When Having It All Means It’s All Falling Apart
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When Having It All Means It’s All Falling Apart

How to get through those days when your professional and personal lives won’t quit

Tue, Jan 10, 2023 9:31amGrey Clock 4 min

The first message, received while I was at the office one day last month, drowning in work, informed me that my daughter had lice. The second confirmed my son had it, too.

The third, which came as my deadline was approaching and I was feeling phantom itchiness on my scalp, announced that my son’s wonderful kindergarten teacher had quit the week before and was never coming back.

I felt like I’d been cast in an adult version of “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” Everything—work, life, parasites—had collided. In addition to having no idea which crisis to tackle first, I questioned how I’d gotten there in the first place.

Sometimes there is a fine line between having it all and it’s all falling apart. After a stretch when many of us laboured to be Santa at home and year-end heroes at work, all while facing a tripledemic, we could stand to take a deep breath, shift our perspective and, when all else fails, laugh at the absurdity of it all.

“On your bad days, when nothing is going right, you go, ‘Oh, my God, I’m a horrible parent. I’m a horrible employee. I’m a horrible wife. I’m a horrible everything,’” says Lilian Tsi Stielstra, a mother of two grown children in Vancouver, Wash. The 58-year-old says she still remembers the morning years ago when she confidently marched into her office in her brand-new black power suit only to realise it was adorned with a blob of her one-year-old’s snot.

One lawyer and mother of four in Pennsylvania told me she’d once dropped her child off at soccer practice, then figured out, in the blur of juggling back-to-back calls, she’d dropped the wrong child. A nonprofit executive mistakenly threw the plastic bag containing his homemade lunch in the trash and commuted to the office cluelessly clutching a bag filled with cat poop. One tech leader recounted to me the time she received a text message while stationed in a glass conference room in her bustling office. It was her fiancé, breaking up with her.

Some tales of work-life clash are grisly, like presenting to a client in Chicago still bloodied from fresh dental work. Some are eventually funny, like when your child bursts into a research meeting of scientists to announce his pet lizards are having sex.

Navigating our different responsibilities and identities has never been easy. These days, it’s compounded by our current stew of illnesses, corporate chaos and the pressure on parents to make up for everything kids lost during the pandemic.

“It’s all colliding,” says Lisa Duerre, who spent a day last August dealing with an ailing sibling, an anxious child, a crucial client pitch and a dog who decided right then was a good time to get sick all over the carpet.

The chief executive of RLD Group, which advises tech companies on culture, Ms. Duerre recently had a coaching client kick off a session by placing her forehead down on the desk, overwhelmed by caring for a parent with dementia while dealing with a corporate reorganisation.

For those in the throes of acute work-life tensions, Ms. Duerre recommends first pausing. Take three deep breaths. Notice how you’re feeling—are you screaming “Just cancel everything!” in your head? Are your shoulders scrunched up near your ears? Tell yourself you’re just going to choose the next right action, and the next, one at a time. Ask yourself what’s most important to do right now, and then ask for help where you need it.

Go to a peer first if you can, she says, so you’re not constantly sounding alarms to your boss. When you do approach your manager with a problem, bring some possible solutions rather than plaintive queries. The paediatrician only has an appointment during the client meeting; would you prefer I call in from the parking lot there or send someone else to the meeting in my place?

Messy days, and tragic and scary moments too, are part of having a full life. Shouldering many roles, from dad to dog owner to team leader, makes us happier, says Yael Schonbrun, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Brown University, though it can also make some situations harder.

“When we have a life that has a lot of meaning and purpose, it’s often quite uncomfortable,” she says.

See if you can find the silver linings in your busy, complicated days. For example, limited time can force us to be more focused and present, says Dr. Schonbrun, the author of a book about how working parents can manage feeling overwhelmed. Stepping away from work to see our kids or tend to another responsibility can breed bursts of creativity.

When our lives are bigger, a loss or challenge in one area often doesn’t hit as hard.

“Even though I might run at a higher anxiety and higher stress, I don’t run lonely,” reasons Shelley Nelson, who juggles two kids and a job at a financial-technology company. She hit a run of bad luck starting in late 2021, breaking her hand right as she was starting a new job, leaving her with one for typing. Then came pinkeye, a flat tire that made her late for a meeting where she was to meet her new executives, Covid-19 infections for nearly the whole family and the death of her husband’s grandmother.

“I was, like, this is not who I am,” she says of all the accommodations she had to request from her new manager, from extra work-from-home days to time off.

She laughed to keep from crying. She wished she could do better, at everything. But she told herself she was managing as well as she could, and found the bad days built resilience.

I did, too. When the woman at the lice-treatment centre examined my hair and assured me that good moms get lice, I took the diagnosis as proof of my hands-on parenting. When my son came down with a mystery fever the following week, I cherished the extra cuddles on the couch. By the time my daughter was hit with a stomach bug on Christmas Eve, just as my editor was texting me about a column, I was less fazed by it all.

Nothing seemed to be going as planned, but it still felt like a privilege to have so many things I loved, constantly colliding with each other.


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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Booming demand for wellness tourism shows no slowing, with travel related to health and well-being projected to have reached $1 trillion last year and to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami.

Curated wellness travel programs are especially sought-after, specifically holistic treatments focused on longevity. Affluent travellers not only are making time to hit the gym while gallivanting across the globe, they’re also seeking destinations that specifically cater to their wellness goals, including treatments aimed at living longer.

“I believe Covid did put a spotlight on self-care and well-being,” says Penny Kriel, corporate director of spa and wellness at Salamander Collection, a group of luxury properties in places like Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. But Kriel says today’s spas are more holistic, encouraging folks to understand the wellness concept and incorporate it into their lifestyle more frequently.

“With the evolution of treatment products and technology, spas have been able to enhance their offerings and appeal to more travellers,” Kriel says.

While some growth is connected to the variety of treatments available, results and the digital world are also contributing to the wellness boom.

“The efficacy and benefits of these treatments continue to drive bookings and interest, especially with the support of social media, influencers, and celebrity endorsements,” Kriel says.

While genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a diet free of processed foods, sufficient sleep, and human connection play essential roles in living well and longer, experts believe in holistic therapies to help manage stress, boost immunity, and ultimately influence length and quality of life.

Anti Ageing and Beyond

“For years, people have been coming to spas, booking treatments, and gaining advice on how to turn the clock back with anti ageing and corrective skin treatments,” Kriel says. However, today’s treatments are far more innovative.

On Marinella Beach in Porto Rotondo, on the Italian island of Sardinia, guests at the five-star Abi d’Oru Hotel & Spa can experience the resort’s one-of-a-kind “longevity treatment,” a unique antiaging facial using one of the island’s native grapes: Cannonau. The world’s first declared “Blue Zone”—one of five designated areas where people live longer than average, some into their 100s—Sardinia produces this robust red wine varietal, the most widely planted on the island.

Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France, Cannonau supposedly contains two to three times more antioxidants than other red-wine grapes. By incorporating Cannonau, Abi Spa says its unique 50-minute longevity session increases collagen production for firmer, younger-looking skin.

Maintaining a youthful appearance is just one facet of longevity treatments, which range from stress-reduction sessions like massage to nutritional support and sleep programs, Kriel says. Some retreats also offer medical services such as IV infusions and joint injections.

Keeping with the trend, Kriel is expanding Salamander Collection’s existing spa services, such as detox wraps and lymphatic drainage, to include dedicated “Wellness Rooms,” new vegan and vegetarian menu items, and well-being workshops. “Sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness will be a big focus for integration in 2024,” she says.

Data-Driven Wellness

Skyler Stillings, an exercise physiologist at Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort—an adults-only wellness centre in Lanai, Hawaii—says guests were drawn to the social aspect when the spa opened in November 2021.

“We saw a huge need for human connection,” she recalls. But over the past few years, what’s paramount has shifted. “Longevity is trending much more right now.”

Human connection is a central draw for guests at Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Billionaire co-founder of tech company Oracle Larry Ellison and physician and scientist Dr. David Angus co-founded Sensei. After the death of a mutual close friend, the duo teamed up to create longevity-based wellness retreats to nurture preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the Lanai location, the brand established Sensei Porcupine Creek in Greater Palm Springs, California, in November 2022.

Sensei has a data-driven approach. The team performs a series of assessments to obtain a clearer picture of a guest’s health, making wellness recommendations based on the findings. While Sensei analyses that data to curate a personalised plan, Stillings says it’s up to the guests which path they choose.

Sensei’s core three-day retreat is a “Guided Wellness Experience.” For spa treatments, each guest checks into their own “Spa Hale,” a private 1,000-square-foot bungalow furnished with an infrared sauna, a steam shower, a soaking tub, and plunge pools. The latest therapies include Sarga Bodywalking—a barefoot myofascial release massage, and “Four Hands in Harmony,” a massage with two therapists working in tandem. Sensei Guides provide take-home plans so guests can continue their wellness journeys after the spa.

Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Sanctuaries for Longevity

Headquartered in Switzerland with hotels and on-site spas across the globe, Aman Resorts features an integrative approach, combining traditional remedies with modern medicine’s advanced technologies. Tucked behind the doors of the storied Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Banya Spa House at Aman New York—the brand’s flagship spa in the Western Hemisphere—is a 25,000-square-foot, three-floor urban oasis.

Yuki Kiyono, global head of health and wellness development at Aman, says the centre provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Aman’s customisable “Immersion Programs” consist of a three- or five-day immersion. “The programs encompass treatments and experiences that touch every significant aspect to create a path for longevity, from meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and movement,” Kiyono explains.

Banya Spa House at Aman New York.
Robert Rieger

The spa’s “Tei-An Wellness Solution” features 90- to 150-minute sessions using massage, cryotherapy, and Vitamin IV infusions. Acupuncture is also on offer.

“With its rich history of Chinese Medicine, modern research, and the introduction of sophisticated electro-acupuncture medicine, acupuncture has been proven to assist with problems and increase performance,” Kiyono says.

Resetting the Mind and Body

Beyond longevity, “healthspan”—the number of years a person can live in good health free of chronic disease—is the cornerstone of Mountain Trek Health Reset Retreat’s program in British Columbia, Canada.

Kirk Shave, president and program director, and his team employ a holistic approach, using lifestyles in long-living Blue Zones as a point of reference.

“We improve our daily lifestyle habits, so we live vitally as long as we’re meant to live,” Shave says of the retreat. He built the program from an anthropological stance, referencing humans as farmers, hunters, and gatherers based on their eating and sleeping patterns. Food includes vegetable-centric meals sans alcohol, sugar, bread, or dairy.

Guests wake at dawn each day and have access to sunrise yoga, several hours of “flow” or slow hiking, spa treatments, forest bathing, calming crystal singing-bowl and sound therapy sessions, and classes on stress reduction—one of Mountain Trek’s primary goals. The program motivates people to spend much of their time in nature because it’s been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to inflammation and disease when elevated for extended periods.

While most guests aren’t aware of how immersive Mountain Trek’s program is when they arrive, they leave the resort revitalized after the structured, one-week program. Set in the Kootenays overlooking its eponymous river, the resort and adventure promise what Shave calls a “visceral experience of transformation.”

“They’re interested in coming to be in nature,” Shave says of the guests. “They hit a wall in their life and slipped backwards, so they know they need a reset.”

Banya Spa House at Aman New York provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being.
Robert Rieger

This article first appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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