By Brianna Gist
Brianna is a student at Georgetown University studying Linguistics, Government and French. Through her work, she seeks to advance women’s and gender equality, diversity and inclusion, and human rights as she pursues a career in international politics and affairs. An energetic entrepreneur, she looks forward to developing the brii bag™ business into a non-profit company that educates and uplifts young women around the world.
What does work-life balance really mean and how do you achieve it?
One of the most popular buzzwords out there today is “work-life balance,” and there are dozens of female influencers and celebrities on social media discussing their journey toward achieving the perfect work-life balance. These women can do it all: they perform at high levels in the office and also have enough time to cook a healthy, homemade meal for the kids. They work around the clock and yet somehow, are still able to stick to a regular exercise routine. How do they do it, and what does the work-life balance really mean?
The “work-life balance” craze isn’t a new phenomenon, and it’s not a myth. The term has been used for many years to describe the act of maintaining a healthy equilibrium between one’s professional work and personal life. More specifically, it guards against the perils that workaholics face when they spend too much time and energy on their careers, causing depression, chronic stress, anxiety, trouble sleeping, or trouble focusing.
Do you have work-life balance?
In his article on the evolving perceptions of the work-life balance, Alan Kohll, corporate wellness expert and contributor to Forbes Magazine, writes that, “Maintaining work-life balance helps reduce stress and helps prevent burnout in the workplace,” and burnout can lead to “fatigue, mood swings, irritability and a decrease in work performance.” Much like a hamster on a wheel that won’t stop, focusing too much on your work can have a detrimental impact on your mental and physical health, amounting to a decrease in your overall quality of life.
On the other hand, there are perils of placing too much weight on our personal lives. When we spend substantial amounts of time at home, renege on submitting work in a timely fashion, and reallocate our focus too far away from our career, we’re unable to fully apply ourselves in the office. The hardship lies in achieving a happy medium between your work and the activities in your personal life, which is particularly difficult for working women who bear an additional task of caring for their families – in addition to caring for themselves.
If you’re up every night thinking about your job, feeling extremely overwhelmed by your workload, or detesting another long day at the office, and have very little time to yourself on a weekly basis, these are all red flags indicating that your work and personal life aren’t balanced! Your friends and family are also great indicators about a work-life imbalance: they will tell you if you’ve been absent lately or if you haven’t been as communicative as usual. If any combination of these signs speaks to your current situation, you may want to consider adding a little more weight to the “life” side of your work-life balance (or, that the time is ripe for a change in jobs or careers, which requires an entirely new article).
How can I achieve the work-life balance?
Maybe you’ve clicked on this article with an inclination that you’re beleaguered by workaholic tendencies, but now that you know for sure, the million-dollar question still remains: How can I achieve the work-life balance?
Deborah Jian Lee, an award-winning journalist and expert finance and investing, advises us to let go of perfectionism, unplug from our technology, exercise, meditate, limit time-wasting activities, and change our habits to promote a healthier lifestyle. In her article in Forbes Magazine, she writes, “Take a birds-eye view of your life and ask yourself: What changes could make life easier?”
I would like to extend her suggestions by asking: “What changes could bring more joy to your life?”
Even though it’s important to consider the ways in which you can simplify your day-to-day routine, the work-life balance is about much more than finding the perfect lifestyle equilibrium. As discussed by the philosopher Augustine in his Confessions, eudaimonia or “joy, fulfillment” is critical because it brings us closer to that which gives purpose and meaning to our lives. For many, joy can be found in the bite of a cupcake or the thrill of a party, and for others joy is found in fresh air or the quietness of introspection. The key is that you find those activities, no matter how big or small, that bring a smile to heart and soul.
In order to alleviate the stress from our professional pressure-cookers, we must take deliberate steps toward creating moments of joy amidst the hustle and bustle of life. As a student at a rigorous university, my entire academic experience shifted after I began making – not finding – time for the activities and people that brought me joy. On a functional level, it meant closing my laptop thirty minutes early to read my book before bed. It meant scheduling weekly dinners with friends to cook meals together, attending church every Sunday, and going to the gym in between classes instead of cramming in more classwork.
Mere survival is not enough, we should seek to flourish in both spheres of our lives and know that we must take care of ourselves in order to produce our best work. No matter what we do, the work will always be there; therefore, how will you incorporate joy to promote a unique work-life balance that best fits you and your lifestyle?