Man sitting at desk rubbing eyes indicating lack of work-life balance.

Demystifying work-life balance

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It may not be as elusive as you think

Work-life balance. Oh, how simple that concept sounds in theory, but in reality, it’s something of the unicorn of a life well-lived. What exactly is it? When the demands of your personal, professional, and family life all reach a magical state of equilibrium? Is that a lofty goal, an elusive concept, or really just a myth unachievable by mere mortals?

While that answer has been debated for decades, there’s one thing we all know for sure.

“When you’re out of balance, you know it. You’ll feel it physically, mentally and emotionally,” says Michelle Knight, lead wellness coach and program coordinator for Methodist Health System. You need to recognize the first signs of trouble.

“You’re physically tired or spent, or you’re having health issues because your body’s really struggling to keep up,” Michelle says. Then the mental component kicks in and your cognitive thinking skills are affected. It becomes more difficult to retain memory, think strategically, or do your day-to-day functions well. Emotionally, you may feel out of control and experience edginess, anxiety, or depression, she says.

And while that perfectly balanced life may not be realistic, there’s absolutely hope. “You can work on the balance, so it feels manageable,” Michelle says.

Reassess

“First, you need to assess what’s truly going on,” Michelle says. “How are you truly feeling and how are you doing when it comes to those three key areas: physically, mentally and emotionally.”

Look out for red flags: “I haven’t slept well in three weeks, I’ve put on 10 pounds, I’m anxious, my emotions are raw – I get upset or irritated easily,” Michelle says. “Self-awareness is key.”

Take into perspective your current life demands. “Remember that balance is subjective. Stages of life are going to play into all of this too,” Michelle says.

Recalibrate

Then, recalibrate and strategize about how to balance your time and energy better.

“That’s really what work/life balance is,” Michelle says. “We all have 24 hours in a day, and it’s how we’re managing our time and energy.”

Ask yourself some questions: What do I need to do differently? Do I need to start saying no more often to things? Do I need to go to bed earlier? What support do I need?  

It could be something as simple as hiring a maid to do a deep clean once a month.

“It’s that kind of stuff that gives you a sense of relief and some time and energy back,” Michelle says.

Reevaluate

Once your strategy is in place and you’ve tried a few things over the course of a month or two, ask yourself the big questions: Is this working for me? Do I feel better? If your first plan didn’t go as anticipated, don’t get discouraged. Life changes, and you may need to get more support than originally expected.

At the end of the day, remember that achieving work-life balance is a process.

“It needs to be fluid, it needs to be agile,” Michelle says. “There’s no cookie-cutter plan. It’s what feels good to you.”

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