I’ve been feeling really stressed lately and any sort of “balance” seems far out of reach. I used to joke that I don’t have “work/life balance”, I have “work/work balance”! But I don’t even think that’s really the problem. I precariously juggle work and life (defined for me as family obligations) without dropping too many balls, but I seem to fail dismally at what I think should be a third prong — “self”. See, maybe that’s what I should be aiming for. Some sort of a triangle that is in balance.
Earlier this month it was Mental Health Week in Canada. I visited the Canadian Mental Health Association website to take their Stress Index Questionnaire. While obviously not medical advice, their website lets you gauge your state of mind based on standard benchmarks.
So, yeah, I guess I’m stressed.
I also did the Mental Health Meter questionnaire. On the question of balance (scale of 1-6), it said:
Well, yeah, I think I knew that. It also tells me that the stress and lack of balance are affecting my ability to enjoy life (2 out of 6) due to “anxiety and worry”. Yup. And my apparent lack of flexibility in my opinions and expectations (2) can “create a strong sense of frustration”.
(Case in point, why can’t the baristas just get my drink right?!) Luckily, I am also resilient (4) and have a good degree of self-actualization (4), which both help to keep me trudging along like the old Timex watch that “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking”!
I often think about the rule on an airplane, when you are supposed to put on your own oxygen mask before helping your child, because otherwise you will pass out and be no good to anyone. But it is very hard for me to fall down on my work and life obligations and put myself first, or even on an equal footing.
- Work is more than a full-time job. It’s deadline-driven with too much work and I’m coming into one of my busiest times. On top of that is the added stress of a forthcoming change in leadership that will directly affect my work life.
- Family life could easily in itself be a full-time job, but financially I don’t have that luxury. I’ll be 58 this week and I have a sixteen-year-old (what was I thinking?) who for various reasons requires a lot of my time — 5 more weeks to get through to the end of the school year … I can’t wait! Servetus had mentioned an interesting article to me about “emotional labour”. That really resonated with me and I can see how much emotional energy I invest in keeping the schedule, monitoring and harassing about school work, making sure someone cooks dinner and dishes are washed, etc.
- So, what about “self”? I fall last on the list. I’ve been meaning to get blood work done for months now, but there never seems to be time. I just paid my credit card bill late… again. I’d like to swim once in a while or maybe start riding the bike I bought a few years ago and never used. I’d really like to be blogging on a more regular basis, but I often when I finally have time for myself, it’s 10 or 11 at night and I am just exhausted. If I start writing, I feel so energized that then I can’t sleep!
What to do? Well, I am looking forward to my one-week beach vacation in July, but that’s still a ways away. I took a “wellness” day a week ago, which is a new feature at work and something that I never do for myself. It was a great idea, but between my younger son having hurt his knee the night before at ball hockey, my older son needing me to find out whether my insurance would cover him to take his final road test in the graduated licensing program, and the plumbing emergency we had (see the hole in the ceiling due to water going down through the wall from a shower), I can’t say that it was a stress-free day!
Will it help me if I get more organized? I took a really great time management webinar (live from Toronto, which meant I had to be at my computer at 5:30 a.m.!). It looked at the subject from a psychological, physiological, and project management point of view. The presenter also has a book called Cool Time shown here on his website.
- He talked about the idea that constant emails actually provoke a stress or “fight or flight” response, making it impossible to steadily use the intellectual part of your brain for projects.
- He also recommended filling your calendar at work with “tangible evidence of busy-ness”. So, three blocks of emails in the calendar over the day and blocked time for “focus time”, planning, and travel.
- He even recommends having “crisis of the day” on the calendar, which can shift around but at least is acknowledged as happening regularly.
- He applies the 80/20 rule (or modified Pareto principle) to almost everything, including that 80% of your time should be scheduled, with 20% left open for relationship building (or open door time).
I’ve been applying some of this at work and it really seems to be helping. I’m even putting lunch on the calendar and the time I have to leave for Weight Watchers on Tuesdays so that I am forced to do something for myself. I wonder if I can apply any of what I’ve learned to my home life?
(Now, if only my family would just stick to the schedule!)
I also realized that I don’t take much time to “smell the roses” or even look around me. I have a wonderful view from my bedroom window, but most of the time I don’t even open the drapes!
Not only that, but there are a few flowers in bloom at my house.
With a couple of birthdays this month (including mine), we’ve gone out to a couple of nice restaurants, both with gorgeous views of the water in the Burrard Inlet. The first is Vancouver’s Coal Harbour and the second is Port Moody’s Rocky Point Park (where the day was a mild but cloudy one).
If all else fails, taking the time to look around can sometimes bring some much needed comic relief… What was the Queen doing in my neighbourhood last week? Maybe taking her own much-needed break from the stress of the count-down to the Royal Wedding!