Summer is a wonderful time to bring back balance and perspective in your work life – especially if you’ve been using all your emotional and physical reserves to push through a busy spring of balancing a career with kids’ sporting events, graduations, concerts, weddings and other family commitments.

Celebrated author and medical intuitive Caroline Myss, Ph.D., says that our biography becomes our biology – how we think and live directly affects our physical self, emotional well-being and overall success. Chronic overwork, frustration and worry puts stresses on our bodies that can affect our blood pressure, heart rate, brainwaves, neurotransmitters, hormones and immune function. Our resilience can be lowered right down to the cellular level, aging us and reducing our general immunity. Research suggests that sleeping disorders, depression, digestive distress, high cholesterol, and anxiety attacks all have stress-related components. As Lily Tomlin said, "The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat!"

This summer, put yourself at the top of your list. With just a few new habits, you have the power to get off the fast lane and make this summer the best one of your life! What follows are a few simple steps that can make a huge difference in your worklife and leave you with more energy to enjoy the rest of summer. As they say, "In habit lies destiny!"

Get to know "you." There is only one person who is responsible for the quality of your life – and that’s YOU! Summer can be the perfect opportunity to take time for your life and get reacquainted with the self that has been lost in the shuffle. Most professional coaches and management gurus will agree that the most successful people take personal responsibility for all aspects of their lives – including reestablishing a relationship with themselves and understanding what makes their heart sing.

Take time to define your priorities and eliminate some things that drain you. Release the past and resentments that don’t serve you. Give up all your excuses. Create your personal vision. Map out a plan to achieve personal and professional dreams. Use a journal to record your insights, read a book on success principles, or hire a life coach. By taking the time to get to know yourself, you’ll pave the way to more happiness and success. Best of all, something almost magic happens when you prioritize yourself. You literally attract the life you want – both at work and at home.

Create calm. Summer can be the perfect time to create a personal practice to connect to your inner wisdom. Even the briefest period of contemplation gives you the opportunity to set your heart in the direction that determines the course of your day – and your life.

A wonderful byproduct of creating calm and taking care of yourself is Oxytocin, a peptide released during times of emotional bonding, relaxation and comforting touch. Oxytocin has protective, anti-stress functions, including reduced blood pressure and cortisol levels, increased tolerance to pain, and reduced anxiety.

There are many ways to create calm in your life. Schedule regular time for reading, reflection and prayer each evening before going to bed. Take the time for an occasional massage or Healing Touch session. Schedule a yoga or T’ai chi class each week. Develop a regular practice deep breathing. Go to a meditation class or buy a contemplative CD for relaxation at home. Spend time out in nature. And, make time to connect each day on a meaningful level with someone you love.

Invest energy in planning healthy food choices. Get in a "brown-bag groove" and take control over your lunchtime and the food traps that pop up during the day. Push away candy jars, donut trays, power lunches, vending machines and office party goodies. Outwit workday food traps. Pack a bag lunch, as well as healthy snacks such as almonds, fruits, veggies, yogurts, cheese or whole grains.

To keep your metabolism burning and your energy up, plan for healthy mid-morning, mid-afternoon and "on-the-way-home" snacks. Insist that food and drinks brought in for meetings and catered functions are of the healthy variety. Look into upgrading the vending machine stock. Get healthier foods into meetings and shift employee beverage preferences from soft drinks to water. As a reminder to drink water during the day, keep a large bottle of water at your desk. If you work at home, don’t bring food into your office. Schedule time during the day to "leave the office" and eat in the kitchen or dining room. Finally, limit caffeine. Consuming too much caffeine can overtax your adrenal glands and leach the delicate balance of vitamins, minerals and electrolytes out of your body, contributing to your body’s stress load.

Get moving. Exercise heightens your sense of well-being, improves your mood and allows you to sleep better. The summer is the perfect time to build in a daily exercise program into your calendar and invest in your personal success. Schedule daily exercise alongside work and doctors appointments – and be creative about it. Get a walk in by parking at the far end of the work lot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Schedule a walk during lunch, or starting a walking group in your office. Use a fitness ball as a chair to keep your core muscles engaged all day. Commit to getting a workout at the club before the kids are up. Practice isometric movements while you’re talking on the phone or reading emails. And, consider intervals to ratchet up your cardio intensity with intermittent bursts to help you burn more calories in a short period of time and boost your metabolism longer after your workout.

Plan your dream career or promotion. If work is leaving you overwhelmed and uninspired, it might be time to make a career change. More and more people are moving away from conventional careers to pursuits they find more personally rewarding or in alignment with their values, such as increased purpose and passion, more creativity, greater free time, and flexibility. As Napoleon Hill once said, "Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve." This summer, take some time to design a life that balances career success and personal well-being.

Put fires out ahead of time. Before going to bed, write out your "to-do" list for the next day’s work. By emptying your mind of all the tasks required tomorrow, you not only will sleep better, but you will work more efficiently and feel much less rushed and stressed going into your day. Another trick is to check your email at home before you go to work. That way, you can get ahead of things at work, plan for your day and brainstorm how to put out any fires.

Laugh more. Laughter has been proven to release a variety of immune-enhancing chemicals. Look for ways to be more creative and fun at work. Take time during the day for spontaneous activities. Lighten up and avoid undue seriousness. Practice having an attitude of gratitude. Choose a humorous phrase or one-liner from your favorite comedy that helps keep things in perspective. Watch a funny movie before bed. Read the comics before work. Tell a joke. If you’ve had a bad day, once you get home make some nasty grimaces in your bathroom mirror, then take a shower to wash off all your seriousness.

Achieving a healthy work/life balance takes some analyzing, planning and contemplation. But change starts only when you take that first step. Even a small step is important, because small changes, practiced consistently, transform great ideas into dramatic results. So put yourself at the top of your to-do list this summer and create some success habits that can help you lead a more fulfilling life.

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Chris Naylor, M.A., is a life, business and wellness coach at B.Better in Wayzata, Minn. You can reach her at (612) 802-9137 or visit www.b-betternow.com. Copyright © 2006 Chris Naylor. All rights reserved

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