Work. Life. Balance. What do these three words mean? Recently, the legal profession has placed a strong emphasis on managing stress. Such a strong emphasis that it feels like we casually throw around the phrase “work/life balance” without taking a beat to define what it can and should mean to the average individual in our profession.
When I picture work life balance, sometimes I picture a carnival spectacle. A juggler, barely maintaining her grasp on the many balls she rotates above her head. Other times, I picture a superhero, someone like the Flash, who races around their home and office at a superhuman speed barely accomplishing a task before the next springs to her attention. No matter what I imagine, in each scenario there is a sense of urgency. Even in imagining a more balanced life, I feel the need to hustle, to be perfect. The need to be the one who has it all and manages to balance it all.
This is a common trait women struggle with; we feel the pressure to be everything for everyone. To balance the home, the office and whatever else the universe throws our way. This, of course, is unhealthy. Excess stress depletes concentration, make us depressed, damages our immune system, diminishes morale, and can harm our personal and professional relationships. Excessive stress also leads to burnout. Beyond the stress, even the pursuit of work/life balance itself can be wearing!
What then is the solution to these stressors in our lives? How can we pursue peace of mind? Seeking an individualized definition of balance is key. Individualized balance is a fluid concept that adjusts to fit your life based on your needs and priorities. It is not a trendy purist. It is molded to who you are and what is important to you. Individualized balance embraces the concept that rest, recovery, balance, and reflection are essential parts of progress and success in a happy life. Of course, maintaining individualized balance takes time and practice.
Here are some simple concepts, which may help you maintain balance at your comfort level. These tips are all things we already know, but sometimes just need a gentle reminding of.
First, striving for and achieving balance is hard. Frankly, it is a daily struggle. Sometimes your struggle will be with the world around you and the pressures it imposes. Sometimes the struggle will come from within and the self-imposed pressure we all grapple with. Despite this, you can overcome. Healthy life balance is obtainable – keep pushing forward.
You must define balance based on your terms because you are unique. You are the only one who lives your life with its various demands and priorities. Only you can know when your life is or is not in balance. Therefore, only you know how to set the appropriate boundaries.
Take an assessment of your life. What activities or people are absorbing your time and should they be? Take an assessment of how valuable these activities and people are to you. Once you have identified what is important to you, prioritize it. Once you have identified what can be eliminated, do so. You also can determine what, if anything, can be delegated to someone else.
Balance requires flexibility. At the core of balance, is the concept of shifting components. You may have to adjust as you go along and that is okay.
Balance requires you to stay attuned with yourself. You have to know what your priorities are and why. Frankly, you should not be giving your time and energy to anything that is not a priority. There is only so much of you to go around. Why waste your energy on something that does not matter to you? Moreover, remember your priorities may shift as you grow in life. That is okay too.
Balance also requires that you take time for you. Take the time to do what you love! Find ways to make time for the passion that makes your soul burst. These pockets of time will recharge your energy and make you all the more equipped to tackle things you may be less excited to deal with.
Extending grace to yourself is key. You are human. You will make mistakes. But, you will learn from your mistakes. Most importantly, it is okay to ask for help when you need it. What good is having a support system if you fail to lean on it from time to time? Emotional support is essential.
Balance requires that you unplug occasionally! Most of us are accessible 24/7. However, disconnecting allows you to rest and recover. It also creates space for human connection. These one-on-one connections recharge your energy and allow you to focus on your priorities.
Striking a balance should empower you to say NO! This is essential to maintaining your boundaries. Remember that people who take your time are not going to remind you to stop working so hard, you will have to do that! If you fail to take control of how you spend your time, then it eventually will not be your time anymore.
Finally, allow your needs for balance to grow with the demands in your life.
Achieving balance does not mean that all things will be equal. In fact, they may never be equal. It does not mean that you will become a perfect example of “having it all.” To the contrary, you will pass through different seasons in life. Achieving balance does signal that you have struck an alignment in your life. A place where you hustle meets rest. A point where you develop a space to grow and reflect. A space where you are at perfect peace with just being you.
I hope you grow to find and love that space. Be well.