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Last Updated on December 18, 2020

Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

If you’ve ever felt like work-life balance isn’t really possible, you may be right.

Actually, I think work-life balance doesn’t exist. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a rising star in the corporate world, work is always going to overflow from your 9 to 5 into your personal life. And if you have ambitions of becoming successful in just about any capacity, you’re going to have to make sacrifices.

Which is why, instead of striving for the unrealistic goal of “work-life balance,” I use a combination of rituals, tools, and coping mechanisms that allows me to thrive on a day-to-day basis.

Of course, moments still arise when I may feel overloaded with work and a bit out of balance, but with these daily rituals in place, I am able to feel grounded instead of feeling like I’m losing my mind.

Here are five daily practices I use to stay focused and balanced despite a jam-packed work schedule:

1. Pause (Frequently!) to Remember That You Chose This Path

Regardless of which path you take in life, it’s important to remind yourself that you are the one who chose the path you’re on.

For example, one of the joys of being an entrepreneur is that you experience a significant amount of freedom. Unfortunately, in moments of stress, it’s easy to forget that choice goes both ways: you chose to go your own way, and you chose the obstacles that come with that journey.

Remember: tomorrow, you could choose to leave your job, shut down your company, and go move to a farm in the middle of nowhere. The choice is yours.

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Whenever I catch myself thinking, “Why am I doing this?” I simply remember, “Oh, wait. I chose this.” And if I want to, I can choose another option. But at this moment, I own it because I chose it.

That simple mental shift can help me move from feeling out of control to in control. It’s empowering.

2. Use ‘Rocks’ to Prioritize Your Tasks

Sometimes having a to-do list is more overwhelming than it is helpful.

The daily tasks of anyone in a high-stakes, high-responsibility role are never-ending. Literally. No matter how many items you check off your list, each day adds just as many new ones, and even after a full day it can often feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.

So instead, I use “rocks”—a strategy I learned from performance coach Bill Nelson.

Say you have a glass container and a variety of rocks, divided into groups of large, mid-sized, and small rocks, and then some sand. If you put the small rocks in first, you’re not going to be able to fit everything in your container. But if you put the big rocks in first, then the mid-sized, and, finally, the small, they’ll all fit. And at the end, the sand fills the extra space.

The point of this strategy is to designate a handful of your biggest priorities for the week—let’s say five tasks—as the things you absolutely have to get done that week. Write them down somewhere.

Then, even if you accomplish nothing else but those five things, you’re going to feel better, since you completed the important tasks. You’ve made progress!

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Identifying your “rocks” is a better way of tracking progress and ensuring that you focus on the most critical things. You can create rocks on a weekly or even daily basis.

Some days, when I’m feeling the most frenzied, I say to myself, “You know what? Let’s boil it down. If I accomplish nothing else today and I just do these three things, it will be a good day.”

3. The PEW12 Method

Of all the daily practices I follow, Purge Emotional Writing (PEW12), which I learned from Dr. Habib Sadeghi, is my favorite.[1]

Here’s how it works:

Pick a topic, set a timer for 12 minutes, and just write.

You may be dealing with a specific issue you need to vent about, or you may be free-writing as emotions surface. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing or what your handwriting looks like, because you’re never going to re-read it.

At the end, burn the pages.

As the paper burns, you will feel all of those emotions you’ve just poured out either being reduced or dissipating completely. Both the writing process—which is literally unloading all of your unnecessary stuff—and the burning of the pages feel incredibly cathartic.

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And you can do PEW12 as frequently or infrequently as you feel you need it—once, twice, or multiple times a day.  

The reason I find this exercise so helpful is because, sometimes, I get in my head about a difficult issue or troubling interaction with someone, even when I know there is nothing to be done about it.

But as soon as I do my PEW12, I feel a sense of relief. I have more clarity. And I stop circling and circling the issue in my head. It makes things feel resolved. Just try it.

4. Set Sacred Time (Like a 20-Minute Walk or Evening Bath)

Outside of work, you have to try to protect some time for restoration and quiet. I call this sacred time.

For example, every single night I take a bath. This is a chance to literally wash off the day and any of the energy from the people, interactions, or experiences that I don’t want to take to bed with me.

I actually remodeled a bathroom in my house solely for this purpose. The bath ritual—which includes Himalayan bath salts, essential oils, and a five-minute meditation—is the ultimate “me time” and allows me to go to bed feeling peaceful and relaxed.

And while sacred time to end the day is crucial, I like to start the day with these types of practices, too.

In the mornings, I take my dog Bernard for a walk—and I use those 20 minutes to set my intention for the day. I don’t take my phone with me. I don’t think about the endless to-do list. I just enjoy listening to the birds and breathing in the sunshine, while Bernard stops to say hi to the neighbors and their dogs.

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These might seem like ordinary daily activities, but it’s the commitment to doing them day after day that makes all the difference.

5. Forgive Yourself When You Fail to Use the Tools

Sometimes our intention to follow “daily” practices falls flat. When this happens to me, I try not to beat myself up about it. After all, these things are tools to make me feel good. If they just become another chore, what is the point?

At the end of the day, my daily practices don’t belong in my jar of rocks or on my to-do list or in my daily planner. They are there to serve me.

If, for some reason, life happens and I can’t do my practices, I won’t feel as good. It’s possible I won’t sleep as well that night, or I’ll feel a little guilty that I didn’t walk Bernard.

But that’s okay. It’s also a good practice to acknowledge my limits and let go of the need to do everything all the time.

The Bottom Line

For most people, accepting that work-life balance simply isn’t possible is the first step to feeling more grounded and in control of your life.

Don’t waste your energy trying to achieve something that doesn’t exist. Instead, focus on how you’re feeling when things are out of balance and find a way to address those feelings.

You’ll have a toolkit for feeling better when life feels crazy, and, on the off chance things feel calm and happy, your rituals will make you feel absolutely amazing!

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Featured photo credit: Dries De Schepper via unsplash.com

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Amy Stanton

An entrepreneur who's passionate for promoting and building positive female role models and messaging for women.

Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

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Published on June 11, 2021

What Is Well-being: A Guide On How To Measure And Improve It

What Is Well-being: A Guide On How To Measure And Improve It

Well-being is a term often utilized in psychology literature to describe healthy individuals. It is often associated with contentment, happiness, or fulfillment. However, there is debate about what well-being really is and even how to spell it.[1] With so much confusion around the definition, individuals are often left to wonder what well-being is and how to achieve it.

This article will unlock the answers to three questions:

  • What is well-being?
  • How is it measured?
  • How is it improved?

What Is Well-Being?

Well-being includes a combination of feeling states and lifestyle factors. Feeling states associated with it may include happiness and contentment. Lifestyle factors may include feelings of fulfillment, achieving one’s potential, having some control in life, and engaging in meaningful relationships. Well-being is also associated with positive mental health.[2] In simpler terms, It is a construct used to describe many facets of life including psychological, physical, and social health. Synonyms for it include happiness, health, positive feelings, welfare, and wellness.[3]

It may also be defined as a state of balance or homeostasis. This balance is achieved by having enough resources to cope with life’s challenges.[4] Both challenges and resources may be prevalent in three areas: physical, psychological, and social.

When there is an abundance of challenges and inadequate resources, well-being is lost. However, humans are designed to work towards achieving a state of balance. Well-being is linked to interpersonal, professional, and personal success. It often results in greater productivity at work, increased learning and creativity, prosocial behavior, and fulfilling relationships.[5]

Why is well-being difficult to define? Likely because it encompasses a variety of life experiences and feeling states that may vary among individuals. To help individuals assess themselves, several measures have been created.

How Is Well-Being Measured?

Researchers need to agree on a standardized definition of well-being to accurately measure it. An adequate measure must therefore encompass every facet of well-being, including as a feeling state as well as a lifestyle. In other words, an effective measurement takes both life satisfaction and functioning into account.

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Well-being can be broken down further into two categories: objective and subjective.

Objective Well-Being

Objective well-being looks at standards of living. This is useful for research looking at cultures, countries, or groups of people. It includes measuring education, income, safety, and life expectancy.[6]

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United National Development Programme, and the Italian Statistics Bureau have identified six areas for study related to objective well-being:

  1. Health
  2. Job opportunities
  3. Socioeconomic development
  4. Politics
  5. Safety
  6. Environment

Subjective Well-Being

Subjective well-being includes an emotional and mental assessment of an individual’s life. Two prominent subjective measures are life satisfaction and happiness. Measuring subjective well-being is useful for predicting mental health patterns.[7] It is determined intrinsically by the individual. Regardless of how their life might be perceived by others on the outside, this measures how individuals feel on the inside.

Subjective well-being can be broken down further into two categories: hedonic and contentment. The hedonic component relates to feelings, emotions, and moods. The contentment component relates to thoughts and whether an individual feels their life has been fulfilling. Individuals often measure their thoughts and life fulfillment against social and cultural backgrounds.

In other words, it is important to consider the context in which an individual lives. Individuals may perceive their lives differently based on social and cultural expectations. Furthermore, individuals cannot be measured without taking their environment into consideration.

In 2013, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development determined subjective well-being to be an important factor in assessing well-being. Because it is perceived by the individual, it is often assessed by self-report measures. In other words, individuals rate their own level of well-being through psychological tests.[8]

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There are five areas associated with subjective well-being:

  1. Genetic factors
  2. Basic and psychological needs
  3. Social environment
  4. Economics and income
  5. Political environment

How to Improve Well-Being

There are many ways that individuals can improve their sense of well-being. It is a complex construct with a variety of factors at play. Therefore, there is no one, perfect solution for it. Instead, the goal should be to engage in a holistic approach the incorporates a variety of factors.

The following methods are not comprehensive. What works well for one individual may not be the right approach for others. Instead, these approaches should be considered suggestions for improving well-being.

Individuals looking for a truly comprehensive assessment of well-being should consider scheduling an appointment with a psychologist, therapist, or medical doctor. These individuals may also provide resources, prescribe medication, or share tips for making lifestyle changes to assist in overall improvement.

1. Spend Time in Nature

There is evidence to support the claim that interactions with nature increase well-being. This includes an increase in positive emotions, happiness, and subjective well-being. Time spent in nature is also linked with an increased sense of meaning and purpose in life as well as the ability to manage challenges in life.[9]

One study found that spending at least 120 minutes in nature each week was associated with greater health. In the study, it did not matter if that time was spent all at once or stretched out over the course of a week. Peak gains in well-being occurred between 200 and 300 minutes of nature time, weekly.[10]

2. Practice Gratitude

Individuals who experience gratitude as a trait experience increased well-being. Trait gratitude refers to the willingness to see the unearned value in one’s experience. State gratitude is a feeling that occurs after individuals experience an act of kindness and, therefore, feel motivated to reciprocate.

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One study assessed state gratitude, during Covid-19 in China. Individuals were instructed to journal while practicing gratitude for 14-days, which included a one-month follow-up. The study found that gratitude practiced in a natural setting during times of increased stress and anxiety resulted in increased positive feelings and increased life satisfaction. However, increased life satisfaction was not sustained after one month.[11]

As a result of the aforementioned study, there is evidence to support a daily practice of journaling and gratitude for increased well-being. Individuals should practice both trait and state gratitude, whenever possible. Over time, these practices will become a habit and lead to lasting improvement.

3. Develop Increased Awareness

Increased awareness is associated with improvements in positive subjective experience, increased self-regulation and goal-directed behavior, and successful interactions with others.

Increased awareness can be attained through meta-awareness. Meta-awareness is the ability to consciously notice an emotion, thought, or sensory experience. It is a skill that can be taught. Mindfulness-based meditation and psychotherapy are two ways in which meta-awareness is learned. Kindness and compassion meditations are both linked with improved well-being. Both Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) may help increase awareness.[12]

4. Achieve Work-Life Balance

An individual’s workplace has the potential to either help or harm them. Workplace factors that negatively impact well-being include:

  • Work-related pressure or demands
  • Lack of autonomy or flexibility
  • Poor coworker and supervisor relationships
  • Shift work
  • Longer workday length

Employers can directly improve their workers’ well-being by providing paid leave, opportunities for salary growth, support for individuals with disabilities or those returning after injury, and access to health care. Improvements in the work environment and job structure may also be helpful.[13]

Worker well-being is beneficial both for workers and their employers. It is associated with improvements in:

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  • Performance at work
  • Coping with stress and self-regulation
  • Satisfying relationships, prosocial communication, and cooperation
  • Immune system functioning
  • And physical and psychological health

Workplace well-being is also associated with a decrease in burnout, stress, and sleep-related issues.[14]

5. Seek Out Positive Relationships

Individuals with caring and positive connections often rank higher in well-being. On the flip side, poor social relationships can be more damaging than excessive drinking and smoking. Positive social relationships also help to protect against mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Prosocial behaviors are important for forming social connections that lead to increased well-being. Appreciation and gratitude are both pro-social traits. For example, focusing on the positive qualities and actions of others. Empathy for others also contributes to higher levels of well-being. Lastly, generosity is also a strong predictor of life satisfaction.[15]

6. Stay Hopeful

Hope is a concept often related to spiritual and religious traditions. However, it entered the world of psychology around the 20th century. It is now an important construct in positive psychology. Hope can be defined broadly as the belief that things can get better, and that goals are achievable.

Hope is associated with an increase in:

  • Emotional adjustment
  • Positive feelings
  • Life satisfaction and quality of life
  • Social support
  • A sense of purpose

Takeaways

Well-being is a construct that is hard to define, yet widely cited in psychological literature. It is linked with feelings of happiness and contentment. It might also be described as a sense of purpose or satisfaction with life.

To accurately measure it, there needs to be an agreed-upon definition. In general, it has been separated into objective and subjective categories. Objective well-being considers social and cultural constructs. Subjective well-being refers to the individual’s felt sense and internal assessment of their own.

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There are several things that individuals can do to improve their well-being. However, no one thing will improve everything. Rather, this requires a holistic practice of mental and physical health. Nevertheless, individuals who spend time in nature, develop positive connections, practice gratitude, stay hopeful, and develop awareness have a greater chance of experiencing better well-being.

More Tips For Your Well-Being

Featured photo credit: Mor Shani via unsplash.com

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