Work/Life Balance & the Origin of Feel Better Stress

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In the early 80s, I began taking work trips to Great Britain. I spent time in London, Manchester, and Glasgow, as well as some smaller cities. I noticed that the British worked like Americans: Monday through Friday, eight hours per day. But, unlike Americans, their weekends were off-limits, almost to the point of being ridiculous. You couldn’t meet with them for work purposes, nor would they even discuss business during their time off.

I also noticed that most of them smoked like chimneys and ate the unhealthiest foods you could imagine. I’m talking about lots of tea and biscuits (cookies), steak and kidney pie with a pint of lager, and even haggis. Meals the typical American wouldn’t touch. Even the traditional full English breakfast would overwhelm a lumberjack. And exercise was not exactly a high priority.

On a plane ride home I read in a magazine that the rate of heart disease in Great Britain was less than 50% than in the US. I was incredulous. My personal experience suggested that this couldn’t be possible. Well, the answer lay deep in the article: the British have a very low rate of stress. My experience reflected this. No working weekends, very little overtime, lots of holidays and vacation days. Work for them was a value, not their whole life, and I found myself living the same way.

Fast forward to the early 90s. Back in the US, I used what I learned overseas to help create a health and wellness resort in Arizona called Miraval. Our motto was “life in balance.” The underpinning of the program was stress management, mindfulness, and the optimal work/life balance. It seemed a little out there at the time, but in the years since Miraval has become arguably the finest destination spa in the world.

The bad news: once I was back in the US, it didn’t take long to lose some of those healthy habits. It proved very easy to slide back into a stressful and unhealthy American way of life. In an effort to deal with stress and live a healthier lifestyle, I developed the Feel Better™ stress philosophy. Based on a lifetime of experience, Feel Better is not about avoiding stress, which is nearly impossible, but using simple techniques to manage it effectively.

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