Balance, Burnout and Bouncing Back

The catch phrase of “Work / Life Balance” is bandied about with alarming regularity these days – especially on corporate situations and workplaces.

While much lip service is given to this phrase, it is actually an oxymoron.  It’s a which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg conundrum – and is quite possibly a complete load of old bollocks.

If you’re like most people (and like me) you need to work to pay the bills.  Food, clothing, rent or the mortgage, petrol or gas for the car, heating, electricity, books and pencils for the kids schooling, and so on and so on and on and on and on….

If you’re like most people (and like me) then chances are high that you don’t mind working and earning to keep yourself and your family safe, your personal finances under control and contributing to society via your taxes.

However, chances are also high, given the choice, that you’d actually rather be somewhere else other than at work – on the beach, at home reading a book, playing your sport or musical instrument, on holiday travelling overseas and experiencing different foods or cultures, engaging in your hobby, socialising in real life with real friends or family.

But – at work you are constantly being told to work harder and not smarter, to do more with less, and to hit the arbitrary rapidly and unrealistically impending deadlines.

At this point the stress, anxiety and overall unpleasant feeling of knowing that this pattern will never end, starts to gnaw its way into your mind and body.

You know you should be eating healthily and doing more exercise.

But it’s been a busy day at work, you’re tired, and you had a late night last night, so tonight you’ll just eat some takeaway pizza while sitting on the couch watching crap on TV.  Suddenly it’s late again, so you wander off to bed…..

Pretty soon this starts to become a pattern.  Burnout is not far away.

Breaking this cycle and bouncing back is actually relatively easy to do.

It does, however, take conscious decision and deliberate, consistent action.

Prioritising what is important in your life – and sticking to these priorities – arguably then needs to become non-negotiable.

Sometimes it takes a specific life event to begin this re-assessing of what is important in your life.  In my case, it was a lower back injury that had me lying on the floor for the better part of a year.

I know of others whose tipping point has been triggered by other events – such as horrible employment situations, death of a loved one, extreme financial pressure.

One of the problems faced at this point is motivation.

How do you stay motivated when you are working in a job that you “have” to do, rather than one you “want” to do ?

How do you stay motivated when you realise that your new priorities are conflicting with your need to earn an income of a specific number of dollars (and preferably more) per day/week/month/year ?

How do you stay motivated when you come home from your non-motivating, mentally and physically draining day job, knowing that you should put in an hour or two tonight on your side hustle, or Plan B ?

We need to take things back to basics.

Here are 7 basic priorities that all responsible adult humans should make part of their daily habits in order to achieve balance, avoid burnout and bounce back towards where they should and want to be.

Sleep is a number one priority.

You probably know how much sleep your body needs each night.  Some people need 6 hours, some need 8 hours, some need 10 hours sleep each night.  Yes, we can function on 4 hours sleep for a few days – but after a while this becomes unsustainable.

Work out how many hours of sleep you need and make sure it happens.  If you need to get up at a specific time each day (eg so that you can get to work on time, or get the kids to school), then count backwards from that morning alarm clock and ensure you go to bed at the correct time to get your required sleep hours.  Simple.  Full stop.  End of story.

Food is the number two priority.

It’s actually cheaper and just as quick to eat healthy food than it is to buy crap from the local take away.

Most of us in the so called western world are taught from a young age and know that eating fruit and vegetables is good for us.

Eat rice, wholemeal bread, plus some meat or fish or chicken if possible most days.

Make sure there are at least two and preferably three green vegetables in your dinner.  Eat some cereal and toast for breakfast.  Eat salads and sandwiches for lunch.

Cake is not a meal….it is a rare special treat.  Potato crisps are not a default snack to be consumed between coming home from a long day at work and dinner.

Go easy on the beers and limit the wines.  You know this already.

So just do it.  It’s not hard, once you’re in the pattern and it becomes a habit.  Be strong.

Exercise is the number three priority.

We’re NOT talking about becoming an Olympic or elite athlete here.  We ARE talking about doing more than walking from the couch to the fridge or pantry and back again.

For those of us stuck in desk jobs this can actually be a challenge.  However, it can be as simple as going for a three minute walk every hour.  The wearable technology popularity these days has made walking 10,000 steps in a day a known and completely achievable goal.

Go for a 20 minute walk at lunch time.  Park your car in the furthest car parking space from your destination – such as the train station or the supermarket – rather than trying to find the closest.  Take your children for a walk up to the local park on the weekend.

Go for a swim.  Ride your bike.  Play your sport.  Mow your own lawn rather than paying “a man” to come and do it for you.  Go for another walk.

Relaxation is the number four priority.

You need time out.  You need to stop.  You need to rest.

If possible, try to schedule in some relaxation time every day.  This does not need to be hours and hours (but if you can fit it in – great !!).

A few minutes every day is all it takes.

This podcast from FlyingSolo.com.au describes the importance and benefits of taking time out for yourself – it’s a fantastic lesson on the concept of “healthy mind, healthy body”.

Maybe you can listen to your favourite music or even some relaxation music with your eyes closed.

Maybe you could try meditating.  Meditation can be different things to different people, but essentially it is a deliberate and conscious effort to stop and calm your mind.  A guided meditation program can make this easier, if you feel that you might need some help.

Now we get into the other main priorities.

Priority number 6 is to take care of yourself and your family, usually by earning an income.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s both obvious and difficult at the same time.

On the one hand this can take far too much of your time.

On the one hand, there is the commute that takes far too long, then there is the (usually) full day at your “job” combined with the commute home again.

On the other hand this quite often does not leave much time to actually take care of yourself and your family.

Yet, it still has to be a major priority in everyone’s life.

Again, like the food priority above, it just has to be done.  Gritting your teeth and getting on with it can be one way to cope.

Keeping in mind that by doing what you perhaps don’t want to do now (eg go to a dull full time job) allows you to do the things you do love (such as looking after yourself and your family) is another way to just get on with it.

Doing what you love is priority number 7.

This can take several forms.

It can be simply allocating time for yourself – to make time for your hobbies, to play your musical instrument or your sport, to engage in the things that make you “you”.

It can also be combined with achieving your goals.   This could mean that you are actively working on your side hustle, your Plan B.  Maybe you have decided to allocate one hour every day to work on your side hustle, for example.

It is surprising how much can get done when you schedule and prioritise.  When you have very little spare time, make every second count.  One step at a time is all it takes.

Until you can constantly earn enough money from your side hustle to pay for your life(style), quitting your job is probably not a good idea.

Bouncing back from an illness, an injury, a mental blockage, a lack of motivation, burnout, a rough patch in your life, can be achieved.

It takes work.  It takes determination.

It is all a matter of priorities.

Getting the basics right will help get your mind and body fit and healthy.

This, in turn, will enable you to move onwards, upwards and towards your goals.

Keep going.  I am, and I know you can too.

Thanks,

Matthew

P.S.  How can you combine what you love doing with the potential to earn an income doing it ?

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