Essentially the key foundation of achieving true work life balance is to know yourself as a person, and to know that there are many facets to you as a person and they are all equal and deserving of and needing care in all areas. If one of these areas is ‘out’ so to speak then it has a knock on effect on all of the other areas of our lives as well.
Its key in this to know is that work is not separate to life and not something to try and to be minimised, but rather to understand that it is simply a part of life, just like everything else.
It’s important in life that we take care of all areas of our life, starting with taking care of our physical and emotional health and well-being. When it comes to work-life balance we need to know where to focus and when. The approaches we take and choices we take will be different for all of us at different times as our circumstances are all different.
Often we seek ‘work life balance’ when we feel work has taken too much of our focus and time in our lives and our health and well-being has been affected, leaving us feeling tired, unwell, rundown and unfulfilled in other areas.
In reaction to that excess of being dominant work focused, we can then sometimes focus on doing things like entertainment to distract us from work and in that some of our activities may actually be harmful for the body like drinking alcohol, eating excessively and/or unhealthily, sleeping late or too little, or perhaps having risky hobbies.
But if we do not live well in time when we are not ‘at work’ then this can create tiredness and fatigue and at times more ill health that then carries on to how we feel when we are at work. This approach also leads to an unhealthy impact on the body, no different to the unhealthy impact of being too consumed by work!
If we want to feel well, and we don’t feel well from being consumed by work, it doesn’t make sense to compound ill health with choices outside of work that make us more unwell…
Many of us seek to work less when we are feeling tired and run down, and how we are at work may be part of this, however how we are in non-work time equally affects us.
We are made tired by both how we are at work and what is going on at work as well as how we are in our ‘personal’ time.
We have the ability to be well in our daily lives, and it is our daily choices that contribute to either our sense of well-being or our sense of dis-ease. How we are in life, both at work and non-work can contribute to this.
Thus both work and the rest of life are equal in their impact on our health and well-being.
We can and do get tired and run down when we do not take equal attention to all areas of our lives.
Understanding why we seek ‘work life balance’ helps us focus on how to achieve what we are looking for.
Why do we seek ‘work life balance’?
Is it to have the picture perfect life? To fit into some image of what a professional should look like or what their life should look like?
Or is it so that we can feel truly healthy and well?
If we are seeking that feeling of being healthy and well then it gives us a different foundation on which to guide our choices when it comes to living life and thus a different perspective on what it means to have a healthy work life balance.
The beginning of true well-being in life is to know that all areas of life are important and it is our health and well-being that is paramount and priceless, not achieving a certain lifestyle.
Making choices that improve our health and well-being comes with experience and it comes from listening to our bodies. Some of these choices are done in non-work time, and others equally occur during work time. The key is making time for what is needed in YOUR life to support your health and well-being, in all areas. Once you start to connect with what you need for your health and well-being the steps to a healthy work and life rhythm for you will start to flow.
Our lives are all different and what is a healthy work life rhythm for one, may not be for another. The key is to develop our own living way through discerning what is needed to best support our health and well-being at the time.
This starts by listening to your body. Your body will tell you what makes it tired, rundown, well, joyful, sad, anxious, or feel tense. By learning to listen to your body you will learn to make choices about both work and the rest of life that support the well-being of your body and thus your life. No picture of how life should be ever led to a truly healthy and well life, but listening to our bodies gives us personalised instructions on how to care for ourselves.
Thus it is not simply about achieving a desired ‘work-life picture’ but rather a way of living in all areas of life that takes care of all parts of life that is uniquely personalised for all of us to best support our health and well-being. It is about us developing a very personal relationship with all aspects of our lives.
Some top 10 starter tips:
- Get to know who you are as a person. You are in charge of your life and your choices.
- Don’t make work separate from the rest of life, see it is as part of life, neither more or less important than anything else.
- Listen to your body, it will tell you what is needed.
- Know what is needed to support you in all areas of life. This is an ongoing learning in life. See point 3
- Make time for regular exercise.
- Make time to eat healthy, all of the time.
- Make time for loving personal relationships, not just work relationships – and BE loving.
- Be open to people everywhere, even in the work environment.
- Make time for regular sleep, go to bed as early as you can when you are tired.
- And deeply care for yourself.
Keep learning from the way that you are feeling. Review your life constantly, see what is working, what is not working. Bring in more of that which is working, and eliminate that which isn’t working and you will personalise a way of living that truly supports your health and well-being.
Dr Maxine Szramka is a Rheumatologist in Sydney active in professional affairs, advocating for the health and well-being of the medical profession and for health care reform.