This year I successfully completed my PhD – one of the most enjoyable yet demanding experiences I have ever been through. During the final few months, everything was overshadowed by the looming thesis deadline. My diet and self-care went out the window and once the excitement of passing my PhD subsided and I’d updated my bank cards to Dr it left me wondering if putting myself through so much stress at the end had been “worth it”*.
Although I have mainly worked in academia I would imagine that intense work pressures are not unique to this sector. Not everyone will face mental health issues as a result of work, but as we face increasingly stormy times and given the ever changing political landscape in the UK, it is important now more than ever, to make sure that taking care of our well-being is a top priority on our ‘to-do’ list.
Most people will be aware of the positive benefits of eating a healthy diet and fitting in regular exercise. However, during times of high pressure these factors are often the first to unravel. We run the risk of becoming “too busy” to go to the gym or to cook a meal from scratch. We have so much on that it can be tempting to cancel plans with friends and family to make sure we have “enough time” to focus on our work. It can be easy to justify because it is only until you finish just one more task…That is until the next important task comes along (which it will) and it’s back to square one.
During these situations, it can sometimes feel selfish or greedy to prioritise spending time on your own well-being. However, not prioritising our own health and well-being can leave us destined for burnout.
So, how can we hope to achieve the all important “work-life” balance? Although sometimes I do wonder if we can ever actually get there, after all it’s not like we’re going to get a certificate through the post for leading a balanced life! However, it is something that we need to keep working on in order to reap the benefits and there are a few things that could help us to feel a little more balanced.
Mindfulness and meditation can make a genuine difference to our lives. The benefits of meditation and mindfulness to name but a few include: lower stress levels, more compassion, better sleep, and improved physical and mental health. Mindfulness and meditation are not new ideas; they have been around for centuries and are a key part of cultures and religions across the world. It’s not always easy to be mindful however, and sometimes it can feel like another task on your to do list that isn’t getting done and another reason to beat ourselves up for not doing everything correctly. But the whole point of mindfulness is to realise where you are in the moment and to not judge yourself – it’s quite refreshing!
Mindfulness doesn’t need to be difficult, tiny changes such as using cues within your environment such as a stop sign, an aeroplane or every time you wash your hands or brush your teeth, as a reminder to come back to the present moment can be an easy way to become more mindful. My favourite thing about mindfulness is how much grounding yourself in the present moment can help to alleviate fear and self-doubt – feelings that many of us encounter, especially around trying to achieve a perfectly balanced life.
I know that I have personally found it incredibly useful when worrying about how on earth I’m going to fit everything in, to consciously remind myself that I’m doing my best. As long as you are making positive steps towards your goal (even if they are baby steps!) then showing yourself some compassion and not putting too much pressure on yourself to succeed can be life changing.
And finally, when it all feels a bit too overwhelming, mindfulness can help us to prioritise our lives. No deadline is more important than our physical or mental health. Ensuring that we are eating and sleeping well, making time to see family and friends, drinking enough water and taking time just for ourselves is pivotal. I have learnt that stress is a choice, and so is peace. We are so much more than just our work, and by making time to take care of ourselves we are allowing ourselves to get the most from life both in and out of the office.
Did you like this post? If so I’d love it if you could share it with your family and friends 🙂 How do you try to maintain a work life balance? Share your tips and tricks below, I’d love to hear them.
As always, thanks so much for reading.
*the PhD was totally worth the effort, to any current PhD students – you’ve got this! ❤
[This blog post is based on an article I wrote for the work life balance issue of Incite magazine. To read my original article and to find out tons of useful info and perspectives on achieving a work life balance click here]