I must admit the title of this post is probably misleading, I don’t think there has been any point this year where I’ve had a work-life balance. In fact five months ago I had written a pretty bleak blog post that basically described the worst mental headspace I’ve been in for a while because of my work.
Unfortunately I have a personality type that has never helped me achieve a ‘balance’. I am a perfectionist, an overachiever, and a terrible person at recognising when I need to say no. Which is by no means a bad thing, I don’t hate who I am. I do wish though that I would recognise when these characteristics are becoming a hindrance.
I would go as far as saying that the 21st centuries perception of work has created the majority of us to be human beings who constantly need to ‘hustle’ in a commercialised landscape. Thus, creating a small business, having 2 jobs and constantly thinking about your future job prospects while working a 9-5, studying and/or looking after your family is seen as ‘normal’. I know I feed into exactly that ‘type’ and by no means have I ever helped myself. But then on the other hand I guess nobody has ever told me that it was a bad idea. It is only when I started to realise that I had taken on too much that I realised I was reaching an emotional and physical burnout. Something which I am afraid to say has happened multiple times over my time as a student.
I wrote a blog post on ‘Success’ last year and if you want to dive deeper into this culture and what it has cost us then please have a look at it here.
I wrote the previous two paragraphs quite a few months ago, when I wanted to write about a work life balance but couldn’t quite articulate how I was feeling. The very last thing I wanted to do was come on here and say I had one, when I don’t. I think it is something I am going to permanently struggle with because when my situation changes (moving, new work etc.) there is always some sort of way that old habits creep back in and I end up having another breakdown in my bathroom. So rather than spout off some sort of self help advice I thought I would analyse why I think this continues to be an issue and the small ways I help myself when it starts to get extremely overwhelming. Although, I must add again, that is not to say it always instantly solves everything.
As a uni student I think finding a work life balance is particularly challenging, especially when the majority of your studies is online. You are made to set your own working hours while consistently feeling like that isn’t enough. I try and set myself boundaries, for example I aim to work until 5 Monday-Friday while taking Saturday’s completely off from doing any work. However, this obviously changes week to week as I’ve got other commitments which can change my routine. On top of that there are club commitments (I am on my uni’s netball committee), business admin and life stuff to sort. In that sense there is a danger for life to start feeling like work, if that makes sense? And it is because of that, that I reach burnout.
The word ‘balance’ in this term, ‘work-life balance’, that gets thrown about is in itself misleading. I think it is impossible to try and find a balance where everything is even. In fact it is probably better to look at your work as prioritising and working out what needs a certain amount of time. Calling it ‘balanced’ suggests there is some sort of world where you can give your ‘everything’ to absolutely everything in equal quantities. Well I am sorry to break it to you but unless you’ve got a device where you can get extra amounts of time then that is just not achievable. And thinking it is makes things a lot worse (trust me).
Instead I look at my work as a priority. I’ve got reading and lectures to look at before I do anything else. Once they are done, I will look to schedule in other activities around it. That is why a lot of the time I have to take breaks from writing blog posts; I either just don’t have the time or the tasks I have done have taken every ounce of energy I have. Trying to force it, is not worth your time.
Combining all of these thoughts comes a certain amount of self appreciation and respect. I still to this day feel infinitely bad when I know I have a lot to do but I am slowly trying to remind myself that I am only a human being and berating myself for something is not going to make me a healthier or happier person.
And do you know what, the best thing to do is have a good cry about it and speak to someone. The more you talk through your stress, the more you will understand how best to sort it.
And if you are struggling to plan your week I recommend buying yourself a planner. I recently bought a weekly planner and it has made life that tiny bit better. I set myself manageable tasks and have written out my deadlines so I can see them approaching. This way I am managing how overwhelmed I am feeling.
Obviously I am not a professional but if you are in a state where work is overwhelming and is making you physically and emotionally exhausted then taking yourself out of the situation and understanding what needs your attention and what you can change/ask for help with is extremely useful. I can sit here for ages feeling bad about it or I can understand it and control it. I always say ‘control the controllable’.
Life happens and I am still grappling with appreciating change and not letting it effect me. Similarly I am trying to get better at not dreading a week when it comes around or looking too far ahead into the future. But I am not perfect and honestly all of the above is something I still majorly struggle with.
I also don’t want to recommend all these simple steps and make you think they will automatically work. Everyone is different. You may find it better to go to a therapist and talk things through that way. And that is ‘A’ okay! Find what works for you and find someone you can speak to!
At the end of the day being nice to ourselves is the best way to getting a so called ‘balance’. And to do that you need to recognise there is something not working. Don’t be like me and ignore it!
What is your best ways to deal with stress and an overwhelming amount of work? Let me know below.
I hope you are all well.