The importance of rest in finding work-life balance

Recently we hear more and more about people struggling with finding work-life balance. We live in a world where our jobs are increasingly demanding, stressful and fast paced. I rarely hear someone saying that their job is laid back and fulfilling.

If you want to earn a decent salary, to not live paycheck to paycheck, most likely you have to work very hard.

I struggle with stress at work almost every day, and some days I just get home without any energy left in me. I feel so exhausted and worn out, that I don’t want to do anything. I just want to sleep, to run away and never come back to that job ever again.

I wake up every morning with an increased heart beat, anxious at what is to come ahead at work that day. Whenever I get close to my job place, I dread having to go there, I want to escape. I cry deep down, cursing this job and my life with it.

Does that sound overly dramatic? In this case let me congratulate you, you are one of the few who found the road to a happy and fulfilling job. Please share your secret with us. Unfortunately for me, and for many others, it is the reality of our daily lives.

And please spare me, with the positive outlook in life, with doing what you love and quit that job replica. I’ve heard and tried plenty, but let’s just say it’s not quite working for me.

While reading a book, I realized that me not wanting to go to work was not as much due to the stress or anxiety but to the lack of freedom. My job consumes me so much that I feel trapped, I don’t have time and energy to do something else, to enjoy life. In other words my work-life balance was broken.

Then I started to analyze things from another perspective. What in my job is consuming me and my time the most and I reached some conclusions that I would like to share with you.

  1. Don’t work after hours. I used to remain at work at least 30 min each day after hours. I wanted to finish up some task or prepare something for the next day. I believed this will make my following day easier. Unfortunately, that it’s not how it was. First, my productivity was very low after a long work day. Something that took me 10 min in the morning to complete, in the evening it took 30 min. Secondly, whenever I finished a task better and faster than expected, I received another one, maybe even more difficult. This strategy of mine only increased my workload and my stress levels. So I adopted this new principle, to not work after hours. I prefer to work more efficiently during the day, and enjoy every minute of my free time.
  2. Take breaks during the work day. I now religiously take my coffee breaks and my lunch break. My colleagues even joke if I poured myself coffee a minute later than scheduled. What concerns my lunch break, I never eat at my office or in front of my computer. I get out, no matter the weather (my colleagues joke about that too), go for a walk, enjoy a nice meal and detach myself for an hour from my job. It helps having lunch in good company.
  3. Do something you enjoy after work. Maximize your free time – read a book, listen to some nice music, exercise, go for a walk. Do what works best for you. Even when I do house chores, I put my headphones on and listen to some nice music or an audio book. Enjoy a meal with your loved one, family or friends. We have very little free time, and I am always shocked by the speed of things around me. I feel that I’m wasting my life for nothing, so I intend to live as many experiences and create as many memories as I can.
  4. Go on vacation! Don’t be that person that works year round without taking any holidays. Nobody is going to say thank you, you’re just going to burn out. Ideally, take a vacation away from home, visit some place you love! For me, there’s no better way to recharge my batteries. However often time, our finances have a final word when choosing our destination, but it does not matter. Even a few days stay in a nice cottage 30 min away from home will do the trick. The idea is to change the routine. You could even enjoy a staycation (stay at home vacation), and occasionally go to some nice coffee shop, library or whatever.

Rest is an essential element in finding work-life balance. If you’re tired and overworked you cannot enjoy life, therefore there is no balance.

As the wise men say, do the best of your time and your life, it’s the only one we have!

On assuming responsibility

Last week I had a few issues at work when dealing with some customer complaints. I had marginal involvement in the process that generated the complaint, but still I had to give my contribution. I did what I had to do and passed it on to the person responsible for handling the complaint.

I was very surprised to find out that one of our colleagues, which everybody knew had the ultimate responsibility to ensure the process was working, but failed to do so, was insistently trying to push the blame on me. 

Not to mention that she was doing so by email, putting all the important persons in CC. Persons that were not involved at such a low level, and which most likely would not know that she was to blame.

I was very upset and even angry with her behavior, but I did my best to give a very diplomatic response, trying to explain the process and make it obvious whose responsibility it was. However she didn’t stop, she continued writing accusatory emails, with no valid arguments whatsoever.

All this was happening while I still had to do a bunch of work. I did not have time to deal with this, and I just ignored her further emails. 

Later that day, I was called in by the head of my department, to explain what the issue was and what was going on will all that email ping pong. 

I told the entire story and of course my boss quickly realized that  our department had nothing to do with the problem, and was bewildered by such insolent behavior from someone in our organization. I was told to not worry about it and that my boss will handle this issue further.

I didn’t know this colleague in person, we only communicated by email or phone. I knew she was a bit cheeky and slightly aggressive some times, but didn’t pay much attention to that. I was very surprised to find out that she was a novice, employed strait after college, with 6 months working experience. 

Well, she’s going to have a rough road in life if she still hasn’t realized the importance of assuming responsibility for her own actions. 

Responsibility is the first lesson one must learn if seeking success in life. It’s the first step to self-improvement. If you don’t assume responsibility for your actions and keep playing the victim all the time, then you are not in control. If you’re not in control, you can’t change anything, therefore you cannot improve.

This kind of behavior will discredit you as a human being and will affect both your personal and professional life. You might get away with it for the moment, but just realize that you’re walking a very narrow road, near the edge of a cliff. That road does not lead anywhere, you’re either going to fall or reach a roadblock. 

Also, always be respectful, no matter who you’re talking to. How you treat others defines you as a human being.

5 ways to recharge your batteries after a bad day at work

Feeling some mental or physical exhaustion after work is common in most people. But sometimes you literally feel dead tired, the fatigue levels are over the roof. You feel too tired to eat, too tired to interact with other people, not in the mood to do anything. In other words, too tired to have a life.

Maybe you had a terrible day at work, your boss called you in and blamed you for something you didn’t do, your clients have unreasonable requests again, your colleagues just bailed instead of giving you a hand in an urgent task. It happens to all of us.

In my case, it happens at least once a week. Some days I feel so over-worked and drained that I just what to crash the bed. I don’t have much of an appetite and can’t find any energy in me to do anything.

Although it’s very useful and actually recommended to try and find the cause of the exhaustion and stress, in this post we’ll address how to relieve the symptoms. I’ll share 5 tips that help me recharge my batteries after a bad day at work and make myself resemble a human being again.

  1. Get some comfortable clothes. Take a nice shower, remove that make-up and get into those jammies. Forget about style and fashion trends, what matters is that you feel cozy. Whenever I get into my pajama, I instantly start to feel more comfortable and relaxed. And after a hot shower most of my tension is starting to disappear. Using a shower cream with essential oils that have a relaxing effect, like lavender, cedarwood or ylang-ylang also helps.
  2. Eat something light and balanced. Although you might not have an appetite, I find it very important to eat. No matter how tired, stressed or depressed you are, you need to eat. The last thing you want is to get yourself sick. Also the nutrients are necessary to get you in shape for your next day. Your body needs fuel to recharge. However, overeating is not a good idea. Your body will need even more energy to process your meal and in result you’ll feel even more tired.
  3. Put some nice music. Classical music, ambient or nature sounds work best for me, but you can choose whatever you like. I recommend something soothing and not over-stimulating. You need to hear it in the background but it shouldn’t require any involvement or attention from your part. It’s there just to set the mood.
  4. Drink a nice cup of chamomile or lemon balm tea. Use your favorite cup and enjoy a nice relaxing herbal tea. Chamomile and lemon balm have a calming effect and favor a good night sleep. This is essential especially when you feel too tired to even sleep, your are overly stressed and keep playing the day’s events over and over in your head. There is a wide variety of relaxing herbal teas out there so choose to your liking. Avoid green and black tea because they contain caffeine which will keep you awake. I know you might be tempted to pour yourself a glass of wine or drink that cold beer you have in your fridge, but keep it for another day. It may help you feel better for the moment, but you will wake up dehydrated in the middle of the night and feel like a train just run you over.
  5. Aromatherapy. Diffuse some lavender oil in the air or simply apply a small amount on your neck and temples before you go to sleep. This does wonders for me. Lavender is my favorite smell and it helps me sleep like a baby.

As a bonus tips, if you have pets, a snuggle session with them will bring you more benefits than all of the above combined. Or hug your loved one and just sit in silence for a few moments. You don’t have to explain anything, just be there for each other. If the two mentioned above do not apply to you, no worries! Just snuggle with your plush toy or a soft blanket. It’s perfectly fine as well.

Hopefully these tips can help you feel slightly better. It might not look like much, but remember it’s the small things that make a difference.

Take care of yourselves!

Sunday blues

Remember the excitement and energy that you feel Friday night after you get out of the office? The taste of freedom and the anticipation of the upcoming weekend?

Well, by Sunday afternoon it’s all gone. It is stealthily replaced by the so called Sunday blues, which is a mix of disappointment for not achieving everything you planned, frustration for how fleeting time is and dreading to return to work next morning.

Sounds familiar right?

Happens to me every time. These ups and downs are so overwhelming and so tiring that it get’s annoying sometimes. Why does all the work stuff come into mind again? Why can’t I just enjoy every second of my free time and make the most of it?

Time is precious. We all have a very limited amount of it, so why waste one sweet afternoon being blue.

To keep these mood swings under control, I realized that it helps to not have great expectations for the weekend. Saturday and Sunday are just like any other days, something will not work out, somebody is not going to be very nice, somebody is going to be late, the traffic is going to be crowded … There are lot’s of things that we cannot control. Sometimes we can’t even control ourselves, so why push our exceeding expectations on others?

I’m not saying not to make any plans, to sit in misery and feel sorry for yourself. What I’m saying is to be realistic.

Plan some activities, but don’t overcrowd your schedule. You need some laid back time as well. Read your favored book, go for a walk, enjoy some nice coffee or tea, check your favorite blog or website. The pleasure is in all the small things combined.

I never plan for more than 3 activities daily. Sometimes I even make a checklist, mostly because I enjoy crossing things off a list. Whenever I plan to do more, I am always stressed and pressed for time. I often find myself being rushed and annoyed if the people included in my plans take their time. Which is absolutely ridiculous!

I have to keep reminding myself that it’s OK to take it easy. It’s perfectly fine to not have sensational experiences every weekend. Sometimes it’s OK sit in pajamas all day and read a good book, dance and sing along your favorite music. Just listen to your needs and do what’s best for you.

What matters is to be present and mindful of every moment (which is easier said than done, I know, but we’ll get there).

Therefore, I’m going to spend the rest of my afternoon reading, enjoying the coziness of my bed and the company of my significant other.

Let me know in the comments bellow what are your secrets for the best weekend.

Enjoy your Sunday!