Work-life balance IS Achievable
Work-life balance is a well-known term but a foreign concept for many. We can imagine it would feel wonderful, but with multiple demands and responsibilities in our day-to-day lives, creating balance seems like a fantasy. You might even struggle to think of someone in your life who practices good work-life balance. So, is this trending concept realistic?
Yes! It is absolutely achievable, but we have to acknowledge we are the only ones who can create balance in our lives. It requires a conscious effort to make ongoing choices and sacrifices to protect our overall well-being by living a balanced lifestyle. You must start by accepting that you cannot do everything that everybody expects of you, therefore you need to prioritize your time and energy.
Each of us have core components in our life that make us feel whole and complete. This may include family, friends, physical health, mental health, religion/spirituality, career, financial health, school, and leisure activities. These areas need regular attention to thrive. If we put too much time and energy into one or two, we inevitably will neglect the others. The result is burnout and an overall unhealthy life. We also need to ensure that we find resolution with any toxicity. Toxic stress in one area will leak over and negatively impact other parts of our life.
Our bodies are designed to protect us from stress and will send cues to let you know when life is out of balance. Headaches, fatigue, digestion issues, strained muscles, and changes in appetite are common symptoms of an unbalanced lifestyle. Unfortunately, we don’t always listen to our bodies and continue to put ourselves in stressful situations rather than making our health a priority. For example, if you drink coffee all day to push through the week instead of allowing your body to get adequate sleep at night, you are choosing to neglect your body and eventually will suffer more severe physical consequences as you experience continued strain.
In additional to physical symptoms, our mental and emotional state can be red flags for increased stress levels. Emotional outbursts, irritability, lack of motivation, tearfulness, shame, depression or anxiety are ways that our minds try to signal a need for change. It can become risky when we choose drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, shopping or other means of emotional escape as an attempt to cope with these uncomfortable states. The longer you run from the problem, the more room the problem has to grow and becomes harmful in multiple ways. It’s vital to find the courage to face the discomfort and get to the root of the issue for long-term resolution.
Throughout your life, you’ll experience an ebb and flow to your balance based on internal and external circumstances. Think of this as a lifestyle to maintain, not master. Be prepared to periodically monitor and make adjustments.
Sometimes you will need to make small adjustments, but I encourage you to be willing to explore big adjustments, as well. It is necessary to let go of a job, a home, or even a marriage if it is negatively impacting your health. Deep emotional issues such as a childhood trauma may surface that need to be addressed, possibly for the first time in your life. If you find yourself facing one of these larger roadblocks to health, keep in mind there is professional support available to help you navigate those choices. A professional can offer a perspective outside of your own head to organize your thoughts and feelings and empower you with more effective tools to heal and move forward.
Let me share with you one of many examples of how this concept is applied in my practice. I had a patient I will refer to by a fictitious name, Sandy, who had come to see me after her doctor suggested that her acid reflux was a result of stress. Sandy acknowledged she was in fact stressed trying to juggle marriage, kids and work. She had a “suck-it-up” attitude about the situation, basically explaining that she had no choice but to live with the stress until her kids were older and she didn’t have to work so much.
When we explore the core components that were important to her health, she was able to see that she had not been making much time to enjoy her relationship with her husband, kids or friends; she no longer went to church, which was important to her; there was no leisure time in her schedule; and she already knew that her physical and mental health were struggling. Sandy put about 60 hours a week into her career, which was on a solid path. However, she admitted she no longer enjoyed her work despite the financial benefits. It was clear she was experiencing burnout with her job, and that toxic area of her life was causing her to neglect other meaningful parts of her world.
It may seem like a simple solution for Sandy would be to cut back hours at work or find another job that allowed her more downtime. However, this would require a willingness to downsize the home and other expenses. This potential solution brought to the surface Sandy’s upbringing, which is where she learned money leads to a higher social status, which determines self-worth.
To choose a different career path meant a possible pay cut, which based on her upbringing meant she was not a success in her parents’ eyes. In her counseling, she was able to come to the conclusion that her values were not the same as her parents. She redefined success for herself as balancing her career plus her health and relationships. Money was still important for her financial well being, but it no longer held the internal power it once did. Removing this roadblock allowed Sandy to make the big yet freeing changes she needed to for her health.
If you’re determined to implement the work-life balance concept into your new year, I encourage you to start by listing all the areas of your life you know make you feel whole and healthy. Each week, set small goals or focus points for each area. At the end of the month, rate how balanced you are feeling. If you’re off balance, identify what areas you are neglecting or what areas are toxic. Don’t make the mistake of accepting the lack of balance and push through stressful situations. This year, make the choice to change and experience the benefits of a holistic level of health.
Kristin Woodling, a licensed mental health counselor and certified marriage and family therapist, is the owner of Pamper Your Mind, LLC in Satellite Beach. She is devoted to providing a confidential and elite therapeutic experience to professional women seeking healing, clarity, and balanced lifestyle for optimal health. Woodling promotes strong mental health services in her community and teaches counseling at Webster University and Eastern Florida State College. She is a graduate of the 360 Ignite program offered through WeVenture at Florida Institute of Technology and enjoys volunteering as a mentor to help other professionals excel personally and professionally.
Free consultation: Kickstart those resolutions
Throughout the month of January, the therapists at Pamper Your Mind will be offering a complimentary 60-minute personal growth consultation (a $125 value) to help you kick start your 2018 new year's resolutions. If you are ready to make lasting changes in your life, contact the office at 321-209-4796 to schedule an appointment.
*This promotion is for new patients only. Appointments must be scheduled in the month of January.