Balancing Act

Life isn’t as easy as it used to be. Between work and personal commitments, our days and nights are constantly bombarded by the hectic nature of our always-connected world. But don’t fret: There’s hope…as long as you’re willing to tweak a few things in your daily routine.
Text by Sandy Lindsey | June 14, 2018 | Lifestyle

There was a time when the boundaries between work and home were fairly clear. Today, however, work is likely to invade your personal life and maintaining a work-life balance is no longer a simple task. So what are we to do?
Most experts agree that the first step is to disconnect and to do so without guilt. “When we’re connected, we create a certain level of stress and aren’t able to fully enjoy what we’re doing,” says Elsa Orlandini, Psy.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist. “Maintaining a level of connection to work will almost surely take away from your overall quality of life.” Although remaining constantly connected can be good for your business and your employer, it can ignite bad habits, especially for Americans. “Looking at European living styles is important,” continues Dr. Orlandini. “They believe that one works to live…the other way around. They’re good at disconnecting, enjoying people. We are increasingly not enjoying people and more identifying with what we do as an identity. In other words, we are not work titles and we should to stop thinking of ourselves as such.
Lisette Beraja, LMFT & Director of Beraja Counseling Center concurs: “Disconnecting gives you and your loved one’s an opportunity to enjoy the moment — I always tell my clients that as they leave their office and head home, they should automatically learn to shift gears,” she says. “A wife, husband, partner or child is waiting to spend time with you. Loved ones can tell when you’re present mentally. Disconnecting is important in that it allows for the present moment to be 100% devoted.”
Moreover, for some of us, perhaps a bit of perspective is in order. “Having worked with the elderly in past work, it’s become clear that what matters the most in life is the relationships one builds and maintains than anything else,” says Dr. Orlandini “When we’re on our deathbed, we’re not holding the hand of accomplishments or bank accounts but of those who love us. Life is about who we love and how we love them and all the ways they reciprocate the same. Having work-life balance helps us maintain perspective. Investing in one’s health and spirituality offers us an opportunity to bond with ourselves and with our loved ones.”
Now this doesn’t mean we should disconnect from important aspects of a multi-faceted life entirely. Another benefit to disconnecting at appropriate times is that human beings thrive on contrast. “Disconnecting allows us perspective,” adds Relationship Expert Roberta Gallagher, LMFT, LCSW. “To step away allows us to recharge our energy…distance allows for creativity.”
Ultimately, the key is to learn to be connected to different situations in different ways. One of the most useful things is to take time to be connected to ourselves, which means some alone time. We need to honor each segment of connection. The benefits include feeling refreshed and more energized, and looking forward to our usual structure because we have had a change of pace.
So what happens if work and life meld seamlessly like in the case of a family business or a creative craft that acts as a paid hobby? “Human beings need novelty in the same way we need touch, air, food and water,” says Gallagher. “Life always has bumps and challenges. Human beings are always in a state of dynamic change. Total balance means stagnation.” The point is to pencil in your calendar with not only work appointments, but with appointments that fulfill personal needs as well.
It’s equally important to find a life outside the work circle. It’s good to encourage friends to talk about other things than work and request this boundary whether they are co-workers or not. One of the best ways to find friends outside of work is to do activities with patterns where the focus is creating something, learning something, doing something fun or helping someone. These types of activities facilitate the launch of new friendships with similar interests. Join a civic organization, or a group that focuses on a sport so that you see the same people at least twice a month. It takes time to create real relationships but it’s not as difficult as most would assume.
But the last thing you want to do is make your already stressful life tougher to manage. Staying positive is a choice. but it’s important to learn to say no. In Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways To Slow Down & Enjoy The Things That Really Matter, author Elaine St. James says that people get into trouble because they agree to do things they really don’t have time to do. This leads to a constant state of being overcommitted and frustrated. Our culture makes it difficult for us to say no to requests to attend extra meetings or dinner engagements, or to take on new responsibilities. Many of us feel obligated to always be participating at a high level. “We’re proud of our high productivity and involvement, but it comes with a high price,” she says. “It usually leads to a complicated life that leaves no time for you.”