Written by: Toni Foot
Getting a work life balance can be pretty tricky – Picture a hippo and a mouse sat on a seesaw. It’s fair to say that the little mouse would be petrified, and squeaking and screaming for the hippo to get off… If your work-life balance feels like an exceptionally unfair balancing act and you can see burnout smouldering on the horizon, it’s time to step back from the seesaw and see if you can redress that vital equilibrium that is necessary for a calm mind, happy life and good health.
A good work-life balance means you should still be pulling your weight in the workplace and home and cashing in financially – but it also means you should have relaxation time, personal space, and a good few hours every week to unwind. If you’re a tightly-coiled clock spring, who’s about to go BOING, then the following advice should help:
It’s a personal thing
First and foremost, you must find your own balance. You must not listen to anybody else who tells you what your balance should be, nor should you try and keep up with workaholic friends and colleagues.
Listen to your body
Stress can exhibit itself in many ways, so if you’re suffering from headaches, anxiety and mystery aches and pains, this could be your body’s way of telling you are putting it through too much. Emotionally, stress can be draining, and can make you prone to angry and tearful outbursts – never a pretty sight, especially in Waitrose. And plenty of people I know live with insomnia as if they have to, but these people have one thing in common – they all work too much. Slowing down, meditating, and relaxing can get your mind unwound and ready for sleep.
Don’t be a martyr
Rushing to take on all the chores and jobs can feel good – it makes you feel important, like a hero. It makes you look important and busy, which is good isn’t it? Wrong. It merely annoys people around you and grinds you down. If this is your weakness, then it’s easy to cure. Step back, and let others take that weight from your shoulders.
Perfection doesn’t exist
Stop striving for perfection. This can take untold hours, and pile unnecessary stress into your life. Sure, all those neatly-ironed clothes sit beautifully on their hangers, and the duvet cover you spent ages pressing looks fabulous on the bed. But who really cares if you’ve got crinkly bedding? I only iron the bare essentials, and as a result, I have hours of extra time each week. While you’re stood ironing old t-shirts, I’m cavorting down at the tennis club, or gossiping on Facebook. And no one’s ever commented on my wrinkly jeans. EVER.
Keep weekends clear
If you’ve got a few kids or a big house, weekends can be a stress trigger. Birthday parties, days out, DIY, house work… It’s all such hard work. Try to keep one weekend every month totally free. Spend it with your partner, with your family, or just loafing around on your own. Bliss.
Tonight is your night
At least one evening a week, do something for yourself. This can be anything from loafing around in your PJs, watching a DVD and seeing how many Maltesers you can cram into your mouth, ears and nostrils, to getting a massage, or going to the gym.
Remember to switch off
With Today’s Smart Phones, it can be tempting to have your work emails beamed straight into the palm of your hand while you’re at home. Stop doing this – you need to switch off and escape work. You don’t get a pay rise for answering emails at 10pm.
It’s not a crime to say ‘no’
This isn’t about saying no to everything that comes your way, work that falls within your job description, or even cakes. We are all guilty of taking on extra responsibilities. Last week I said YES to ferret-sitting for a friend, thinking it would be a brief matter of throwing a handful of maggots through a cage every couple of nights. Little did I know that the little blighter needed watering, walking and stroking every single evening.
If you are prone to saying yes and caving in at the first sound of a whiny voice, practice saying the N word, without seeming rude or nasty. A simple, ‘no I’m sorry, but I really don’t have the time’ should be enough to get people off your back. And finally…
Make a list
We’ve all jotted lists of pros and cons when weighing the benefits of a partner, or a job, so do the same with your work-life balance. Write a list of your absolute obligations, versus everything that you can ditch, and have a jolly good shuffle. You will soon find lots of jobs and tasks that aren’t vital to your daily modus operandi. Cross them off and forget about them. It already feels good, doesn’t it?
Ultimately, it’s your happiness and wellbeing that counts and you must never lose sight of that. Now it’s time to shove that proverbial hippo off the seesaw and to find your true work-life balance.