My Lessons From FA Also Help Me at Work

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by Sean Baumstark |

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I often compartmentalize all the significant elements of my life, and my journey with Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) is no exception. I work eight hours a day and leave work behind for the other 16 hours. When it comes to the podcast I co-host, I set aside specific blocks of time to focus on that every week, and I rarely deviate from my plan. I keep my friendships inside the circles they were formed in, and I’m careful not to blend friend groups.

I imagine some of my female readers are shaking their heads and thinking to themselves, “Typical man.” I don’t know if this compartmentalizing is good or bad. Still, I feel it’s a natural tendency for many of us.

As much as I try to separate FA from everything else in life, I’m often surprised at the frequent correlations.

This has been noticeable lately in the broad area of safe practices, referred to simply as “safety” in my workplace. Over the past few weeks, I’ve attended multiple meetings with many groups of people within my company. These meetings are proactive in nature, and open dialogue is encouraged to normalize safe practices and diminish the stigma that often accompanies safety programs.

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I was in one of those meetings today, and an example was used that landed perfectly with me and caused me to chuckle a bit. In this meeting, one of our consultants was offering input. With over 25 years of working in the safety realm, he has a lot of stories and easy-to-understand examples.

In making the point that most people don’t intentionally set out to get hurt, our consultant referenced the danger of texting and driving. He talked about how our brains operate and how distractions can quickly turn into accidents.

He was drawing attention to the need for our brains to focus on one thing at a time. He jokingly challenged attendees to set out on a hike and engage in complex arithmetic simultaneously. When we try to juggle multiple items that require brainpower, we increase the risk for injury.

Of course, my initial thought was, “Yeah, right; I can’t walk and do anything simultaneously.”

I can easily relate to the need to focus on one thing at a time. As much as I wish I could walk and text, or walk and look around at my surroundings, I recognize that I’m asking for injury if I relax my focus on walking. Anyone with FA can spend hours sharing story after story of the times we tried to multitask when movement was involved. Some of those stories will make you laugh, and some will make you wince in discomfort or imagined pain.

Although FA certainly adds a unique layer of challenges, I felt validated as the consultant continued because I realized that FA isn’t solely to blame for my need to focus. Instead, it is a natural brain function that deserves respect, and it’s a best practice for avoiding injury and mistakes.

I know that I need to slow down and move carefully for my safety, but everyone can benefit from avoiding distractions.

Note: Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Friedreich’s Ataxia News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.


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