5 Signs You Need A Break
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I just spent a spectacular weekend at the lake with my family.
It was fantastic. We fished, hiked, sat around the campfire, and cooked S’mores. The kids swam, we played UNO, I read, and my husband visited camping neighbors. It was just what we needed. A nice little break from work, home, screens, and all the stress that goes with it.
It also got me thinking about a post I had seen a while back on John Chow dot Com. It’s about a self-leveling pool table that Bugatti has made for yachts. They claim it stays perfectly balanced even in rough seas. How cool is that?
And how extraordinary would it be, if no matter what life threw at us we would stay perfectly level, never upsetting the balance?
Now, this is a concept I’m sure most of us struggle with daily. With the constant demands on our time and, attention how is one suppose to know what that should even look like? How do we know when we have achieved balance or have been out of balance for too long? Why is it important? What can we do if we feel we are struggling with our work-life balance?
Let’s start at the beginning.
What is work-life balance?
The dictionary definition: The amount of time you spend at your job compared to the amount of time you spend with your family and doing things you enjoy.
A better definition: Meaningful daily achievement and enjoyment in work, family, friends, and self.
Work-life balance is not about the amount of time spent in each area of your life but more about the quality of the time spent. This will be different for everybody and even on a day-to-day basis.
Why do we need a work-life balance?
Well, there are many reasons one strives to maintain a work-life balance.
A few would be to:
- reduce stress
- enjoy time with the people we love and care about
- participate in activities we enjoy
- reduce the chances of workplace burnout
If you refer to the better definition above it is all about feeling a sense of achievement and enjoyment in all areas of your life.
The best part is you get to decide what that looks like for you.
How do we achieve work-life balance?
Again, it’s all up to you. This is going to look different for everyone, and don’t be surprised if it changes day-to-day. Some days you may need to spend more time at work. You may feel you need more time with family or friends, or maybe you just need to get away by yourself for a couple of days. None of these choices are better than the other, they are just different depending on what you need at the time.
If you feel like you are lacking achievement and enjoyment in either work, family, friends, or self, then that is the area that needs attention.
Suggestions for achieving work-life balance:
- take regular breaks from work (this Jay Shetty podcast explains perfectly what that should look like)
- schedule time with loved ones (date night or weekend away, spending holidays together)
- take time for self-care (spa day or a quiet bath with your favorite book, a yoga class)
- spend time with friends (escape room, art exhibits, sports events)
These are just a few suggestions, the sky is the limit when it comes to how you choose to achieve an appropriate work-life balance that works for you. The point is to make sure it is something you are actively doing. Regularly evaluate how you feel about each area of your life and determine if your priorities need to change.
Do not neglect any area for long since that is when our lives will become overwhelming, stressful, and possibly downright miserable.
How do you recognize poor work-life balance?
Here are 5 signs that will help you recognize if you have been living with a poor work-life balance.
- You no longer care about work. You have no desire to finish tasks, engage with co-workers, or meet with clients. You may even go so far as skipping out on work altogether for no real reason except you just don’t want to be there. Or,
- You have no home/work boundaries. You bring work home with you, work late, or take extra shifts.
- You don’t sleep well. Or at all. Maybe all you want to do is sleep. You probably are not eating well or exercising as much as you normally would. You may even start to show up to work un-showered and disheveled.
- Small things set you off. You may experience anxiety or depression or even unreasonable anger at trivial things. Someone parked in your usual spot. You’re angry. The vending machine is out of your favorite chocolate bar. You’re angry. Co-workers chatting it up. ANGRY. Feelings of hopelessness, restlessness, dread, or panic attacks may also occur.
- Your health starts to decline. If left unchecked prolonged periods of stress may harm your physical health as well.
Once you recognize that you or someone you know may be experiencing poor work-life balance it is important to take steps to correct it as soon as possible.
What can be done to get back on track?
If at all possible book some time off work. If you can take 1, 2 even 3 weeks off do it. Take that time to practice some serious self-care. Rest. Get outside, go for walks, take a road trip. Spend time with friends and family.
If you are unable to take time off, start by setting clear boundaries. A regular start and finish time as well as what days you will be working. Stick to this schedule. If you have been taking on more than your share of the workload cut back on that as well.
Seek help. If you feel your life is completely out of control get help from a professional. Your company’s Human Resource department should be able to point you in the right direction. If not, a quick Google search should provide you with a list of local professionals.
The goal is to get back on track before spiraling into full-blown burnout.The World Health Organization is about to embark on the development of evidence-based guidelines on mental well-being in the workplace. Click To Tweet
Read the WHO article here.
My experience with burnout.
Happened about 7 years ago. I had no idea at the time what was happening or about to happen. Looking back now, had I been more aware or educated on work-life balance, and burn-out things might have turned out differently.
I would have recognized that I did not have a healthy work-life balance for some time. Because of this, my family life suffered, friends suffered, and relationships with co-workers suffered, but the one that suffered the most was me. I developed some health issues that still like to give me grief occasionally. My relationships with my husband and kids took a huge hit that still has lingering consequences. I ended up quitting my job.
It was rough. All kinds of incentives were offered to get me to stay. I refused. I came up with all kinds of reasons why I couldn’t stay. Except they were all just a cover-up for what was going on.
I was burnt out. Done. Finished.
I didn’t recognize it. My managers didn’t recognize it. Nobody knew. I passed it off as poor company policies, poor workplace conditions, blah, blah, blah. But not once did I think that I was the problem. I was stressed out, burnt out, and not handling it.
I loved that job.
Fortunately, I had already decided to go back to school before I quit, but had planned to keep working at my job while doing school. Again, looking back, initiating a career change was another telltale sign that I was at the end of my rope. As fate would have it quitting the current job was a blessing.
But I didn’t know this at the time!
Anyway, I gave my resignation. 3 weeks. The longest 3 weeks I have ever endured.
Since I have had 4 kids that is saying something. Anyone who has given birth will understand what I’m talking about.
It was a long 3 weeks. I cried every single day. Then I cried every day for 2 more weeks AFTER I had worked my last day. A testament to just how unwell I was. It wasn’t until about a month after I had worked my last day that I realized what had been going on. It just kind of hit me one day.
I had an epiphany. I now understood what I had been going through with a new and deeper understanding. Now what?
What happens next?
Well, I go to school to train for a career that is very well known for its high burn-out rate. Yes, that’s what I did. I trained to become a massage therapist.
Keep in mind I had already enrolled and been accepted before I had quit my previous job so I still wasn’t aware of what was going on.
Thank goodness I now have the experience to draw on and am vigilant to signs that I need a break. I rarely, very rarely work outside my schedule. I do not work from home, or when I am on vacation, or at family gatherings. If you want to book with me you will call the clinic (or book online) and schedule a time that I have available. It sounds harsh but I know it is essential to my well-being. I book time off regularly, and if I am feeling a bit run down I will even book a random day in the middle of the week off.
I am so blessed to work with a fantastic group of people now who understand that you don’t live to work. In the last 2.5 years, I have never been questioned about taking time off other than “Is everything okay?” and “What are you planning to do while gone?” I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing that is.
Turns out I love this work more than the previous job I thought I loved. Isn’t it funny how things work out?
Now that I have also added blogging to the mix I will have to watch for other signs. My goal is that as my blog takes off I can cut back hours spent at the clinic. We will have to see what I make happen.
Poor work-life balance when left unchecked can have serious and far-reaching consequences. Recognize the signs. Check-in with yourself regularly, every day even to see if you need to change things up. Get help if needed. Talk to someone.
Take care of yourself.
You are not a self-leveling pool table.
If you think someone may be struggling, reach out. We can all help take care of each other.
Or if you have any helpful suggestions drop them below.
You never know who may come along that needs to hear what you have to share.