Self-care and work-life balance is something that isn’t talked about enough. There’s something about summer that for me always signals the idea of slowing down and taking time to evaluate what’s working and what’s not in my daily routine. If you are over-extending yourself in any area of your life, at some point your body will tell you. Often when it does, it won’t always be in the nicest way.
I’ve had my share of work or life related stress. Sometimes one thing is stressing me more than another or sometimes they both are. Positive stress is still stress and the older I get the more my body isn’t putting up with that nonsense from me anymore. Most people are familiar with the mental signs of too much stress but the physical symptoms can present differently in everyone.
Some common physical symptoms are:
- Trouble sleeping
- Headaches and dizziness
- Stomach disturbances
- Muscle tension
- Aches and pains
- Low energy
- Chest pain or feeling like your heart is racing
Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. Please talk to your primary care physician if you are experiencing any of the symptoms discussed in this post.
The problem with a lot of the symptoms listed above is that they are not exclusive to being stress related so often we think it’s something else before we think it’s that. Sometimes it IS something else, but generally speaking if you are otherwise healthy but your schedule is non-stop there may be a correlation there. I realized myself at one point that I was so used to being in a state of stress that I couldn’t tell when I wasn’t anymore. My “normal” was being anxious and stressed all the time.
In North America the idea of working long hours or multiple jobs is not only seen as being acceptable but in some instances encouraged. There is a difference however between working hard and working to the point of exhaustion and stress. Yes, it’s important to make money because our societal structure requires us to to pay for the things we need to live. There is also the reality of the fact that many people have to work more than one job just to pay their bills. At what point though do we have to prioritize that so much that we can’t even enjoy the life we are trying to pay for? This for the most part is a first world problem. I get that. I’m well aware of the privilege that we also have in North America that other countries don’t. No matter your economic situation though, as a human being, I have to believe there is more to life for everyone than just working.
Aside from being a source of income, work gives a lot of people drive and meaning to their life. For many the work they do is fulfilling and may not even feel like a job to them at all. (I would assume they are in the minority though.) I wish that was the case for everyone but that may be a bit of a Utopian fantasy. So with that said, and coming back down to the microcosm of our own lives, how do we make changes now to have a better balance?
Small Ways to Find Balance
When we are so consumed by the next project, event, or thing we have going on, it’s easy to lose sight of ourselves and what we really need. With pandemic restrictions lifting in many areas of the world, people are anxious to get back to the life and schedule they had before. Consider when making plans and taking on projects what will allow you to still make time for yourself.
- You could start by committing to a fraction of the number of personal projects than you normally would to allow you more time with your family, friends or even engage in a hobby (art related or not) that you have always wanted to devote more time to. The key is always balance. That exact measure will be different for everyone but it’s important to take time to figure out what that is for YOU.
- Take time to meditate, pray or quiet your mind in whatever way works for you. For some people even just laying down in a comfortable place and listening to music for a while can be helpful. The point is to take small fragments of time throughout your day to pause, breathe and let go of the things that might be stressing you even for a few moments. Slow deep breaths have an immensely positive effect in calming your parasympathetic nervous system.
- Assess your schedule and decide what things are working and what is not. Do you need more help with daily chores at home? Has your business expanded to the point of needing an assistant for some of the easier but time consuming tasks? Are there ways to use technology to assist you and create time efficiencies?
- Evaluate if it’s time for a bigger change. If you can identify the core of what is really causing you stress, you may find the answer to fixing the problem is removing that cause. I’m not suggesting making any spontaneous or rash decisions, but you will likely know what the right thing to do is in your heart. If you are conflicted, I suggest speaking with a mentor, life-coach or psychologist depending on the nature of the stressor to help you navigate what the right solution is for you and the steps you can take to resolve it.
Life will inevitably have it’s ups and down, but what counts is how you deal with them. Stress when gone unchecked can be harmful to your physical and mental well-being. Make time to check in with yourself and seek help from professionals if needed. We all just get one shot at this life as far as we know, I intend to make sure I spend each day trying to enjoy it to the fullest.