Work-Life-Balance is a dream for some and for others, a far-fetched concept. How dare you put pause on work and focus on the basic experiences that shape who we are? Who are you to turn off your work phone or refuse to check your work email after hours? The gull of you to think that your personal time is more important than your family and friends?!
I see WLB as a way to compartmentalize life so that we can cope. With the word BALANCE, I automatically think of a scale with two differing sides. One is work, the other is life. I stack all the things I think I need to accomplish in work on one side of the scale and then on the other, heap on as much life experiences I need to feel whole. What ends up happening is that I take on too much work and then to compensate, try to cram in as much life activities on the other side to balance the scale. For every hour of work, I am searching time to… go see family, travel, see my naturopath, exercise, cook, clean, shop, etc. (exhausting already right?!). To balance this scale the only solution I see is; a) drastically reduce the amount of work I do (which means less pay) b) drink lots of caffeine, or c) just suck-it-up-buttercup! (and eventually burn out).
Therefore, I have dabbled with another idea – instead of the Work-Life-Balance scale, why not Work-Life-Harmony? I know I still must work, because work provides me with a roof over my head, clothes on my body, food on the table and access to opportunities, (yes – you have heard this tale from your parents many times). But instead of treating work as that key element for one’s survival, harmony offers one an opportunity to develop our sense of self in the playground called workplace. It isn’t one option or another, but ways we can allow both (work and life) to play out in our lives contributing to our soul’s tune.
Now, I am NOT proposing that you bring your bed to work to catch up on sleep nor drag your arguing family member to your next business meeting (which may play out in your favor). What I am suggesting is that, instead of treating work as a place where you zone out for 8 hours to just concentrate on being productive (creating a false sense of worth), why not try to find small ways to come back to ourselves at any given time? Allow ourselves moments to remember who we are, reset ourselves and feed our inner light.
Here are some ways I try to provide harmony between my work-life.
1. Remember to breathe
Yes, it may sound silly and perhaps a bit ridiculous, but how many times during the work day do we feel so overwhelmed that we lose sight of our natural ability to breathe slowly and intently. At times when I feel tense or overwhelmed at work, I will either pause where I am and take 10 paced breaths or I will excuse myself, step somewhere private (e.g. washroom) and take some deep breaths to reset myself. Sometimes, I may have a roller stick filled with essential oils and inhale scents that uplift, calm and steady me.
2. Take time in the day to connect to your love ones
When I was a kid, I remember my mom rushing home from work for her lunch break, eating with us and talking to someone on the phone. Sometimes it was my dad, other times it would be my grandmother or friends she needed to catch up with. Now with the age of technology, connection is more important than ever, so why not pick up the phone and talk to a love one, if only for 5 minutes. It will not only feed your heart but gives one a sense of connection outside of our workspace.
For some of us, the idea of a walk is a luxury not worth mentioning because of time, space or optics at work. And yet when we do walk, say to the washroom or stretch at our desks, we feel reconnected to our bodies and able to think more clearly. Simple yoga exercises such as chair pigeon pose or seated crescent moon pose can be just a start of movement to get your blood flowing and reconnect to yourself. At lunch, try to get outside and take in nature in its season (even the snow on the trees) and appreciate yourself being part of it.
4. Respect a time for work and a time for play
I know I mention the idea of harmonizing work and life, but each needs to be respected at times and held in their places. That means you intentionally shut off work when you leave the office and hold healthy boundaries when you have commitments. If you are feeling tired or ill, take time to rest and replenish yourself without feeling guilty for as much as we would like to think we can control everything our body does, it is susceptible to forces beyond ourselves. When you leave work, deliberately shut off your work phone and pause work email. Set a culture of intent at work that lets others know that once you leave work, it is time for your personal work. Allow yourself time to reconnect by enjoying activities that make you feel alive. That maybe cooking, having a dance party for one in your living room, playing Superheroes with your children, or sitting still meditating on stillness.
5. Lastly, remember the power of NO.
In my job, I encounter children from all ages and backgrounds and let me tell you the one word they use very often or don’t hesitate to use – the word NO. As adults we feel that using the word NO is rude and selfish yet, when we do use it, we feel respected, heard and valued. It creates boundaries for US from THEM. We can respect the word NO when we have too much on our plate, when we need our own quiet time to rest & repair or even when we need healthy boundaries when we feel taken advantaged of. No is a pause…a slowing down of sorts. NO said respectively and with firmness, gives us our voice, our authenticity and our uniqueness. By the way, do you ever wonder how many times World Leaders exercise the word NO? How about a young child? I am sure you don’t have enough fingers nor toes to count them all!
Therefore, the next time you feel overwhelmed, exhausted or just feel that WLB is getting the better of you, think of work-life as a song of harmony where challenges and triumphs come in and out, and the melody as part of your soul’s song. Interwoven together, work-life can be a space where we live our passions, enjoy what we do, feel accomplished and develop a sense of self. “You will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life.” – Heather Schuck
Sephra Khan is a lifelong educator who is open, curious and deliciously happy! Always seeking to cultivate more awareness, flow and creativity in people. Practices and educates on an integrated, balanced approach to life (one that is holistic, diverse and inclusive).
She is currently a guest writer for LIVE YOUR POTENTIAL.