Jennifer loves her job. But when work demands threatened to wreck her marriage and her health she came to me for coaching. Ambitious and hard working, she prided herself on arriving at work early, leaving late and working through lunch. Her husband had enough when a get-away weekend had to be cancelled for the second time due to a last minute crisis at work. The stress of her job was taking a toll on her health, too. Jennifer’s doctor suggested she go on blood pressure medication, which she wanted to avoid if possible.
People like Jennifer are high achievers. They get things done. When busy become busier, however, life balance can suffer. As pressure builds up to accomplish ever more it becomes harder and harder to find time for self-care. Something has to give or burnout will result.
Does this sound familiar to you? If so, to avoid physical or relationship problems add some re-creation to your life on a daily, weekly and yearly basis. Positive life balance provides stress management as few other things can.
To create appropriate life balance you need to give yourself small breaks a few times a day, create larger re-creation times each week, and make sure to take a vacation at least once a year to thoroughly recharge your life.
Here’s the paradox: the more you need to create healthy life balance, the harder it is to do. This means you have to make self-care a top priority.
Block out time in your schedule to make sure you give yourself re-creation breaks, as you would with any top priority activity. Vigorously defend against threats to your self-care when they come up, as they inevitably will. When you commit to regular self-care, you’ll feel better, your relationships will improve and you’ll work more productively.
Take Several Breaks Daily
If you ever observe a young child or a pet, you’ll notice that after periods of intense activity they always conk out for a rest. We are all hardwired for this pattern of activity followed by rest.
Going from one activity to the next, to the next without a break creates stress. Unmitigated stress leads to physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. When you’re intensively focused on achieving your goals, you may overlook the costs to yourself and your relationships of unrelenting work until irreparable harm has been done. Achieving healthy live balance goes a long way toward helping you manage your stress.
The best way to do this is to intersperse brief periods of re-creation throughout your day. Here are four ways to achieve this self-care, none of which needs to take more than 5 to 10 minutes:
Get up from your desk and stretch.
Raise your hands high above your head and then bend over as if to touch your toes. Do a couple of side-bends to each side. Rotate your waist. If you need privacy to do this, head to the handicapped stall in the rest-room.
Get up and walk.
It only takes a few minutes of walking to refresh yourself. Try walking around the building or, better yet, go outside to walk and get some fresh air. Creative inspiration often comes while you walk or you may discover solutions to the problems you face.
If you already have a meditation practice, implement it briefly at intervals throughout the day. If meditation is new to you, simply sit quietly with your feet flat on the floor and your arms uncrossed. Focus on your breathing. When thoughts arise, as they inevitably will, just let them go and return your focus to your breathing. It takes only a few minutes of meditation to feel calm and refreshed.
Share your day with your partner, your spouse or a friend.
When good things happen to you during the day, sharing them with someone close to you enhances your satisfaction. When bad things occur, another’s concern and support make you feel better. When you spend time in meaningful communication with your partner you strengthen the relationship and benefit yourself.
If you are not in a committed relationship, get together with friends regularly, whether in person, on the phone or through email. You can enjoy the same benefits of concerned interaction when you share your life with people you care about who care about you.
Treat Yourself to Enjoyable Activity at Least Weekly.
Create a practice of regularly engaging in activities that nourish you.
Express your creativity.
Engage in such hobbies as quilting or playing a musical instrument. Sign up for a painting or stained glass class.
Regular physical activity – running or biking – helps keep you in shape while producing endorphins, those neurotransmitters that provide a natural high. Engaging in team sports such as volleyball or softball adds the advantage of social interaction to the benefit of exercise as a stress management tool.
Treat yourself to cultural events.
Going to a movie, a concert or a special exhibit at a local museum or gallery provides an enjoyable break from your regular routine.
Socialize at least once a week.
This could be getting together with friends or establishing a weekly date-night with your spouse or partner.
Take a Vacation at Least Yearly
A Conference Board poll taken in 2006 indicated that 40 percent of Americans had no plans to take any summer vacation. This was the worst showing in the poll’s 28 years. Are you among those who choose no vacation?
Taking a vacation of at least a few days, preferably a week or more, allows you to unhook completely. You can slide into a relaxed rhythm enabling you to thoroughly recharge.
Return to a vacation place that’s comfortably familiar, or go someplace new. Travel to somewhere exotic or simply stay home to complete tasks you’ve been meaning to get to or visit sites in your area you’ve wanted to explore.
The essential thing is to remove yourself entirely from your normal routine. Give yourself enough time to really experience the benefit of distance from your normal life. You’ll return relaxed and refreshed, better able to handle your daily challenges. You’ll gain perspective that will help you to deal with the problems you face in your daily life.
Jennifer dramatically transformed her life by implementing several of these self-care suggestions. The relaxation that came with taking brief breaks throughout the day brought down her blood pressure and actually helped her accomplish more at work. She looked and felt better than she had in years once she joined the weekly yoga class she’d been thinking about. Most of all, Jennifer and her husband enjoy the boost in marital satisfaction their weekly date nights provide and their Hawaii vacation was the trip of a lifetime.