These days we hear a lot about this thing called ‘work life balance’. We know that we need it, we are told that we need it but we are not really told what it is, why we need it and how to get it.
By the very notion that it is called ‘work life balance’ we learn that ‘work’ is a harmful thing to be minimised and that ‘life’ is something completely different, something that we are missing out on when we are ‘working’.
This actually only compounds the stress that we are feeling when ‘work’ is ‘taking up’ our time!
It’s definitely unhealthy for us to be working all the time, to the extent that we neglect other areas of our health, such as physical and emotional health and well-being, sleep, rest, exercise and our relationships and personal interests.
But work itself is not an issue. HOW we work can be an issue.
We are told that work life balance is taking days off, taking holidays, making sure that we have hobbies etc and we might think that it is having time to go out to restaurants for dinner.
These things are fantastic and fun, but on reflection, are these things truly what create consistent day-to-day great health and well being for us?
We know and we are told that we need ‘work life balance’ to stop us from burning out or from getting sick. It is important for our health and well being.
If work life balance is about us being consistently truly healthy and well then in addition to caring for ourselves in other areas of our lives, then we also need to consider ‘work’ as being part of life.
‘Work’ is an important and big part of our lives. It occupies more hours of the day than anything else!
If we place our emphasis on making the small remaining hours of ‘life’ good to make up for ‘work’ being ‘bad’ then we will never be healthy and well.
To be truly well, we need to be well in all areas of our life.
Days off, holidays and time for family and friends is super important but if we do all of that in a way that is pushing us, keeping us tired and stressed, chasing all of the things that we think we need to ‘do’ in order to meet the picture requirements of a good ‘work life balance’ then it is only going to add to our fatigue and stress.
Ever been on an adventure overseas holiday for a few weeks only to return home more tired than when you went away needing weeks to recover resenting being at work because you were so tired?
If that is the case, the holiday might have looked good on paper, and be filled with lots of stories to tell people, but did it really add to your health and well being?
When it comes to work life balance, holidays are great, and lots of fun, but they are only a few days of the year.
For consistent well-being we also need to look at supporting ourselves in all aspects of our day to day lives.
As part of that we need to consider that work is equally a part of life as it is a part of life that we live for more hours a day than anything else that we do!
To be truly well and healthy we need to address all areas of life, holding them to be all equal.
Work-life balance in that sense is going to be something that is different for all of us as our needs and life circumstances are all different.
It is something that we all need to personalise according to our health and well being needs.
This is something that takes time, and is an ongoing development for us all as our circumstances in life change.
And importantly: work is not the enemy of life, it is part of life! Enjoy yourself in all aspects of life, take good care of yourself, be true to yourself in all areas of life, and work will not be ‘the painful chore’ that we need to balance with ‘the rest of life’.
Dr Maxine Szramka (MBBS Hons 1, B Med Sc, FRACP) is a physician based in Sydney who works full time in private practice in Rheumatology. She runs her own business, is a university lecturer, and is the founder and director of a research council. She is a sought after educator in health care, both for patients, peers and students, serves on the editorial board of an international peer reviewed journal and is on the peer review panel for Rheumatology for another international medical journal. She has had a vast experience in different fields of medicine before specialising in Rheumatology and her interests and experience in life and medicine are diverse.
Maxine is passionate about and an advocate for the health and well-being of the medical profession. Equally passionate about education, equity, equality and empowerment, with a deep care for all people, here Dr Maxine writes on health, well-being, medicine, science and society. Stay tuned for her healthy lifestyle tips!