We all have a fuel tank with limited fuel: Every one of us has a fixed amount of energy to use each day. How we distribute this energy between the main components of our life (e.g. work, rest, family and leisure) influences our work-life balance. If we put too much energy into work, too little energy into rest, family and leisure, and if we do it for too long, our well-being will suffer. Our health suffers, and our family and relationships suffer. We may be on the road to Burnout!
Balance involves giving appropriate amounts of attention/ time/energy to the important aspects of our life and often this needs to be flexible in order to deal with life’s natural challenges. Sometimes we need to work a bit harder, and sometimes rest a bit harder.
Because we are all different, we will also have different balance needs and we discover this with experience and self-reflection.
Balance requires self-management
Because life challenges, work load, other people and our own standards can pull us away from balance we require effective self and people management skills to build and maintain balance including: Self-awareness, (what’s needed); Time management (managing the load); Goal setting (what needs to be different); Problem solving (removing the obstacles); Stress management (managing pressure) and Assertiveness & saying no (managing others).
Components of Balance
Work – paid, voluntary, home duties, study
Personal Development – Identity, self-esteem, learning and stimulation
Social – family, friends, groups, teams
Spiritual – values, beliefs, religion, heart and mind
Heart and Mind – managing emotions and thinking
Physical – exercise, sport, activity, diet, health
Relaxation – leisure, rest
Benefits of Balance
A lifestyle that balances these activities will increase our personal health and well-being via the following avenues:
- Reduces stress and prevents burnout
- Stimulates the immune system and promotes recovery from illness
- Increases sense of happiness and well-being
- Provides perspective
- Increases physical health, energy and motivation
- Increases self-esteem, self-development, productivity and flexibility
- Provides social support and connectedness
Signs of imbalance include the following and maybe either a result of being off balance or an underlying cause of imbalance: decreased energy, motivation, flexibility; increased stress, frustration, worry; withdrawing from others; getting overly involved in work; negative attitude towards work, people or self; changes in general health and performance; lifestyle habits – increased smoking, drugs, caffeine, fast foods and reduced activity. Over time, these reactions can impact on the health of our heart and immune system leading to an increased risk of burnout and lifestyle diseases (i.e. heart disease, obesity, ulcers, diabetes, and some cancers).
Balance is often blocked by the following, all of which can be managed with effort and assistance.
- Lack of motivation
- Running out of Time and Energy
- The load on our plate (and responsibilities)
- Lacking assertive time management skills
- High levels of stress or illness
- Thinking negatively
- Not being able to say ‘no’
- Unaware that there is imbalance – can’t see it
- Life happens – unexpected critical events
Make a list of how you can help ensure a more balanced life.
A few examples include:
- Make time to reflect on your life and balance needs
- Make note of where your energy is going (actual balance) and decide on how you would like your life to be (ideal balance)
- Set reasonable goals and removing obstacles
- Know your role and responsibilities and your expectations
- Accept your limits (time, energy, skills) as a natural part of working life
- Take time to relax or energise. Have some fun, just read a book or walk on a beach or in a park. Have a massage, sing, dance or play a sport.
- Slow down – your inbox will never be empty.
- Share problems, but be careful what you share and with whom – giving too much personal information or confidential work problems is a definite NO.
- Accept that you will experience a full range of emotion and learn how to express this appropriately.
- Control negative thinking (worry) by rationally reviewing each situation. Ask yourself, ‘what would I be telling a friend in this situation to help them?’ Take it one step at a time.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Reduce your intake of sugar, carbohydrate and fat-rich food, caffeine and alcohol, and avoid cigarettes and drugs.
- Spend time with children, family, friends and people you like and get involved with social activities regularly.
- Take time to clarify and discuss your values, beliefs and what is important to you in your life.