Work/Life Balance: Are You On Track?

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I’ve heard many times that having multiple roles in life will help protect your mental health. It makes sense to me. The capacity to manage many roles is a skill that can and does help us to buffer stress.

For instance, in your personal life, you might be a partner or spouse, a parent, someone’s child, a sibling and a close friend to others. At work, you might shift among being a subordinate, a supervisor of others, a colleague with peers and at other times, a provider of customer service. When inevitably you fall short in one role, you can find comfort from the satisfaction and success you experience in at least one other role. This is a very good thing, and helps to maintain our resilience and to bolster our morale.

As many of us know, however, having many roles in life can also be tricky. This is especially the case when you feel that personal and work roles are competing; depending upon how much energy you expend to fulfill the expectations of others and your own expectations, there is at least some risk for you to feel drained. There are measures you can take to protect yourself and, correspondingly, the others in your life. With the added stress of the last 12 months on many families, it’s important to revisit how we can balance our lives.

Do you have time specifically scheduled to recharge?
What activities and people help you to feel refreshed and invigorated? Ensure that these are part of the schedule you create and maintain. Make it a priority to enjoy the company of others or to pursue a particular hobby or interest with consistent regularity in your life, and to do this safely. Who do you really enjoy talking with, even if it has been some time? If you haven’t had any hobbies for a while, give yourself the freedom to be playful and explore different interests. When you sufficiently fuel yourself in this way, you will be more present and energized when you fulfill the obligations of other roles.

Are you involved in any activities that consistently run you ragged?
Take time to honestly consider if you do anything that usually drains you and provides little in return. Of course, many roles and activities will have this component to them from time to time. However, be wary of continuing this for long periods of time. Many people fall prey to prioritizing work, and it is easy to do when extra hours provide some incentive or are even expected. It’s important to look at this closely and consider whether other areas of your life, including that of relationships and being at home, are suffering. In sum, determine if there is little benefit to your involvement in something, or whether you are engaged in such a great degree that you are likely not helping anyone, including yourself.

How can you add some ingenuity to getting chores and errands done?
Let’s face it. Some activities are simply less than fun. Yet we have to get them done. Think about whether you can solicit the help of others, find a more efficient method for getting things accomplished or offer to trade services or jobs. What is work to you might not feel that way to someone else, and possibly the reverse is true. Pair up with such a person. If you like to bake, maybe you can create and share a couple of desserts with a friend in exchange for taking your dog on a few walks.

Are you getting regular exercise?
Although I just provided an example for having someone else walk your dog, do take some serious stock of how much exercise you are doing. If the answer is “not much,” maybe the dog-walking should remain with you. Increasingly, exercise is noted for its many benefits directly to your physical well-being and also to your psychological health. Provided you are able to do so, it is recommended to walk at least 30 minutes, three times per week. The payoffs are incredible. Not only will you feel better, you’ll actually function better as you fulfill all those other roles and responsibilities. Among the many direct benefits noted from physical activity are enhanced concentration, memory and mood. All of us would benefit from deposits in these three accounts.
The above suggestions may help you better fulfill the many important roles you have in life, and thus enhance how you relate to others and contribute to their well-being. At the same time, they are targeted to encourage you to place some priority upon yourself. It’s important you occasionally consider how best to organize your time and efforts. You likely know best the nature of your demands and what is reasonable. Equally important, you have a role for taking care of yourself. ■

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