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First Posted: 3/25/2013

Life’s journeys often lead us to discover important lessons, and this week I learned something invaluable.

I always thought of myself as “invincible” and that working as much as I did made me feel empowered. I thought that the more I took on, the more successful I could be. While this may be partly true, I now understand that long hours don’t come without complications.

Stress is often overlooked and giving in to it may make you feel defeated. For me, I thought I could do it all and, for a while, I did. But the long days caught up with me and sent me into a downward spiral. My days started early, by 4:30 a.m., and often continued until 10 p.m. I wasn’t sleeping nearly enough and soon all I was doing was working not only every weekday, but on weekends as well. It left zero room for anything else and often left me irritable and exhausted.

Long work hours and highly stressful jobs can hamper anyone’s ability to create a balance between work life and personal/family life. Instead of choosing positive coping strategies like exercise, laughter, developing personal relationships, sleeping more and good nutrition, some people choose negative behaviors that can affect their health, such as smoking, less sleep, poor nutrition, drinking, and skipping exercise.

These negative coping strategies will ultimately have a negative effect on your health, body, mood and behavior. Common effects of stress are headaches, fatigue, disturbed sleep patterns, anxiety, irritability, anger, over/under eating, and alcohol and drug use.

This past Monday I returned from my first full week off from work. It was absolute serenity: no phone calls or emails, no scheduling, deadlines, or even feeling the need to do work. I knew I needed this break and was fully committed to taking it. Now I feel 100 percent rested and ready to get back to work. My schedule will remain the same, for now, but I am committed to scheduling in down time more often. After all, my health is worth it.

Here a few tips to help recapture the balance in your life:

1. Take a mental health day. People everywhere can identify with the need to take a break from the daily grind and doing so can restore your motivation.

2. Say no. Although it may be difficult, saying “no” will allow more time to help you tackle things that need to be completed.

3. Plan. Planning out your day and setting goals will enable you to stay on track and be efficient, and being efficient is the way to stay effective.

-Tim Hlivia is the owner of Leverage Fitness Studio in Forty Fort.