I began to have breakthroughs.
This was when I began to learn how to establish boundaries, which was the best thing I ever could have done for myself. Because by feeling so fed up that I couldn’t take it anymore, and learning how to establish boundaries in that situation helped me see how I could establish them in other areas of my life too.
One thing that I realized was that if I stopped responding to emails at all hours of the evenings and weekends, they’d eventually stop. I realized that if I responded at those times, it let the other person know that it was acceptable for them to email me at all hours of the day and that they could expect a response.
Now I didn’t ignore those emails entirely. I read them, but unless someone’s life or the end of the world depended on me responding, and lets be honest, it never did, I didn’t respond until the following morning.
And somehow, that unspoken boundary caused a shift where no longer were responses expected from me at all hours of the days, nights, and weekends.
Once I realized that I began looking for other ways I could establish boundaries to preserve my mental and emotional health. I had already been taking care of my physical health but it wasn’t until I learned how to take care of myself mentally and emotionally did I finally start to enjoy life more.
While I didn’t change my situation, it was mostly changed for me, I was able to reframe how I approached it and how I let it affect me. And this shift in perspective made all the difference in the world.
Somehow I was able to see the situation through different eyes, almost in an out of body experience.
I was able to see that those who I felt tormented me, were only trying to deal with their own torment of being micro-managed. And strangely enough, I actually felt some empathy toward them.
It made the working relationship more tolerable, more respectful and suddenly, the office didn’t seem so unbearable anymore.
I found myself having better, more productive conversations, which meant more collaboration and higher quality work.
It’s no surprise that I was sleeping better, running better and just overall, enjoying life more. These two shifts in perspective, seeing situations from the other person’s shoes, and focusing on controlling what I can and releasing what I can’t, were huge and have carried over into all other areas of my life.
I feel like it’s helped me grow as a communicator, have more empathy while also feeling a sense of empowerment that I’d never felt before.
And this is why I firmly believe that personal development is such a hugely important but nearly thought of enough as a key element in health and wellness especially in the workplace.
We spend more of our waking hours working, more time with our colleagues than our families and friends so if work is not an area that brings you joy and satisfaction, it’ll carry over to all the areas of your life too.
So I plan to bring you more conversations like this to uplift and inspire you to take action in minding your health when your mind is on work and making it a priority and bringing it to the forefront of your life.
Now don’t forget, I’m doing three days of giveaways over on Instagram this week so be sure to find me and give me a follow at @livefablifewithnaomi.
Now I have one more ask of you.
If you are a woman in tech, or one who works in a professional setting, I’d love to have a one-on-one chat with you to hear what your experience is like when it comes to bringing health and wellness into your work and ultimately daily life.
I want to hear what that’s like for you. If this is you and you’re open to chatting with me, I’d love to have a virtual coffee date with you! You can reach out to me over on Instagram, or contact me on my website at www.livefablife.com/contact and let’s get a chat scheduled. I know you’re busy so it’d be 30-min max!
Once again, thank you so much for being a part of this show over the past two years. It’s been so much fun and look forward to what the future has for it.
As always, you can check out the show notes for this episode over on my website at www.livefablife.com/092. That’s all that I have for you this week and I’ll see you right back here for the next episode!
Naomi Nakamura is a Functional Nutrition Health Coach. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, programs, coaching services and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop!
Connect with Naomi at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest