The term “life balance” has gotten a lot of attention over the last decade. People are starting to realise, that you can’t pour from an empty cup. In a world of advancing technology, you can easily be “on call” 24/7, and a lot of this is self imposed. Technology was supposed to make our lives better, right? Stress rates have been increasingly on the rise, as we expect more and more of ourselves, with it often feeling like it is unrelenting. It seems like every passing generation feels more overworked, more overwhelmed, and more stressed than the one before.
From experience, life balance is not what people think it is. Firstly, it’s not about a picture-perfect Instagram worthy life. It’s not about creating a life for you and your family that resembles your co-workers, friends, sister, neighbour, favourite influencer etc. It’s not about things being easier and more clear-cut and defined. It certainly doesn’t mean that you won’t have hard or bad days, or that sometimes you won’t get tired, discouraged, or experience burn out. This is life. There is no perfect version of a life balance that promises this. Finding this equilibrium can be complicated and complex, because guess what? Life is.
It is also not about having a clear divide between “work” and “home”, despite the term “Work life balance” being thrown around. With the surge in people working from home over the past year, these people will know this better than anyone. And lastly, having a life balance is not about equality. It does not mean that you spend equal amount of time and attention on the different areas of your life every day. The goal here is to create your own version of balance. It has to work for you. Do more of what you love and enjoy, and less of what you don’t, and create a life that you’re proud of in the process. Simple, right?
There are several factors that get in the way of creating a life balance. Firstly, we try to keep up. “If I could just get through these emails first, then I’ll go for a quick coffee break”, “If I could just fix this problem, then I’ll play with my kids”, but oddly, the bar keeps on moving. The finish line continuously creeps out of sight. Our efforts are never enough. You get there, and there’s something else. The truth being, if you wait until you have free time to do something you enjoy, it’s never going to happen. There will never be time. Secondly, we try to be perfect. The pressure to be perfect, and lead a perfect life is everywhere – even more so now with the rise in social media. Filters are applied to everything. Our faces, bodies, and now lives. We show what we want to show, and even then, a better version than reality. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy. We are tempted and conned into believing that yes, every single other person in the world has their sh*t together. When it’s simply not true. Perfectionism is a self-imposed prison, and we each hold our own key. And lastly, we try to be the hero. I myself have definitely been guilty of this in the past. My decision making was: Am I needed? And, can I do it? I never stopped to think, is this a good idea? Am I tired? Do I even want to do it? That didn’t matter, because I was needed, and I could do it. Be your own hero first, before everybody else’s.
So, what happens when we let ourselves get in the way of having a life balance? We focus our attention and time in the wrong places, when what we actually care about is something or somewhere else. How many times have you said something along the lines of, “I love to run/craft/socialise/play guitar etc, but I’m just too busy”? The things that are important to you, aren’t just things. They are a part of you. They are your values.
What makes you feel in balance? Since a life balance comes from living according to your values, you first have to know what your values are. There are no right or wrong answers. These are personal to you. It could be: Time with your family and friends, exercising, being creative, being outside in nature. Once you know what your values are, you can start to realign your schedule to incorporate them. Now add yourself to the list. Value yourself. Decide to stop doing things if and when others want to do them, even if you don’t feel like it. Learn to establish boundaries, and be ok with saying no. We shouldn’t view self-care as a luxury. It’s your responsibility. It’s your responsibility to make yourself feel good, proud, happy, confident. As you make a list of your values, and plan your priorities, make sure you put yourself on the list.
A lot of our feelings of being overwhelmed or stressed don’t come from doing too many things, but from doing the wrong things. Stop doing what doesn’t matter. We often say yes, when we really mean no. We stare deep into our screens, and miss what’s happening right in front of us. We do things out of guilt or a feeling of obligation, and then get angry or resentful about it. Put your phone down. Put it on flight mode for a few hours, so you don’t receive any notifications ready to steal your attention. Say no to peoples relentless requests of you. Replace an hour of TV in the evening for family time, for a walk, for doing something other than providing yourself with chewing gum for the brain.
Protect what matters to you. If you don’t decide what’s important to you, everyone else will. Saying no can be hard, but it gets easier over time. Like a muscle, the more you say no and establish boundaries, the more you start enjoying your life balance, the more you realise what your values and priorities truly are, the easier it gets. It’s not all about saying no, but about giving a massive yes to focusing on things that are most important to you!