The Essentials: Work-Life Balance

Woman working overtime at her desk at night

Have you ever woken up and felt like you haven’t slept at all? You know logically that you did, you didn’t stay up late, you did the recommended seven to eight hours. But still, you are exhausted.

You have tried to set boundaries for yourself with others but when it comes down to it, it sure has been hard to do. You feel exhausted from trying to aspire to achieve your own goals. You keep reading about these pesky high-performance habits. And, you wonder how people can add so much to their lives without something falling off the list.

You want it all but you feel like you’re falling apart in the process. You think maybe you just haven’t figured it out, you keep adding and adding and adding different things to your life that are supposed to help you relax, but just ends up making you feel more exhausted than you were before.

What do you do?

Avoidance by Working

Sometimes, we use work to avoid how we are feeling or what we are experiencing at the moment. Oftentimes, you hear this as being a workaholic. But I would say it does not necessarily have to be about work. It could just be about trying to appear perfect and in that perfection, we hide behind the scenes the turmoil of what is going on.

This turmoil can remain hidden to others and even yourself for a while but it will show up somewhere else. Some will feel it as physical symptoms like frequent headaches or stomach aches. Others will feel like they have never slept at all. They will go through their life feeling like they are zombie’s and when they complain of their tiredness, others won’t understand why they are constantly complaining. You may even go to the doctor about it and be told that your labs are in normal ranges.

If this is the case that you are in, sit with yourself and ask if there is an event or experience that tends to trigger your headaches, stomaches, or fatigue. Stress can cause all of these physical reactions in us and if we don’t give ourselves a break from work than we are going to possibly make those physical symptoms worse.

Time to Simplify

Less is more. You add and add and add desperate for control over the situation but end up losing control and not doing the thing that makes you happy in life. Take time to reflect on what you want to accomplish. What is your mission in life? What is it that is essential for you to accomplish this year?

Reflecting and knowing what your values are is important. It guides you in your decision-making process. Whenever you feel like you don’t know what to do, just go back to what you value and ask yourself, am I in alignment with my values?

If the answer is no, what do you need to do to get there? Have you added too much? What would it take for you to cut down? Are you doing more to make you feel like you are accomplishing something but aren’t actually accomplishing anything at all?

The Uneasiness of NOT Over Working

When you allow yourself some time off, it will feel strange. You have avoided being with yourself for so long that you will be anxious and feel like something is missing. When we fall into patterns of avoidance and try to break them it is going to feel that way. It is your mind that is falling back into an old pattern that just hasn’t worked for you.

We all have patterns some are healthy for us and some are not so much. Patterns are also called habits. For example, a healthy pattern is allowing yourself to have enough time to sleep at night and an unhealthy pattern is overeating every time you feel that something is going wrong.

Often times we fall into these patterns because we have a sense or a feeling of a loss of control. This makes us feel uncomfortable and instead of exploring why we feel uncomfortable, we try to cover up that feeling by overworking or overeating or by doing something else to avoid experiencing those feelings.

Therefore, when we disrupt the pattern, we invariably will feel uncomfortable or have negative thoughts.

Managing Uncomfortable Feelings

We as human beings have a broad spectrum of feelings and all feelings are valid. Managing your feelings is not eliminating your feelings, it’s allowing for a safe place to have them without them disrupting your life.

Part of managing your feelings is finding a way to express them. You can express your feelings in a variety of ways such as through art or dance. Or you can simply talk about them with a confidant. It’s important to get your feelings off your chest because if you hold in your uncomfortable feelings for too long it will most likely come out in a different that you may not be expecting.

If you feel like even with expressing your feelings the uncomfortableness is too much seek professional attention with a qualified mental health clinician. There is nothing wrong with going to therapy and it is not a frivolous act. Therapy allows you a safe place to express your feelings, identify patterns that may be disrupting your life, and allows you to interpret what is happening.

Reflect on the Life You Want

At the end of the day, reflect on the life that you want. Most of the time the reasonings to make an international move is usually for work. We don’t want to lose or take for granted a great opportunity so we work.

Over time that attitude catches up to us and not only affects us as individuals but affects our families as well.

Take the time to look at your entire life and where you are now. What would you like in each sector of your life with family, friends, in your marriage, your spirituality, or in the hobbies that you would like to do for entertainment? Are you where you want to be? Score yourself from 1 to 5. If you are not a top score in each category you put for yourself, ask yourself what is it going to take for me to get there? And as always, write it down! This may sound like you having to add more to your life. Think of it more as the reorganizing of your focus on the aspect of your life that are the most important to you.

Change takes time. But it’s better to be on the journey toward the life you want instead of only dreaming about it.

And By the Way!

My name is Tara. I am a therapist who provides online counseling services in the state of Illinois. This blog post is not therapy and it should not be used as a substitute for therapy. If you would like to talk more, you can schedule a free 15-minute consultation, click here!

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