Juggle better or juggle less? Demystifying the steps to taming stress and achieving work/life balance

“Seriously, how are you meant to juggle it all?”

This post the other day on Facebook by a friend of mine made me stop to reflect……it seems we are all searching for solutions to this ongoing challenge.

The elusive work/life balance: Do you feel like you are failing?

Just like my friend and many of my clients, every day as a psychologist and  business owner of a busy private practice, I go about my day doing my best to achieve the elusive work life balance.

Now I could easily write a blog that would be like many on this topic suggesting all the things that I recommend you do to achieve this so called perfect work life balance, but I believe I would be fooling you if I suggested that this was as simple as following my top 10 tips to perfect work life balance.

One of the things I remind my clients of every day is that invariably we set ourselves up to fail by expecting too much, so I’m not going to do that to you or to myself as I know where it leads…. feelings of self doubt, frustration, anxiety, shame, guilt and depression.

We all spend too much of our time in our mind beating ourselves up about what we are not doing well enough and it would be easy for you to feel like work life balance is the next performance measure that we have to achieve… the next thing we must “do well” or even “do perfectly”.

So I am here to tell you firstly that it is ok if you feel and notice that things are completely out of control sometimes … it means you are human, that you have the capacity to reflect on your life and that you probably care enough about living your life in a meaningful way to consider making changes.

You are certainly not alone in your struggle to maintain this balance.

It is a daily challenge and some days you will do better than others. So take a moment to give yourself permission to let go of the need to get it right all the time and to do it perfectly.

Accept the feelings of discomfort that come with this challenge and take your time to consider how you could live by your values more consistently.

No matter how intelligent, capable and strong you are, like all of us, you may sometimes find it hard to see a solution.

Every day in my work I see mums feeling guilty and anxious juggling demanding jobs and children, professionals working long hours to get to the top with relationships suffering.

I see couples arguing over the lack of intimacy and time together due to work demands and business owners unable to take holidays due to excessive working hours and financial stress.

I also see performers desperate to balance their passion with the need to make a living and have a “normal” life with a relationship and a house and all the other things that their other friends accomplish… The list goes on…….

In the end we all have different balls to juggle, but we share the same struggle.

Discomfort is indeed part of life and sometimes we simply have too many demands and needs to address concurrently and it all gets very hard to balance, resulting in feelings of stress, depression and a frequent feeling of being overwhelmed and torn in too many directions.

These days there are so many balls to juggle and people around us are all asking for a bit of your time, energy, commitment and love. We are expected to balance so many aspects of our lives, maintain good physical and mental health and positive relationships with others.

We put pressure on ourselves to be there for everyone including our family, our partner, our colleagues and boss and our friends. Too often I see people lose this balance, with the scales tipping in the direction of others while they sacrifice their own needs. In trying to avoid conflict, or hurting or disappointing others, I see my clients keep saying yes to things when they really want to say No creating more emotional issues for themselves in the long term.

Do you know what you want out of life?

So I’m not going to tell you the sure fire way of achieving this elusive goal because there is no one way that is right for everyone. Each of us has a unique set of values, personality traits, passions and needs and what is right for one person in terms of a great balance may feel completely out of kilter for someone else.

In my opinion, finding what maintains a good enough (not perfect) work/life balance for you and you alone is the first step. Secondly, demonstrating self compassion and the ability to make small changes when it gets out of balance is the key. Life is a constant learning curve and an opportunity to reflect and change … it never stops……

In reflecting on my own work life balance recently after a very demanding period, I have again implemented daily meditation, and exercise to balance the increasing work demands in a business that is growing.

I recently noticed some  signs of fatigue and feeling torn between my own needs and the needs of others and stopped to consider what I most wanted to change to feel more balanced and happy.

I am certainly not doing it perfectly, but already I am noticing that by expressing my major creative passion and looking after my mind and body better, I have noticed a difference in my concentration, energy levels, sleep, general happiness and sense of purpose.

It reminds me that sometimes we just need to pause long enough to reflect so that change is possible.

So, what signs should you look for to determine whether your “good enough” work/life balance is out of kilter?

  1. Feelings of sadness, discontent and anxiety are common for you.
  2. Feeling overwhelmed, out of control and unable to problem solve or prioritise
  3. Your mind races all the time and keeps jumping from one thing to the next making it hard to be fully present
  4. Feeling resentful of others who are taking up your time and energy with their demands
  5. Not being assertive with others to protect your time
  6. You can’t remember the last holiday you had where you completely turned off
  7. You’ve stopped looking after your body and/or your mind – skipping meals, lack of exercise, getting sick all the time
  8. No time for having fun and stopping still to enjoy the moment
  9. Your sleep is disturbed and you constantly feel exhausted
  10. Relationships and friendships are starting to suffer
  11. You are snappy with the children and find it hard to remember they are just kids
  12. You have lost sight of what is important and meaningful to you
  13. You are following a path to “success” without questioning whether this is what you truly want and what it means for you to be successful
  14. Not taking breaks, working very long hours
  15. Drinking or comfort eating more than you should to turn off the mind and escape the stress

If you identify with any of these thoughts, feelings or behaviours, it might be time to have a closer look at what small changes you could make to ease some of the pressure and get yourself back into a life that you enjoy and look forward to most days.

Sometimes talking to a psychologist allows you to have an objective sounding board, providing an opportunity for reflection of your true values and the patterns that are getting in the way of you achieving the life you want.

Our psychologists and therapists are here to assist you with managing these challenges more effectively.

Watch out for my next blog which will address some strategies to consider to improve this balance while accepting that discomfort is part of life. If you are in search of a better balance, contact us today to help you find a way forward that matches your values.

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