Many people are struggling to maintain an appropriate work-life balance—especially here in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Busy professionals and busy parents have hectic schedules and many responsibilities. We usually feel like there “aren’t enough hours in the day” to get it all done. But, the fact is that there have always been only 24 hours in a day, no more and no less. So, why do our endless responsibilities create this stress spiral, especially when we have incredible technological improvements that make our lives easier and save us time (for example, dishwasher, washing/drying machines, smart phones and Siri, word processors etc). How can we, as individuals and as a community, keep the balance?
Well, it starts with being truthful about our responsibilities. Here’s the thing. We often MAKE ourselves busier than we need to be. We create more work for ourselves and pack our schedules so full that we have little time in between events, meetings, doctor’s appointments, children’s recitals, community events and other places we need to be. There is a perception in society that the busier we are means the more successful we are. Or, at least the less lazy we are. But, having a job, hobbies, children’s extracurricular activities, volunteer work and community engagement while managing a household and caring for family, and working to remain healthy and balanced, and possibly maintaining some semblance of a social life becomes exhausting. Often overwhelming.
While it is great to be involved in the community, how many of you can relate to the extra stress that is created by over-scheduling ourselves? So often we develop anxiety, sleep deprivation, and burnout because of this.
How can we as busy professionals in a busy world, allow ourselves greater balance and, with that, greater peace? It starts with taking a concentrated look at our lives, our schedules, our habits, our time sucks and our needs. While most of us cannot (or would not want to) up and quit our jobs, we can make other changes to our daily lives to offer improvement and relief. We can assess our habits around food and exercise, work, and extra activities. Where is the time and energy going? Remember, time spent = energy spent. We only have so much adaptive energy per day and when we overexert ourselves trying to get everything done and address every commitment, we are bound to burn out. Maybe not this week, maybe not this month – but, at some point, we are going to experience burnout.
We need to do a little less. I don’t mean quit your job, stop volunteering, or stop being a good parent. What I mean is ease up on the expectations you set for yourself, because by creating so many expectations of things you must do, expectations of what it means to be a good employee/mom/wife/friend/community member etc pile on, and creates fear of being less than. This, in turn, creates a ripple effect into other areas of your life and the stress cycles.
While you would never decide to not feed your children dinner, you can certainly put off folding that load of laundry. While you would never blow off a meeting with your boss, you can certainly address your full inbox the following day. We need to prioritize what is most important, and make room for those things, and allow ourselves to complete other tasks when the time is appropriate. This is essential because as people we NEED sleep. We NEED nutritious food and exercise. Just because we are busy does not mean we should neglect movement, sleep, and eating well. In fact, neglecting these things will likely contribute to more feelings of overwhelm.
American society maintains a belief that we must be busy at all times. But this impacts our emotional and mental health! If our emotional and mental health needs are not being adequately met, how are we expected to be a great employee/mom/wife/friend/community member, anyway? When we are overwhelmed and overworked, our performance and our productivity lapse. Simply put, we are better in all our roles when we are less stressed. And in order to be less stressed, it is essential that we examine and re-prioritize that which must be done immediately, can be done soon, and can wait until another day.