USA Wellness Café
Stress Management Take-Out Course:
Gaining Work/Life Balance

Written by Staff Writers of USA Wellness Café ™

If you are very successful in your work role, you might become addicted to work and its predictable routine. We all like to spend time doing what we’re good at. Besides, when you’re productive, you feel in control. You’re making things happen! Working a lot can actually feel like a stress reduction technique.

Also, when things aren’t going well in your personal life, you can over-focus on work. Work is sometimes a good place to hide from family problems or other issues. Your workplace and the whole process of work becomes a welcome escape from life’s not-so-predictable pressures. For example, if your family has agreed to collectively clean the basement on Saturday, you may suddenly bow out, saying you need to spend that time at the office.

Most of us enjoy the familiarity and predictability of engaging with work. Staying in work mode can also provide stimulating challenges and enhance self-esteem. At work, we can see measurable results from setting goals or receiving a pay raise.

Some employers, on the other hand, affect work/life balance by requiring employees to do too much. Workers try to cope with the strain, as their supervisors let them know they need to marry their jobs. Salaried workers are especially vulnerable to this kind of experience.

The Robot Lifestyle Is Not a Healthy One

Key Point

Lack of work/life balance is a feeling that is sometimes tough to explain--to yourself or to others. You may feel weird and bent out of shape in ways you can’t really articulate. You may feel empty, unfulfilled, and ready to run away for good. Give yourself a bold wake-up call.

A national insurance company (that we’ll refer to as ABC Insurance Company) once required so much devotion that some of its employees reported to the USA Wellness Café they were required to work 102 hours per week every week!

Many of America’s rail workers, especially train crews, have reported so much work overload to the USA Wellness Cafe, it’s easy to tell that they need a Divine Intervention for their sanity. They don’t have adequate time to work, rest, sleep, spend time with loved ones, or have any hobbies. Work is all they can manage.

In some work settings, you may receive cues (either spoken or unspoken) that you should devote your life to the company or organization. You work too much because you have no choice. You want to impress your supervisors and departmental managers by doing as much as others. You don’t want to rock the boat in any way.

The truth is, however, your brain needs a break. Pushing relentlessly is not fair to you. The quality of your work will eventually suffer, too. Without a personal life that offsets work stress, you’ll experience burnout. It will take more energy to do the same amount of work. You’ll feel stuck, overloaded, confused, tired, and anxious.

So what do you do to cope? You probably work a little harder, push even more, and try to ignore that voice inside your head screaming for relief.

Many people say, “I feel trapped in my job.” Others may say, “I hate my lifestyle. Something’s wrong, but I can’t put my finger on it.”

There’s a strong possibility, too, that your spouse or children might grieve for your lost harmony. You might hear someone say, “Can’t you do anything but work, work, work?” Or, your spouse might tell you, “You’re neglecting our family.”

By working too much, you are depriving yourself of getting many of your personal needs met. You have to let a lot of activities, self-care, and relaxation time slide by if you’re over-working. After all, there are only so many hours in a day.

In addition, you can deprive your friends and families of the harmony they receive by spending time with you. Your bone-dry emotional bank account can drain you and others in your circle of life. It’s easy to snap at your children or speak hatefully to your spouse if you’re exhausted to the core of your being.

Inner Harmony Will Benefit Those Around You

By addressing your needs, which helps you stay available to those around you, you’ll feel more mental energy to tackle your work life. With balance and harmony, you’ll do a better job over the long haul. The time you invest in having a healthy personal life outside of work will pay huge dividends professionally.

By meeting your needs that bring balance into your life, you will likely speak and act more patiently. Your spouse, friends and business associates will literally feel the inner harmony you’re carrying side of your emotional spirit.

Your personal needs will include the following:

  • Time to physically and emotionally relax
  • Ample time to sleep
  • Time to read, take a class, and expand your education
  • Friendships to provide emotional support
  • Family relationships to ground you in all situations
  • Activities such as going to the movies or a restaurant
  • Hobbies such as cooking, skiing, or playing an instrument
  • Self-care routines such as getting your hair cut or having a massage
  • Vacations, camping, or side-trips on weekends

Finding balance will ideally include making small changes in several areas, so you can get more of your personal needs met. While you can’t magically change major routines overnight, you can begin to find harmony by taking control of the clock.

You can use your time a little more wisely to carve out space for relaxation and spending time with friends, for example. These tips can help:

  1. Find small segments of time to cool your thinking. Take five or ten minutes to blank out worrying and trying to solve problems. Listen to music on the way to work, for example, so you won’t be mulling over how to fix something.
  2. Write down problems and plausible solutions to try. Do this so you can focus your problem-solving time. Otherwise, you can waste hours on worrying and getting nowhere. Create a computer document or use a notepad to work on specific problems that bother you. For example, list three ways to get more help around the house.
  3. Carve out recreational time each week. If you have to go by yourself to a movie every Tuesday, put this on your schedule. If you wait to enlist friends or family to go with you, you might end up skipping the movie. Make a date with yourself and stick to it.
  4. Identify your most-neglected needs. For example, if you need a pal to bounce ideas off of, find someone who likes to chat over coffee. If you need a few sessions with a career coach, try to line up someone to work with you in person or over the phone. Visit a doctor for a physical check-up or make a dental appointment, too.
  5. Hire a small amount of help. Even if you pay your neighbor’s son $20 to mow just the front half of your lawn, this assistance from him will add up over time. Paying someone $40 to clean only your kitchen and bathrooms every other week will free up some personal energy as well.

Attaining a good balance between work and other activities will require a weekly review. Don’t let a month go by without taking a look at your life plan. Ask: Am I happy with the schedule I have? Am I feeling fulfilled at work and at home? Do I have the right people in my life? Am I looking after myself physically?

Digging Deeper Will Reveal the Real Truth

Good questions open up the way for productive answers. If things aren’t going well, sit down and write questions that might open your creative thinking. You can learn to acquire personal insight that is more objective, if you answer your questions with complete honesty.

For example, if you write a list of questions to help you achieve work/life balance, you might write questions along these lines:

  1. How many years should I stay in my present job?
  2. How satisfied am I with my present job and lifestyle?
  3. What steps do I need to take to ensure the next four years of my life lead me closer to my goals and dreams?
  4. What recreational activities and travel do I desire?
  5. What would be my ideal work day?

Maybe you’ve toyed with the idea of hiring household help or a lawn-mowing service. However, you can just hear your spouse complaining about the money you’ll need to spend. Or, you might feel super-guilty even considering paying out money for help.

Your mind jumps to your sister-in-law who has four children, runs a law office, and keeps an immaculate home without help. Oh yes, she grows her own fruits and vegetables, too.

All of us have these kinds of messages dancing around in our brain. What if somebody thinks I’m disorganized, lazy, or a contributor to the failure of my family’s shaky finances? What if I can’t pay all of my bills after I pay the cleaning service? What then?

Before you cave into these messages of guilt, think again. Saving personal energy by hiring some help will improve your emotional well-being, physical health, and peace of mind. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. Tell your spouse, “I need to create more harmony in my life, and I really want to hire some help.”

Key Point

Pretend you’re a life coach helping your best friend. Envision the advice you might give another person with your issues.

Reflect on messages you need to think about, just as if you’re coaching someone else. Your tips might fit something along these lines:

  • Curb exhaustion to protect your health. After all, plenty of people (young adults under 50) have heart attacks every day. Rest for 20 minutes the moment you get home.
  • Give yourself something to look forward to. This will energize you. It’s easier to work five straight 10-hour days if you’re going to dinner and a movie with good friends on Saturday night.
  • Do something nice for yourself every chance you get. For example: Pencil in a couple of hours of TV for yourself on Wednesday night or take a walk in the park on Saturday mornings.

Keep a notebook of plausible changes you could enact. Remember, it’s all of the small things that do add up. It’s difficult to change major things in your life or your schedule.

You have to look for minor changes that will work under the worst circumstances. Achieving harmony after you’re in a state of burnout and exhaustion will require small adjustments that gradually lift your load and rebalance your feelings.

Small changes to rebalance your life might include several small steps, such as the following:

  • You bring home salad and a pizza so you never cook on Fridays.
  • You go to bed an hour early a couple of nights each week.
  • You allow your kids to spend the night at Grandma’s every two weeks.
  • You unplug the phone and have a quiet house for a couple of hours on weeknights.

Balance in anyone’s life comes from a sense of having some control. If you are forced to over-work, over-give or stay engaged with actual work 102 hours a week like the salaried workers at ABC Insurance Company mentioned above, look at new decisions you might make.

Never allow yourself to live on overload this demanding for too long! You don’t want to die young, and you don’t want to cripple your emotional and physical health.

If you cannot figure out how to balance your work life and personal life, find another job. Talk with your Human Resources Department at work about taking another position or scaling back. Approach a change of this magnitude as a “must have” change, not a feel-good change. You want to be around for a long time to enjoy your family, friends and lifestyle.