Maja Kermath

Today, I am the Chief Storyteller at Kor180 but two years ago I was running Emerging Opportunities at AT&T Interactive, a $3B division of AT&T. I spent my time connecting with start-ups in the local advertising space. My days were filled negotiating multi-million dollar business development deals that put these companies on the map. I had just come off of one of my largest speaking engagements in Boston, “A Look Under the Hood” a primer on how to land a large carrier deal. Twenty plus pitch meetings followed and when I got on my 4th redeye flight of the week that night, I was exhausted. I had a rare moment of silence on that airplane from Boston to Los Angeles. Much to my surprise, with that silence came hot tears that stained my face. Here I was, I had the job, the car, the guy, the place by the beach. I had done everything that anyone had ever asked me to do in order to be “successful”. I was supposed to be happy. Yet, I couldn’t stop crying on this plane. Then came the guilt, because from the outside looking in, I led a very charmed life.

You see when there’s a big delta between who you present externally and who you are internally, this type of catalytic event is inevitable. Externally, I presented the confident and successful type A personality. Internally, was a different story. You see, I was never enough. Never smart enough, thin enough, rich enough or high enough up on the corporate ladder. So I pushed…and man did I push hard, constantly saying yes to everything. Of course this impacted my well being both mentally, physically and spiritually. In this manic rat race I was constantly struggling to find work life balance.

That experience on the plane led me to pilates and it was in a studio after about a month of training that I remember looking at my arms, and thinking they looked strong, and in that moment I felt strong. This was a fleeting moment but I knew that I wanted to feel this way more often. So I became a seeker of information. I decided I was going to change what I put in my body, on my body, and the intentions I was speaking into the world. Man, was I in for a shock. Living this way was hard, and I was struggling again. I was looking for a brand that could help me and it didn’t exist. So I decided to build Kor180 a modern wellness lifestyle brand that integrated exercise, nutrition and community. I was finally going to find that balance.

 Spoiler alert! There is no such thing as work life balance.

There, now that we have gotten that out of the way we can actually have an honest conversation about life. A LexisNexis survey of the top 100 newspapers and magazines around the world shows a dramatic increase on the topic. In the period from 1986 to 1996 work life balance was broached 32 times. Fast-forward to 2007 and work life balance was the topic of 1,674 articles. In addition, there are close to 500 books available on Amazon attempting to help people navigate this elusive myth. So we know two things. First, people are clearly struggling with spotting this unicorn. That’s right, it’s a unicorn. We’ve heard tales about this magical creature, we know it’s beautiful and we know everyone wants one. Yet, it’s never been actually spotted. You can keep believing, but it’s more than likely that it doesn’t exist. Second, current solutions don’t seem to be working. In my opinion, that is because we are asking the wrong question.

You shouldn’t be asking yourself “How do I find work life balance?” You should be asking yourself “How do I live life inspired?” Inspired living is difficult and with the proliferation of multi-tasking, social networks, more work, less play, less sleep, Instagram life highlight reels, and communication via 150 characters or less, it’s not getting any easier. So what do we do?

First, I think it is really important to set realistic expectation on the topic. It’s ok to give ourselves permission to be a little off balance when pursuing an inspired life. You have a dream? Protect it. You want something? Go get it. Does something scare you? You’re probably on the right path. It’s not going to be easy. There’s no quick fix or hack. It’s going to take hard work, passion and determination when pursuing an inspired life, and you may find a lack of balance at times. This is ok.

Today, many of you probably swing from two extremes. On one end of the spectrum you have reckless abandon and on the other end of the spectrum the pursuit of perfection. Do you find yourself swinging from eating anything in site and then feeling guilty and going to “food jail”? Don’t worry you’re not the only one. Our goal should be minimising those swings and finding something that’s a bit more sustainable.

We promote three macro wellness pillars; exercise, nutrition, and community. Move your body, feed your body and fuel your soul through a community of like-minded people. These pillars all have one basic building block, sleep.

At a glance, our bodies regulate sleep in much the same way it regulates eating, drinking, and breathing. This suggests that sleep serves a similar critical role in our health and well being. Sleep is no longer considered the passive state many people once considered it to be. We now recognise sleep as a highly active process during which the day’s events are processed and energy is restored. I’m not the only person that believes sleep is mission critical. The Centers for Disease Control now says that sleep deprivation is a public health epidemic. So let’s be clear, sleep deprivation is now being compared to other epidemics like obesity, The Black Death, and the 1916 Polio epidemic.

So how much sleep should we be getting? The answer really varies between individuals but generally changes as we age. The National Institute of Health suggests that school-aged children need 10 hours of sleep daily, teens need 9-10 hours, and adults need 7-8 hours. Currently 59% of U.S. adults meet that standard, but in 1942, 84% did. Are you one of the 4 in 10 Americans that get less than the recommended amount of nightly sleep? If 59% doesn’t seem that bad, let’s look at another statistic. In 2009, 26.4% of all adults over the age of 18 reported nodding off or falling asleep while driving in the past month. Seem bad yet?

Telling someone they need to reach a destination without a map isn’t much help. So here are 10 habits you can incorporate into your life to get some extra ZZZZ’s.

  1. Reduce Screen Time Before Bed: turn off the TV, stop checking email, and put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” an hour before bed to help quiet your mind.
  2. Exercise Right, Time it Right: the National Sleep Foundation reports that afternoon exercise deepens sleep but avoid exercise in the evening, which can have the opposite effect due to an increased level of endorphins. If you have to get an evening workout it try yoga, tai chi, and other gentle mind/body disciplines.
  3. Reserve the Bed for Sleep and Sex: doing so avoids training your brain that bed is a place for TV, reading, etc. Everything about your room should be associated with rest and relaxation.
  4. Avoid Caffeine Post Mid-Day: it’s ok if you can’t give up that cup of Joe, but make it a habit to cut caffeine after 12:00 pm.
  5. Master the Nap: more than 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers, meaning they sleep for short periods throughout the day. Humans are part of the minority of monophasic sleepers, but it’s not clear that this is our natural sleep pattern. Keep your naps to 20-30 minutes.
  6. Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule: getting in sync with your bodies natural sleep-wake-cycle, your circadian rhythm, is one of the most important strategies for achieving good sleep. Consistency is vitally important.
  7. Eat Well to Enhance Sleep: some foods are more conducive to enhanced sleep. Adding fish, sunflower seeds, bananas and avocados. These B6 rich foods helps the body produce melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.
  8. Ban Blue Lights in the Bedroom: the short waves of blue light interfere with sleep.
  9. Turn Down the Thermostat: the best sleep temperature for most people is on the cooler side, below 76°.
  10. Rethink Your Drink: although alcohol may make you sleepy, it’s actually known to cause more frequent awakenings at night and less restful sleep.

Maja Kermath is Chief Storyteller at Kor180