Many of my coaching clients laugh when the concept of work/life balance is mentioned. Some have come to resent it because it implies that their overachieving ways are unhealthy and should be changed. Why should they feel guilty about not wanting to stare at their navels when they would rather be obsessively doing what they love? They insist that forcing themselves to balance their activities leaves them feeling more overwhelmed than refreshed.
What's similar about these women who reject the notion of work/life balance is the level of passion they have for their work. When they find their work gives them a strong sense of purpose and satisfaction with their contribution, they happily work from early morning to late at night. Even if they schedule time for self-care and family, they don't see the need to equally balance their schedules.
One woman told me she felt lost before she found the job she over-commits her time to. She works for a no-kill animal shelter. When not at work, she thinks about how to improve the care of her "children" and raise funds for the shelter. Before she found this work, she spent more time with friends but often drank too much and then squandered her weekends nursing hangovers. She still shares moments with two good friends and visits her sister's family on holidays, but loves her work. She is happily out of balance.
Instead of working on equally balancing activities, I work with these clients on balancing their mind and body. They can happily live with their passionate obsession if they don't tip into mental and physical fatigue. Here are some tips for maintaining mental balance without work/life balance.
In order to sustain an active mind while passionately doing what you love:
- Keep your body healthy. If you want to maintain a long work schedule, then you need to keep your body in good working order. Schedule time for exercise so you don't end the day with no time for the gym. Make sure you eat healthy meals instead of what you can gobble down in quick breaks. Sleep at least seven hours so you don't wear out as you wear yourself thin.
- Maintain social bonds. No matter if you think you don't need anyone's help, you are a human with social needs. Whether it's your family or your friends-hopefully both-you need a few significant relationships where you can be together without working. If you go to a movie once a week, enjoy some time afterward talking about what you saw. Eat meals together. Take walks. Lay on the ground and watch the sun cross the sky. Your social connections keep your mind healthy.
- Regularly notice the world around you. I get acupuncture once a month to reset my overtaxed body. It was my acupuncturist who first told me that I was disconnected. He then prescribed a daily dose of going outside, smelling the air, appreciating the trees and feeling the ground beneath my feet. When I reconnect with nature, I reconnect with my soul.
The beauty of these tips is that you can combine them. For example, plan on regular walks with family and friends to enjoy them while you absorb the sun and nature. Then if you work into the night to catch up on the emails that came in while you were walking, make sure you get enough sleep so you wake up excited about the work you will do next.
Balance your body and mind if you can't balance your work by breaking for exercise, breaking bread with those you love, and taking moments to connect with nature.
Marcia Reynolds, PsyD provides coaching and teaches leadership classes world-wide. You can read more about her work at http://www.outsmartyourbrain.com