Make self-care a priority
My youngest daughter, in her early 30’s, has a demanding job in a start-up company while her husband is working long hours on expanding a new business. The challenge—they are also running after their 19-month old toddler. When I talk to my daughter she always seems stressed—not by the parenting portion of her life, but by the demands of her job. She gets texts and emails at all hours of the day and night.
When I was her age, with two little kids, I don’t remember working as hard as she does. My wife worked half-time and so there was a little more tranquility in our household. I didn't have to work after my children went to bed, and of course, email and cell phones were brand new devices that were hardly used in the 1980s. I think life was a bit slower and simpler.
Today, work expectations are higher with a greater demand for individual productivity. According to recent surveys, 85% of men work more than 40 hours per week and 66% of women do the same. Americans work 137 hours more than our Japanese counterparts and 260 more hours per year than our British friends. On top of that, Americans take less vacation than other workers in industrialized countries.
The proliferation of smartphones as a business tool hasn't helped. Emails and texts come at all hours with the implicit expectation that workers will respond right away. At meetings, participants are listening, talking, and reading and responding to emails at the same time! No wonder everyone looks stressed!
A good friend who works at a big company just had twin daughters. She has a big executive job and often feels torn between work and family expectations. Sure, she says, colleagues “understand” she has twin babies—but are their expectations of her productivity any less? Probably not.
How can we manage work and family life balance? How do we avoid burnout, which, according to the Center for Disease Control, is becoming a public health problem?
Set limits and stick to them.
True confession—I don’t have work email on my smartphone. Yes, I do check email from my computer when at home from time to time, but I don’t receive the constant barrage of communication from co-workers. I figure that if there is an emergency, my boss can call me. It rarely happens.
Be honest with yourself about what you can reasonably do—then say no or defer new requests. Of course, others will be disappointed when you say no. Be realistic. It is better to under promise and over deliver than to have unrealistic expectations of yourself. Taking care of yourself and nurturing work-life balance is a marathon race, not a sprint.
Take vacation! And when you do, turn your email off!
Make self-care a priority.
Often, we get nickeled and dimed into poor self-care. Deadlines, work demands, expectations from others can grow in small increments until you find yourself exhausted and depleted. Establish your own personal self-care plan and stick to it. If you fall off your horse, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back on. Your well-being depends on it.
You are not in this world to live up to other’s expectations.
Of course, we all want to please our family, co-workers, and managers. We all like those pats on the back, promotions, raises, and rewards. But at the end of the day, our well-being, happiness, and peace are our most important assets.