These days, work-life balance can seem like an impossible feat. With so many competing demands on our time- plus technology- makes workers accessible around the clock, many employees work during “off the clock hours” to make sure they don’t fall behind on work projects, to get that raise they are after, or for fear of getting passed up for a promotion. And with the advent of a computer in your pocket, our smart phones have made it easier for us to stay connected long after we have left our office, making it even harder to balance time.
And there comes a price with all of the off-hours working. Experts agree: the compounding stress from the never-ending workday is damaging. It can hurt relationships, health and overall happiness. We see it manifest in increasing sick days being used (don’t get me wrong, take them when you are sick!) but these sick days are sometimes being used as mental health days in attempt to balance time. Because our vacation days and weekends aren’t enough.
More headaches, stomach issues, sleep problems, insomnia and fatigue (read more about symptoms of stress- here). These issues are increasing amongst all of us. And, there is something we can do everyday to help manage this balance. The good news is it is on our control to change and these changes don’t take very long!
Work-life balance means something different to every individual; here are some work-life balance strategies.
1. Let go of perfectionism
Our perfectionism can keep us stuck in a rut of never feeling accomplished and the ongoing fight within our selves that we aren’t doing enough. This can not only show up in work, but also in our daily lives- hobbies, trying out new things, even playing games with our children – when perfectionism strikes, it can paralyze us.
Often times, as we climb the ladder at work and as our responsibilities, families and demands grow, our need for perfectionism can mushroom. Perfectionism becomes out of reach and if that habit is left unchecked, it can become destructive. When this happens we can experience burnout on the job. Job burnout is a special type of job stress — a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work.
The key to avoid burning out is to let start letting go of perfectionism. It may be difficult at first, but one step at a time. It could be doing one new thing that you have never done before like: training for a 5K, or learning to paint, trying yoga, cooking a new dish. Stepping slightly outside of our comfort zone can be an incredible gift to us for growth and overcoming self-defeating perfectionism. As we expand our life, it gets more difficult to balance time and keep that habit of perfectionism going. And we can still strive for our best, for excellence – which if far more healthier and forgiving than perfectionism.
From telecommuting to programs that make work easier, technology has helped our lives in many ways. But it has also created expectations of constant accessibility. The work day never seems to end and balancing time can seem impossible. So it really is up to us to set the priorities. So consider not sending those texts at your kid’s soccer game or not sending work emails while you’re with your family or friends.
Make quality time true quality time. Turn the phone on silent and put it away. With any new habit, start small (for 10 minutes) and then build up to hour (ok, maybe not an hour!) Begin to not react to the updates from work, and it will become easier overtime, and you will developing a stronger habit of resilience. When we cultivate resilience we feel a greater sense of control over our lives, whereas reactive people have less control and are more prone to stress.
3. Exercise and meditate
Even when we’re busy, we make time for the crucial things in life. We eat. We go to the bathroom. We sleep. And yet one of our most crucial needs - exercise - is often the first thing to go when our calendars fill up. Exercise is an effective stress reducer. It pumps feel-good endorphins through your body.
Meditation is the antidote to stress. Meditation can feel daunting to some people. So start small, again, just five minutes in the morning and night can begin to a quick five minute meditation session morning and night, can combat sleep issues, decrease stress hormones, as well as just bringing us back to an even state. And it increases calmness and happiness. Who doesn’t want that? Oh, and did I mention daily meditation is free? Want to start meditation but don't know how to start? Try out my free online mediation class right now.
Exercises can require minor effort but offer major payoffs. Exercise increases the feel good hormones, releases stress, helps us sleep better and of course feel better! Exercise doesn’t have to be an hour at the gym. It can be a 20 minute walk with your kids, 15 minutes of chair yoga at your office, strength training, stretching, aerobic exercise – take the stairs instead of the elevator, take a further away parking spot. Everyday doesn’t have to be a major, sweaty workout. But get moving. Remember…if you rest, you rust.
4. Limit time-wasting activities
It’s so easy to get caught up in social media, Netflix, the news, shopping – really any distraction we can find to quiet the stress and anxiety. But what we find when we avoid or don’t find a healthy way to deal with these feelings, is that it comes out in other ways. Not getting good sleep, becoming easily frustrated and agitated, feeling stressed or depressed, unhealthy relationships.
Finding activities that bring us joy, relaxation and happiness is far more long-lasting than the instant gratification of something that is temporary. Spending some time determining what is important to us, should then be where we spend our time. For each person that is different, and maybe you haven’t asked yourself this in a long time, But if not now, when?
Of course, there are many more ways of finding a healthy balance in our life. These are just a work-life balance strategies and hopefully this inspires you to discover more ways to find and lead you to balance time.
For more information on meditation, and how working with a Life Coach can help you achieve balance in your life, visit www.nikkibuckstead.com
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