Work/life integration and self-care: Not trivial pursuits
WASHINGTON, June 12, 2016 – Integrating work and personal lives as well as self-care, are topics that have come up remarkably often in my coaching sessions. That’s true whether I am working with a government agency, a private sector business, or with individual clients.
That’s why I wanted to address this area today, because it has become so important to so many. With increasing frequency, I am seeing the negative impact that results from trying to integrate work time with personal time, and it’s also time to get vigilant in maintaining a healthy life and lifestyle, both of which are related.
Take stock of your professional and personal life
There’s no time like the present to take inventory of your professional and personal life. Start by answering some questions about yourself:
- What are my core values and am I living them in alignment with my actions?
- What are my priorities?
- Am I fully present at work?
- Am I fully present at home?
- Do I need to re-evaluate what I’m doing?
- How many games or bedtime stories do I want to miss?
- How many more meetings will I sit in where I lose my focus?
- When is enough, enough?
- Am I tired?
- Am I eating healthy?
- Is my energy level energized or depleted?
- Am I in healthy relationships, both personally and professionally?
Part of the trouble I see is that many people don’t take this central subject seriously. They look upon self-care and work/life integration as “soft” issues. Worse, when people finally do begin to take these core items seriously, it’s usually when they are burnt out or on the verge of burnout, when they’ve come down with an illness, or when they are experiencing a lower patience level because their energy is depleted.
A question of balance
I use the term work/life integration instead of work/life balance because, as we attempt to bring more balance to our lives, we must learn how to integrate our personal and professional lives. (I believe the term “balance” is a myth.)
I often tell clients that life is like juggling. While the balls are in the air, enjoy the feeling, because one will eventually land on your shoulder. And that’s okay. That’s how life goes. It’s learning how to react in a resilient way to pain and adversity so you don’t entirely deplete your energy, ending up with nothing left for yourself or anyone else.
Remember those emergency instructions you get before you take off on an airplane: Put your oxygen mask on yourself first so you can then assist someone else.
Am I being dramatic? Not at all. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve never been a drama queen. But I do know you have to take a stand for yourself and be vigilant with your health or you’ll be risking a price that is way too high.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, what sex you are, how much you earn, or what title you might have. If you don’t take care of yourself, it’s going to affect you sooner or later.
Here are some helpful steps you can take that are vital in gaining and maintaining your own well-being:
Be vigilant with your health. To do this you need to practice self-care. Whether you are hitting a bucket of golf balls, enjoying a massage, or doing whatever self-care means to you, put it in your calendar and take the time to wind down.
Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
Begin to steadily practice some form of mindfulness—paying attention to your intentions in the present moment or the gentle effort to be continuously present—or meditation to improve the quality of your life. Both practices increase awareness of what you are doing and thinking, and both are known to reduce stress.
Get the appropriate amount of sleep
Research tells us that people don’t function well without the appropriate amount of sleep, which is now generally accepted as 7-8 hours per night. In fact, sleep deprivation is a huge problem today. You honestly will feel so much better after a good night’s sleep. “I feel like a new person,” is the way it’s been described to me by many clients.
To get into a calmer, more quiet state, try using orange lighting prior to sleeping. It been shown to be more soothing for the brain as opposed to white light. White light has elements of blue light that stimulates the brain, causing the brain to think that it’s still daylight.
Most of our computers and electronic gadgets have blue light, so it may take a bit of effort to go orange. One example, I set my iPhone to the night lighting setting (which is orange) from 9:00 p.m. – 9:00 a.m.
My suggestion is that an hour before bed, turn on orange light because it sends a message to your brain to start winding down.
Significantly, orange lighting is being sent to our troops to allow them to help relax so they can sleep deeper, since orange light promotes rest and relaxation.
You can search on Google about orange lighting to learn more about it and where to find it.
Cut down on eating processed foods. If you can’t pronounce three or more ingredients on the product label, don’t eat it!
Also, as you hear all the time, it is important to drink plenty of fluids. Stay hydrated. I’ve discovered this isn’t easy for me. I counter that tendency by placing water bottles all over my house, office, and car so that I remember this key idea.
Watch your caffeine intake. If you have a sensitivity to caffeine, watch your consumption time frame. For example, don’t drink caffeinated beverages after a certain time each day. That’s a time that varies for everyone, so determine what will be best for yourself and don’t pour another cup of coffee after that time.
I was meeting a client this past week at a bakery and I ordered a decaf iced coffee only to be told that they don’t make decaf in the afternoon. Go figure.
The body is designed to move, whatever that looks like to you. According to Harvard research, one hour of cardio exercise, the kind where you work up a sweat, can help lift your mood and diminish depression.
Keep boundaries for family time and work time
Make a real effort to keep the boundaries separating work time, home time and self-time. Create boundaries around “my time,” “your time,” and “our time” by putting them down on your calendar just like you make the time for a doctor’s appointment. In this case, it’s a good thing to be selfish.
Evaluate and Re-evaluate Your Schedule:
At least once a week, I evaluate my energy level, and once a quarter (or less) I evaluate my schedule. I ask myself, is what I am doing energizing or depleting my energy? I pinpoint the activity that is associated with each activity on my normal schedule so I can add more of what energizes me and less of what depletes me after concluding each evaluation.
Be aware of your schedule and make the necessary adjustments so you don’t find yourself “running out of steam.”
Integrating work/life and self-care isn’t brain surgery. It is simply using your good judgment and decision-making skills to help reach those milestones in life that are truly important to you. Right now, take out your calendar, set up some time for yourself, and go do something that will light you up!
For more Information Contact:
Susan Commander Samakow, PCC, CPCC, Certified Business, Life & Leadership Coach focusing on Confidence & Resilience Strategies, Life & Career Transition, & Business & Leadership
301-706-7226 & 703-574-0039
Ask Susan about her coaching packages and the Stress Reducing techniques she teaches: EFT (Tapping) and Breathing Exercises.