Maybe you’ve noticed that, now and again, I disappear for a while. Usually no more than a few weeks. Though this time it was more like six.
I wish I could say I’d ‘gone fishing’ and been off somewhere relaxing, lazing on the beach, or hiking up a mountain, with no internet access. But that’s not the case.
Like many people I’ve been quiet because I’ve been working incredibly hard at my day job. It’s been one of those periods where everybody wants everything from me yesterday, or even the day before that.
Modern life is full of challenges, hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and millions of demands that are heaped upon us. Life seems to get harder and harder each year as expectations rise exponentially. Our bosses expect more and more from us. We’re connected 24/7. The old ‘9 to 5’ is long gone for most of us.
We have to juggle 1000 balls, keeping them in the air and never dropping a single one. We allow society to pressure us in to trying to be employee, spouse and parent extraordinaire. Stress is rampant.
Our brains are so taken up with just surviving from one day to the next. We lie awake at night worrying, planning, scheming, reliving the day and already living tomorrow – so we’re worn out by the time the next day dawns.
As a result many people go through life on autopilot – just getting through the day. Surviving one week to the next. From one month to the next. The years slipping by without us even noticing.
Maybe we’re dreaming of a future with a white picket fence and roses around the door and a happiness and joy we can’t have yet. Until the house is bought, the wedding is done, the kids are at school, we’ve got the next job, we’ve lost a few pounds, we’ve met the man or woman of our dreams or simply until we have time enough to think about it.
And when we have achieved those things, do we stop? And breath? And appreciate that? I think not. We race on, without a backward glance or even taking a breath, charging towards to the next goal on the horizon.
I may live in Denmark which rates number one in the world for not only a happy population, but also for work-life balance. However, that doesn’t mean I’m particularly good at either.
Here’s a few simple facts:
- I didn’t take my full allocation of holiday last year. And when I did take ‘holiday’ I was still ‘keeping an eye’ on work.
- I am permanently connected to a smart phone and/or to at least one computer. 24/7 isn’t an exaggeration in my case.
- I think nothing of working in to the evening, just about every day.
- I try to hold weekends and bank holidays as sacred work free zones. But considering I’ve worked at least part, if not all of the past 4 bank holidays, I’m not good at that either.
- And if I’m honest I’m permanently tired, I snap at the kids and my husband is always getting the short end of the stick. It’s not that I can’t get out of bed each morning – it’s more that I don’t even want to wake up.
And it seems I’m not alone and I’m not unusual. The SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) conducted a study of American Work Life Balance which revealed that 89% of Americans say Work-Life Balance is a problem and of those 54% called it a “significant” problem.
As Jack Welch, former GE CEO says “There’s no such thing as Work-Life Balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.”
But it’s not just work-life balance. It’s also about stress. For many people, stress is so commonplace that it has become a way of life. It certainly has for me. Stress isn’t always bad. In small to moderate doses, it can help me perform under pressure and motivate me to do my best. If I’m really honest I am an adrenaline junkie. A little adrenalin, and perhaps just a little bit more, goes a long way. But all too frequently we cross the line and stress starts to damage us mentally and physically.
The American Psychological Association and American Institute of Stress in NY did some research in 2012:
- 77% of those surveyed regularly experienced physical symptoms caused by stress – most commonly fatigue, headache and upset stomach.
- 73% of those surveyed regularly experienced psychological symptoms caused by stress – irritability, anger, nervousness and lack of energy.
- 33% of people feel they’re living with extreme stress.
- Most common sources of stress were job pressure and money.
- Annual costs to employers in stress-related health care and missed work was $300 billion.
So what next?
How can I find balance, or acceptable integration, between work and life? How can I appreciate life today instead of tomorrow. How can I be more in the moment and connected? Then in turn how can I protect myself by recognizing the signs and symptoms of stress and taking steps to reduce its harmful effects? How can I increase my sensitivity to know when I am about to cross the line? Life ain’t going to change. But I am.
So I have my mission, if I choose to accept it.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in surviving in a frantic world anymore. I want to thrive in a frantic world.
- If you can’t work 70 hours a week, “you’re not competent to do the work” (digbysblog.blogspot.com)
- Why Do Women Struggle With Work/Life Balance? (youngworkathomemoms.wordpress.com)
- Nigel Marsh: How to Make Work-Life Balance Work (examindlife.wordpress.com)
- Getting closer to work-life balance (martinamcgowan.com)