A lot of what you’ve heard about working on Wall Street is exaggerated, especially the 18-hour days. But it’s certainly an intense industry, and after a while, it takes its toll.
I began to feel that toll sometime in 2019. I was in my late thirties and had risen into a managing director role at work which was exciting, but also high-pressure and high-visibility. I could feel my body responding differently to the stress. My metabolism, my energy, and even my physical composition had changed. Up until that point, I was averaging four to five hours of sleep a night. I had convinced myself that I was thriving, but my body was sending me a different message. I began working with a health and nutrition coach who helped me take steps toward creating more balance in my life, and the very first thing we tackled was sleep. It wasn’t major, maybe an extra hour or two a night, but the difference in how I felt was astounding. Now, I get at least seven hours every night and feel younger at 41 than I did at 30.
My metabolism, my energy, and even my physical composition had changed.
This taught me a couple important lessons: First, that even tiny changes can have a transformative effect on your well-being. And second, that well-being is a holistic endeavor. Not only did I feel better physically–calmer, more stable, truly recharged–but I became stronger mentally and emotionally, too. I became a better friend, a better son, a better manager, a better employee, and certainly a better athlete. It even impacted the way I eat, giving me more control over sugar crashes and cravings. For me, it felt like an epiphany: Only when we’re honoring our physical and mental health are we in the driver’s seat of our life.
I also began to see the flawed nature of the phrase “work-life balance,” which implies that we can turn off work stressors when we clock out. Work stress doesn’t stay at the office, just as family stress doesn’t stay at home; we carry these things around in fluid emotional states. Knowing that, I began to wonder if there was a way to make my personal and professional lives feel more connected. Maybe, I thought, I could actually make them compliment each other. Three years later, I’ve successfully incorporated my passion for wellness into my finance career. Here are a few ways I achieved it.
For me, it felt like an epiphany: Only when we’re honoring our physical and mental health are we in the driver’s seat of our life.
Embrace the power of “no”: For years, I believed in saying yes to everything, that taking on more was the path to a fuller life. But if you want balance, you’ve got to say no. It isn’t easy, and there will always be costs, whether it’s forgoing a social event or an extra project at work. But our health and well-being are valuable, too, and it’s up to us to prioritize them. And no, it isn’t selfish to skip a work event to do yoga. Ultimately, honoring your mind and body will make you a better leader, a better partner, and a better member of your community.
Take your leisure time seriously: I began looking for ways to do more with my hobbies and passions. I had always run marathons and triathlons as a way to fundraise for various charities, but I started to get more involved, joining boards of charities like Exhale to Inhale, leading an annual walk for leukemia, and collaborating with Getting Out and Staying Out, a program that provides access to yoga and fitness activities to men in the criminal justice system. In 2019, I was asked to be a Lululemon ambassador, where I helped the brand connect with downtown New York’s fitness community and the causes they care about. Finally, in 2020, I earned my yoga teacher certification through Men Care Now (MCN). The further you lean into the activities that make you happy, the more like-minded people you’ll meet.
The further you lean into the activities that make you happy, the more like-minded people you’ll meet.
Find ways to connect your professional life to your passions: Eventually, I began looking for ways to build a community around mindfulness within my own company. Earlier this year, we launched a new vertical entirely concentrated on mindfulness. It has access to local therapists, schedules for group yoga classes, and resources around nutrition, breathing exercises, and meditation. I even gifted the interns a book about the importance of sleep. It’s powerful when you find a community that cares about your health, and even more powerful when that community includes your colleagues.
Celebrate progress, even if it’s small (or late): Conversations around wellness feel normal now, but they’re relatively new, especially on Wall Street. I’m still consistently surprised at how readily these large financial institutions have embraced mindfulness with open arms. We used to feel chained to our desks, but now I regularly see colleagues scheduling breathwork sessions into their calendars, or hopping on Zoom for guided meditations in the middle of the day. That’s major progress. Now let’s keep going.
It’s powerful when you find a community that cares about your health, and even more powerful when that community includes your colleagues.
About Wael Younan:
Wael is a finance investment leader working at one of the most established firms in New York. Wael is a Lululemon Ambassador and Vice President, Treasurer and board member of Exhale to Inhale, a non profit that empowers those affected by domestic violence through the healing power of trauma-informed yoga.