As doctors and as medical students we hear a lot about this thing called ‘work life balance’. We know that we need it, we are told that we need it but we are not really told what it is, why we need it and how to get it.
By the very notion that it is called ‘work life balance’ we learn that ‘work’ is a harmful thing to be minimised and that ‘life’ is something completely different, something that we are missing out on when we are ‘working’. This actually only compounds the stress that we are feeling when ‘work’ is ‘taking up’ our time!
It’s definitely unhealthy for us to be working all the time, to the extent that we neglect other areas of our health, physical well-being, neglecting exercise, neglecting good nutrition, neglecting our relationships, our emotional health and well-being and neglecting the need that we have for sleep or rest, or even perhaps other aspects of expression that we feel are vital for our health and well-being.
But work itself is not an issue. HOW we work can be an issue.
We are told that work life balance is taking days off, taking holidays, making sure that we have hobbies etc and we might think that it is having time to go out to restaurants for dinner. These things are fantastic and fun, but on reflection, are these things truly what create consistent day to day great health and well-being for us?
We know and we are told that we need ‘work life balance’ to stop us from burning out or from getting sick. It is important for our health and well-being.
If work life balance is about us being consistently truly healthy and well then in addition to caring for ourselves in other areas of our lives, we also need to consider ‘work’ also as being part of life. ‘Work’ is such an important and big part of our lives. It occupies more hours of the day than anything else! If we place our emphasis on making ‘life’ good to make up for ‘work’ being ‘bad’ then we will never be healthy and well.
To be truly well, we need to be well in all areas of our life.
Days off, holidays and time for family and friends is super important but if we do all of that in a way that is pushing us, keeping us tired and stressed, chasing all of the things that we think we need to ‘do’ in order to meet the picture requirements of a good ‘work life balance’ then it is only going to add to our fatigue and stress.
Ever been on an adventure overseas holiday for a few weeks only to return home more tired than when you went away needing weeks to recover resenting being at work because you were so tired?! If that is the case, the holiday might have looked good on paper, and be filled with lots of stories to tell people, but did it really add to your health and well-being?!!
When it comes to work life balance, holidays are great, and lots of fun, but they are only a few days of the year! For consistent well-being we also need to look at supporting ourselves in all aspects of our day to day lives. As part of that we need to consider that work is equally a part of life as it is a part of life that we live for more hours a day than anything else that we do!
To be truly well and healthy we need to address all areas of life, holding them to be all equal.
Work-life balance in that sense is going to be something that is different for all of us as our needs and life circumstances are all different. It is something that we all need to personalise according to our health and well-being needs. This is something that takes time, and is an ongoing development for us all as our circumstances in life change.
Here are my top five tips for personalising your own work-life balance to support your health and well-being:
- Consider work as part of life. Don’t act any different at work than you do at home.
- Take charge of your work situation, own it, don’t just go along with ‘work’ in work hours, work according to your ability, and to your own rhythm
- Take care of all aspects of your life as needed for your health and well-being:
- Finances – personal and business
- Relationships – family, friends colleagues staff
- Nutritious eating and drinking
- Create space and time in your life to take care of all of the above. This will optimise your health and well-being, increasing your work performance.
- Express yourself truly in all that you do. Be the real you in everything.
Work is not the enemy of life, it is part of life! Enjoy yourself in all aspects of life, take good care of yourself, be true to yourself in all areas of life, and work will not be ‘the chore’ that we need to balance with ‘the rest of life’.