My wife would often spend hours in another room or on the couch because of my ability to create a great deal of noise while I slept. At some point it became problematic enough for me to seek the advice of my physician. Two sleep studies later, I’m the proud owner of a CPAP breathing machine. Now I don’t snore… I wear a mask at night and that helps me breathe.
At this point you might be wondering to yourself, “Self, is this another post about balance, cleverly disguised as a post about Matt’s breathing issues?” Well, no. It’s not. While breathing is important (and I do suggest that you take or make time to breathe every day (not just in and out, but deep cleansing forget-about-work-for-30-or-60-seconds breathing), I’m not writing about that. I’m writing about asking for help. Out loud. Verbally. Directly.
It took me a long time to ask for help with this. I figured that my condition was something I could just handle and with which I could simply deal. My wife felt otherwise, and pleaded with me to talk to my doctor. Finally, I did. I asked for help. And what a difference it made.
I had no idea that my failure to ask for help with this issue was preventing me from doing so much. Before I got my CPAP, I’d wake up tired and headachy. This, in turn, left me largely useless at work until the Tylenol or ibuprofen kicked in, and, I’m told, didn’t really facilitate my having a positive attitude. Beyond that, I’d be super tired by the middle of the afternoon, so my productivity waned. So, I took a 9 hour work day (if you include the lunch hour) and could really only utilize about 6 ½ hours of it productively, 5 ½ with a break for lunch. Beyond that, in not asking for help external to my job, it made my relationships with my coworkers that much more challenging because of my attitude and attentiveness.
But it took me directly asking for help with this thing that I thought I could handle. And I couldn’t just hint that I needed help. I had to directly ask my doctor for assistance. I realize in retrospect that I was just dumb for not having asked for help earlier, but it really felt silly to me to ask for help with what seemed to be such a common problem.
This also helped me realize that I was the creator of much of my own demise at work. I took on work because I was expected to take on work. However, it was never said to me that I couldn’t ask for help. However, in not asking for help, I would constantly feel stressed at work. I would make deadlines, but just barely. I would go home stressed at night and be short with my wife, toddler daughter, and newborn son. Once I figured out that I wasn’t the only person in the office who could do some of the things that I did – and trusted that others in the office could make my life better and do a good job on certain tasks without greatly impacting their own productivity – then all of a sudden I was a happier, less stressed co-worker and supervisor. I’m not saying that I don’t do any work any more – I just involve my peers in the things that I can and on the tasks I know they can do better than me. I still do a lot, but I do a lot more with help.
But it took my directly asking for assistance to make this happen. I couldn’t just hint that I had a ton to do, because my colleagues had much to do themselves. Passive-aggressively dropping the fact that a report needed to get finished wasn’t going to get it done, nor would it get me assistance. Once I cleared this hurdle of asking someone else to help me get part of my work done, the change was instantly noticeable.
And, lo and behold, I had time to breathe.
Matt Pistilli coordinates evaluation and administration for Student Access, Transition and Success Programs at Purdue University.
Author’s note: Snoring is no small matter. Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can lead to heart disease and other health issues. If you or someone you care about snores a lot – and, more so, stops breathing in his/her sleep, please suggest that they see their physician about getting help. More information on sleep apnea can be found at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/SleepApnea/SleepApnea_WhatIs.html.