We’re all so busy… Our days are full and our weekends are fuller. As we get stretched more and more by our families and our managers, by our responsibilities at work and at home, we start to think that we are failing if we can’t keep up. Something’s got to give…
We’ve all heard about ‘Work Life Balance’, but what is this elusive thing that other people seem to have that we don’t? What does it actually look like? I’ve gathered together a few ideas that are accessible to all of us, no matter how busy we are, that might bring back some measure of joy into our days and weeks.
Essentially, work life balance (WLB) is about allowing ourselves the time to choose an activity, or experience, or task (or absence of these things completely) without guilt, instead of continuing ever onwards with work-based jobs. It’s a well-planned diary where there are pockets of ‘me time’ that remind you what it is that you enjoy about being in the world. A regular exercise class, a gig at a local venue, a meal out with old friend or new friend. A book to pick up and read, just for pleasure, just for you. When was the last time you were able to properly do it for yourself? We know all these things are good for our soul, but we get swept away with the pace of work and the panic of our never-ending to-do list. So we need to plan it, and stick to it.
Once a week, make sure you take an evening off. Handbag Wednesday. This is a real thing. Managers up and down the country are enforcing Handbag Wednesday as we speak, and if yours isn’t, maybe you could suggest it? On this day, you don’t take anything home except your handbag – and gentlemen, we know you have handbags too… So now you’ve found yourself with an evening off! You could go swimming after school with your children, or for a run. Pop into town and buy a new top. Plan a book club night or join WI. Learn a new craft by checking out some local classes. There is a whole world outside that is there to be experienced. But you have to plan it and plan it well otherwise you’ll ‘just leave it for this week’, then a fortnight has passed, and then you might not pick it up again. Get a calendar and write the dates on the calendar in PEN. Book the babysitter and pay the course costs up front. Organise the book club AT YOUR HOUSE so you can’t cancel at the last minute with ‘I’m working tonight. Can we make it next week?’
All of these things are important. Work out what is important to you and your family and begin to bring that balance back into your life. Sometimes, the smallest things can make a massive difference.
Today is the best day to make a new start. Yesterday, I ate a little bit too much cheese and drank a little bit too much prosecco, but today I can make good choices about food, drink, work, exercise, words and thoughts.
The thoughts that I choose to acknowledge and the thoughts that I choose to dismiss are entirely up to me.
Today I am choosing good food and good thoughts. Today I am going to look in the mirror and tell myself that I’m the youngest I will ever be and today I am amazing!
I want a dog. I don’t want a dog. But I want a dog. I really want a dog. I just don’t want the actual dog and the dog poo. I guess that means I really shouldn’t get a dog.
But they’re so cute! With their little ears! And their waggy tails! Look at how cute they are!
But you have to walk them every day. Twice. And feed them. And take them to the toilet like toddlers. Why can’t they just be cute with their ears and make their own food?
I suppose I could just get another cat…
To put it simply, mindfulness is about being present in the moment. It is a technique which takes a lot of practice to become second nature, but once learned it can be applied to any aspect of your everyday life. It is a way of thinking and a way of living that can be transformative, and can literally change your way of looking at the world around you. As soon as you become present in the moment, all your worries and fears fade away and you are able to immerse yourself in the activity, feeling or experience.
When we put aside our worries we become momentarily freed from the anxiety that is causing that worry. It is in the future, and therefore does not exist. It is not tangible in the moment. So it can be acknowledged, and then put aside. In a similar way, we can deal with obsessive thoughts when we go over and over situations that have already taken place. These things are in the past, and therefore do not exist. We worked through it, and now we have moved on.
Sometimes future thinking has a place and a purpose – to help us make important decisions we need to apply ourselves in that future place. A new job, a new house, a new partner. But ruminating over possible outcomes of not finishing the laundry, or what to have for lunch on Sunday is not effective decision making, and these are things that can be put aside. When you notice that you are over-thinking or worrying about something, try and put the thought to one side and focus your attention on what is right in front of you. The television, the view, your children, a cup of tea. Whatever it is, let it be everything in that moment. Breathe deeply and calmly and be present. Your cup of tea – what does it smell like? What colour has it turned now you’ve added some milk? What patterns are reflected on the surface? Is there steam rising from the mug? Does the mug warm your hands as you pick it up? It’s just a cup of tea, but at that moment it is everything to you. It’s the nicest cup of tea you’ve ever had!.
This is ‘nowness’ and it can be learned. It’s the beginnings of meditation and so accessible that anyone can do it and be successful.
It does take practice. Try it today – whilst making that well-earned cup of tea. I promise you, it will taste amazing.
Lists are good. Everyone likes a list. So here’s a list of things that are ok…
- Putting on clean pants in the morning. This is ok because it means someone in your house (or you) has been organised enough to not only find all the dirty pants and wash them, but to then put the clean ones somewhere where you can find them. If this is you – yay you! If this is someone else – yay you for finding someone to do this for you!
- Having a cup of tea. This is ok because tea is always ok. We like tea. Think about how much organisation goes into having a cup of tea. Having fresh milk, a clean mug, actual teabags and a kettle. This is all good stuff. Well done you!
- A view. If you’ve got a view from inside looking out, then well done on finding a great seat with a great view. If you’ve got a view from outside looking out, then well done on getting out. Either way, winner!
- Not wanting to go to work. It’s not called ‘work’ for nothing. It’s ok to rather stay at home with the pants and the tea and the view. Who wouldn’t?
- Not wanting to go home. Kids’ packed lunches… You know what I’m talking about…
Sometimes, we just need to STOP and look at what is right there in front of us and try and find something good in that moment. That cup of tea looks pretty good to me right now.