This Is What Work-Life Balance Actually Looks Like
The idea of truly "unplugging" nowadays can feel almost impossible. Perhaps you are someone who can go on vacation, turn off your phone and not look back. Perhaps you are someone who can say to your boss, "Thanks so much for offering me a promotion, but I prefer where I am right now."
Let's face it, we live in a world where there is often no cut off time for work. Most of us tell ourselves that we have all the aspects of our lives all under control, but it is hard to pledge allegiance to the fun part of life when work-life seems to dominate. We are left running around feeling crazed and unbalanced.
"But I love my job!" Does this excuse sound familiar? I get it.
But as someone who ran away from the corporate world with tears of happiness streaming down her cheeks, I've now found a way to work in two fields that make my heart sing. And yet still, the other day when I was speaking to a fellow yoga teacher, she reminded me, "We all still have to learn to be human." It stopped me in my tracks, even with my current work life, where I'm doing things that I totally love.
By spending so much time being consumed by our work, are we becoming our work? I wondered. As my friend pointed out, we need to remember that we are still human; we need to cultivate our basic needs as humans (particularly those that have nothing to do with work or being constantly "plugged in"!).
Even if our work is holistic and soul nurturing and affirming, can we take a break from it and do those simple, magical things like drink a cup of coffee while reading a magazine? Can we pet our cats without shoving them to the side to catch up on our email?
Just like when you first got used to sitting in silence for meditation, the idea of making the concerted effort to work less, especially as our culture tells us to do the opposite, can sound like pretty scary stuff. Stage one of your journey toward "work-life balance" might not sound appealing for this reason: changing your life takes work! This is why we so often crawl back to our work, the "workaholics" that we are.
Though if you can get through this stage, though, there is definitely some light to be seen and felt within the tunnel. This is when we realize we aren't as important as we pretend that we are. Such a realization may trample the ego, but it also is incredibly freeing. By realizing that your workplace (even if you own this workplace) doesn't pivot on your every breath, you can then start to take some breaths that are just for YOU.
Think about it: you can go out for lunch with an old friend and eat a salad as big as your head and laugh with lettuce in your teeth. You can resolve to feel your feelings, including the ones that you were too busy to feel the first time around because you were working like the dogged employee that you are.
There's more. You may find that you have to come against people who feel threatened by the space you have created for yourself. People may say well-intentioned things like, "I wish I had as much time as you," and this may feel like an attack on your very being. But people say these things because they don't yet realize that they can give themselves time. So you must continue along and let these comments (that have zero "nutritional" value!) slide right off you.
As you see the light that is available in your life, you will continue to take better care of yourself. You start to use your weekends for things like hobbies. You spend three hours in a bookstore reading the first chapter of everything from philosophy to the art of French cooking. You go for walks with no destination. You discover that you like ice cream, even though everyone in the health field tells you that you shouldn't like it. You eat it anyway on the coldest day of the year. You discover that it is, in fact, totally possible to feel a sense of freedom in your life!
Many countries have discovered the need for workplace balance. In Europe, the Working Time Derivative has implemented a maximum 48 hour workweek. Many countries in the EU have fewer than this. I experienced this directly when I lived in Switzerland and told someone I was going to be in the office until 7 pm. They looked at me pitifully, like I had an incurable disease. Maybe I did.
Having more balance and more space from your work may even inspire your whole company to take a load off. It turns out that one of the major factors that make employees stay for a long time in a particular place is the "work-life" fit. Ask yourself this: has your work fit into your life or is it the other way around?
With less work, you can begin to discover that going on a date with yourself is a pretty sweet deal. You can stop dividing the day into piles of things you "must do" and things you "should do." Let's add a third column: things we want to do.
Say to yourself, "Work me, meet idle me." These are two halves of the whole that make a pretty cute couple.
If you want to consider making time for yourself a habit, try tuja wellness' 30 day meditation challenge, which starts February 2 and is absolutely free.