Worrying about what people think
Stress Management and Work-life Balance
It seems we’re all on a quest to achieve work-life balance, but we don’t often talk about what that means nor how to address it. And if we’re fortunate enough to reach that elusive state finally, how do we maintain it?
A quick Google search for ways to fix work-life imbalance offers many seemingly simple solutions to this modern problem. Ideas such as becoming a list-writer, to schedule time for self-care, to stick to designated work hours, to join a gym, and to manage your finances. But adding tasks to an already-full schedule often doesn’t feel like a helpful solution.
Work Life Balance vs Work Life Harmony
Designing a Less Stressful Life
Self-described “former corporate warrior” and author of Fat, Forty and Fired, Nigel Marsh, points out that Governments and corporations aren’t going to take charge of fixing this for us – we need to take responsibility for the types of lives we want to lead. “If you don’t design your life, someone else will design it for you, and you may not like it,” he says.
Marsh cautions against falling into the trap of “I’ll have a life when I retire”, or in trying to achieve balance within too tight a timeframe by writing a step-by-step prescription for a perfectly balanced day. He advocates approaching balance in a, well, balanced way. Adding a gym workout to a 12-hour work day makes you “a fit office rat”, he says. “It isn’t more balanced; it’s a more fit office rat. What about the intellectual side? The emotional? The spiritual? We have to attend to all of those areas, not just do 50 stomach crunches.”
Stress Management – The Importance of Starting Small
Experts agree that small things matter – being more balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval. Instead, it means modest investment in the right places to transform our relationships and our quality of life.
Essential in redressing the balance when it’s out of kilter is learning to say ‘no’. Brené Brown is a researcher into courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. Brown advocates choosing “discomfort over resentment”, preferring to sit with the temporary awkwardness of saying ‘no’ than living with the resentment that comes from agreeing to something that isn’t right for you.
In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brown explores some harmful habits that inhibit our ability to live authentically and in balance. Her list includes:
I am stressed and my life is off-balance: How do I start fixing it?
Achieving work-life harmony isn’t a straightforward path, and nor do the changes we make automatically stay fixed over time as new demands or commitments constantly enter our lives. So try to view setbacks and discomfort as learning opportunities, and identify small openings for action and change. And most importantly, practice the art of looking inward with self-compassion to monitor your wellbeing. We are all works in progress, after all.