For many of us, the pursuit of a healthy balance in both work and life seems out of reach, almost impossible. The ‘to-do list’ is always long, and there never seems to be enough time in the day to successfully juggle workplace obligations, family responsibilities, and outside interests.
This burden is similarly felt by many, as more than one in four Americans describe themselves as “super stressed.”
In our constant grind to get ‘it all done’ we forget the impact stress has on our wellbeing, and the role of mindset in both it’s creation and cessation.
Admitting to being ‘super stressed’ means that you have actively convinced your mind and body that something is wrong, that you can’t do it, that you’re falling short. This allows stress into your system, to disrupt your immune system and plummet your attention, concentration, and productivity at work and home.
But, just like we actively let stress into our lives, we can also push it out. While not easy, learning to reframe your obligations and time demands as opportunities and privileges can help you find gratitude and joy in maintaining a busy schedule.
Here are actionable steps that can help you to first, change the way you think about your life, and second, change the way you actively manage your schedule and demands to ultimately reduce stress.
Changing ‘have to’ to ‘get to’: When we processes our weekly schedules, the list usually contains many ‘have to’ phrases like, ‘On Tuesday, I have to pick up the kids from school,’ or on Thursday, ‘I have to meet with my team to discuss the product launch.’ These ‘have to’ phrases unconsciously suggest to our mind and body that the task is a burden—that we have no choice. This zaps our enthusiasm and signals a stress response. Instead of ‘have to’ let’s instead insert, ‘get to.’ ‘Get to’ frames weekly tasks as opportunities, and helps activate our mind and body with energy to make the most out of our obligations.
Letting go of perfection: Society teaches us from a young age to strive for perfection. If asked, most can clearly recall an early act of perfection: acing a math test, winning first place at the science fair, or scoring the game winner. We develop perfectionist tendencies very young, and unfortunately, these tendencies remain constant amidst our ever-increasing time demands. As life as an adult gets complicated, it is important to recognize that ‘perfection’ is outdated, and striving for perfection is more harmful than beneficial. Instead, it is much healthier to strive for excellence. Hone in on a few things, and do them to the best of your ability.
Limiting time wasters: Identify what actions are most important in your role at work and set limits based on those priorities. If responding to constant emails interrupts more important work tasks, turn off your notifications and only respond to emails during limited time blocks each day. If meetings tend to go on-and-on, give thought to whether or not the meeting is necessary, and if it is, set an alarm to promptly end on time. Your colleagues will appreciate it! Lastly, if you find yourself trapped in long-winded conversations with colleagues, diplomatically limit these interactions by allocating specific time blocks to chat with the expectation that when time’s up, you’re on your way. Focus on the people and activities that reward you the most at work.
Setting manageable achievement goals: Sometimes we take on more than what’s manageable. In other words, we set the bar unrealistically high for ourselves, basically asking for increased stress. To manage stress more appropriately, one must be realistic about personal bandwidth, and how much can actually be accomplish in a day. When taking on a new project or team, take time to realistically appraise the tasks and time needed to completion. Leave yourself breathing room when setting timelines and deadlines. Make reasonable daily goals and surprise yourself when you achieve beyond.
Unplugging: The average American spends 5 hours on the phone daily. So, our seemingly endless days may actually be the result of our own doing. Phones provide constant accessibility, which if unmanaged, grants permission to never-ending workdays. These incessant updates interrupt home life and create stress by constantly reminding us of what’s coming next. Instead, it is important to make quality time, ‘true quality time.’ Don’t respond to a work email while watching your kids soccer game! Commit to the present and unplug from distractions that reduce your ability to be fully engaged with those who matter most.
Practicing time management together: Your kids are always watching you. You set the tone when it comes to a healthy balance, dreams, work ethic, and values. Instead of constantly feeling guilty and hiding the give-and-take of work-life balance, share your routine with your children. By letting them help you plan your week, both at work and at home, they will start to see the variety of your days and the constant effort you put in to being at their games, at dinner, and at home for bedtime activities. Carving out time together will help build time management skills in your kids too, while helping them to better understand the whole picture when it comes to your work-life responsibilities.
Life is too important to waste it feeling ‘super stressed.’ Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to find balance and joy in your life, and kick stress to the curb. Of course, some days will be challenging and demanding. That's inevitable. However, you, and only you, control whether you let stress in, and how quickly you bounce back to balance.
- Change ‘to-do list’ to ‘get-to-do list’—practice gratitude.
- Be okay with good, not perfect. On the next work project, meeting, carpool adventure, or meal prep—challenge yourself to do one thing less... Then, pay attention to what happens next. What was the outcome? Did doing one thing less make a difference?
- Set your phone to silent when you come home from work at night.
- Make time to sit down and teach your kids about time management. Let them help you to schedule your week, so that they realize how much you do…
Struggling with work-life balance?
Wellman Psychology & Associates offers Life Coaching for those seeking balance, personal fulfillment, and career success. Life Coaching differs from therapy in that we help you focus on the future, designing personal action plans to help you achieve your desired balance and results. Schedule Life Coaching with Nawal Alomari, LPC, today!