It’s the dream isn’t it? The work/life balance.
Not only enjoying your job but having an exciting and interesting life outside of work as well. In this post I’m going to share some tips on how to bring more satisfaction and balance into your lifestyle. Bear in mind that this is based on the assumption that you enjoy your work currently. If not, if you’re feeling a bit stuck in a rut, then check out this post on how to find a more fulfilling career.
No matter what your job is, or how much you enjoy it, it is crucial to balance out your work with other unrelated activities you enjoy. This is because of the wonderful effect of active relaxing. So many people suffering from stress burn-out try to rest more in order to relax, and find themselves frustrated when this does not help. I believe in relaxing your mind by being active.
Some forms of active relaxing:
– Problem solving (unrelated to work)
With that in mind, let’s explore some strategies for developing a long-term, enjoyable and relaxing work/life balance strategy.
Stress at work has the same effect on us physiologically as it did thousands of years ago. Back then we were all living in tribes and being hunted by predatory animals. Stress and anxiety was mostly related to risks to our physical safety. In order to be able to act quickly and decisively without crucial time being lost with hesitation, the hormones pump through our system to fire us up for fight or flight response, to avoid freezing up.
While technology has evolved around us to keep us safe, we have not evolved so quickly. We still have the same hormonal reactions to stress, only now it’s no longer a completely appropriate reaction. Being ‘stressed’ about a saber-toothed tiger stalking us is a little different to being stressed about an upcoming deadline for that report. However our bodies still react in the same way. This leaves us with residual hormone overload that is not expended through fighting or fleeing.
Aside from the obvious health benefits, exercise is crucial for stress management. Simply going for a light jog every day for 20-30 minutes can help burn through that build up of adrenaline. Exercise will not remove all unhelpful stress by itself, but it is a crucial part of stress-management.
Exercise also acts as a wonderful mindfulness technique, particularly weight work outs, because it requires you to concentrate on the present moment. Anxiety really only lives in the past (wishing you had done something differently) or in the future (worrying about an upcoming event). Staying focused on the present for set periods of time each day really helps reduce anxiety.
Do not be fooled by exhaustion. Mental stress can make us feel like we’re physically exhausted, when in actual fact we still have plenty of fuel to burn. Drag your butt out into the exercise of your choice no matter how ‘tired’ you are, and enjoy the surprise of all that pent up energy!
Hobbies are not only fun, they are essential to your wellness and enjoyment in life. Particularly if you haven’t got a satisfying job – hobbies become your sanctuary. Engaging the creative centers of your mind reduces stress even better than exercise, yet for some reason hobbies and outside interests are often the first to be neglected when we start getting stressed out.
But how to discover the right hobby for you? It’s about trial and error. I’ve been through about 100 hobbies to find the ones that please me the most. Now I’m at a point in my life where I have experienced a great range of enjoyable activities which has helped me find what really works best for me.
I recommend finding activities that aren’t just an extension of your work. If you sit down all day for a job, then find active hobbies. If you work alone, then find team-based activities.
The main point of a hobby is to engage your creativity in a way that is different from your day-job. Even activities like rock-climbing engage the creative part of your mind, like figuring the best route to use up the face.
We humans are a communal species. Back in the cavemen days we were forced to work in groups for survival. Those who worked well in groups survived and their genes were passed down – those who didn’t quickly got eaten by dinosaurs or something. So we are built to enjoy socialising, it gives us rewarding emotions because our brains love it when we ensure our survival by remaining part of the pack.
I’m a terrible hypocrite here; when I get really busy with my entrepreneurial activities the first to suffer are my friends and family (if not seeing me counts as suffering of course). This is something I really need to work on. One fantastic piece of advice my current performance coach gave me is to set aside one night per week, no matter what is happening work-wise, for socialising. Completely work free, not even discussion about work is allowed.
You may not be able to dedicate lots of time to your friends when you are busy, and that’s why I recommend hobbies that double as social events – that’s how I do it (for example, I attend a social salsa night once per fortnight). Two birds with one stone. Otherwise, get more disciplined than I am and set aside a night for your mates.
Few things are more rewarding than solving a mystery problem (learning), and few things a more stress-relieving than the feelings this will bring you. I DO NOT mean solving other people’s problems for them and taking on the burden yourself. I mean things like:
– Doing a course in something you’re interested in
– Building stuff with your hands, without instruction manuals
– Figuring out something that seems impossible, like a magic trick
Albert Einstein once said “When you stop learning, you start dying”. If your brain does not have something new and challenging to tackle, it will put all of that massive thought-power into worrying about stuff it already knows. You should aim to always be learning something new in a structured way.
Now I always recommend you act before you ‘learn’, as in try something and then learn how to do it better, rather than trying to learn how it’s done before doing it. So in this post when I say ‘learn’ I mean this process.
Right now I am doing a correspondence course in quality assurance, which helps me maintain good customer service practices and keeps my mind sharp as I take on this new life-path as an entrepreneur. I can act, learn how to do it better, and then problem-solve from there. Keeps me engaged, interested, and most importantly, it helps reduce stress.
Keep a look-out for opportunities to increase your knowledge. There are plenty of free online courses.
Look, the above strategies are not complex and it can be hard to see how they directly relate to stress reduction. This is because a) the best strategies and always simple, and b) reducing something is hard to measure, as opposed to increasing something. If you trust my judgment and expertise, try putting these four strategies into place in your life long-term, and watch your stress melt away over time.
Later, we can look at more advanced strategies about creating time for these things beyond just squeezing them into the free-time outside of work.
Have a great week
Enter your email below for instant access to my top material…
We respect your email privacy
Email Marketing by AWeber