This post is a contribution to T-SQL Tuesday! I’m excited to be here once again 🙂
This month we’re talking about Work/Life balance and I’m contributing with some things that I’ve learned along the way.
When I start thinking about the topic, work/life balance sounds as something that may be separated in two big parts: your personal challenges, and the culture of the place you work at. It’s important to be aligned with your employers culture – but only up until a point that makes sense and it’s comfortable to you.
What I mean by comfort, it’s making sure that you’re able to have your professional life and still have time for your own stuff. After all, work is only part of your life.
I work since I was 15. Since I started, I have a better idea of how to take better care of my mental and physical health. These two topics are my pillars when thinking about the balance I need. I want to be able to make decisions on my professional life, while still taking care of me along the way.
Mental health it’s still health!
There’s a big stigma that surrounds this theme. Some people are afraid to talk about it. That’s why whenever I’m having a casual conversation at work, I’ll usually tell the person that I’m currently doing therapy. I like to talk about my hobbies and things outside work. I believe that sometimes we get stuck on day to day tasks, and it’s a nice reminder for others that hey – you are also human! Also, after I open up more, others seem more encouraged to talk about their own stuff.
We need to acknowledge and be constantly remembered that we’re all people with our own outside-of-work lives.
Things that help me mentally
- making sure I take some time-off: who does not love vacations? They’re great, but lately I’ve been more open to paying attention to my body and mind working hours. During the day, I’ll make sure to block time for high focused work when I’m most alert. I know that I don’t function before a good breakfast, and that coffee (or just taking the break!) is a perfect mood booster for my afternoons, when I’m getting tired. This leads to…
- taking smarter breaks: this one is easier said than done. I have a hard time not leaning into social media whenever I need a break. So sometimes I’ll try to do something small like picking up snack, filling my water bottle, stretching with some guided video, reading a book’s chapter, reading an article etc.
- never work when I’m sleepy, thirsty or hungry: this is something that I internally always felt. Then, last year I joined a conference where one of at presenters said this when she was finishing her talk, and it was like my unconscious shouting to me “I’ve been trying to warn you about this, other people feel it too!”. This is why it’s so important to pay attention to your internal body clock, knowing when you’re likely to be hungry or tired can help you better plan your day. Pro-tips: don’t be the person who schedules meetings during lunch time, people will not love you.
- having hobbies: besides making good conversations topics, I love doing manual work like drawing, cooking, and I’ve even learned some macrame. It’s amazing how into the flow my work gets when I’m doing an activity that requires my full attention like that. Doing something that relaxes you is like giving your brain a break from the work. So that next time you have a challenge in front of you, it may be easier to think in a different way and come up with fresh new ideas.
- meditate: I’m anxious. Most people say I look super zen. Luck for them (and me) they can’t see what goes on inside an over thinker’s head. Most of the time, I get lost in thought. It happens. I try to deal with it by acknowledging the facts – this is just a thought, that I created, or, this is just a feeling, and everything is fine, nothing will blow up. To me, meditation is not relaxing, but awareness instead. It’s an anchor that provides tools for when I’m drifting off being concerned about things that will probably never happen.
- be open to your loved ones: with most of us working from home, it’s likely that you need to share your space with others. I try to be honest about my work and I clearly say when I’d rather not be disturbed for a couple minutes, and that maybe it’s better to start lunch without me because I’ll be late.
Taking care of your body
I’m not going to lie and say I love exercising. I wanted to be the person that wakes up at 5AM, drinks some weird green juice, gets yoga done, takes a shower and it’s ready to work before everyone else is even up! I’m not that person and I probably won’t never be.
I have a tendency to visualize this perfect scenario and then if one tiny part does not go as planned, I’ll just throw it all away. Waking up at 7AM instead of 5? I guess I won’t have time to exercise today after all… Did not exercise when I was planning to? Oh I guess it’s irrelevant to have my healthy dinner than, I’ll just have pizza again.
Because of this behaviour of mine, I need to remind me that it’s ok if I could not wake up at the right time. Or if today I have a headache that won’t allow me to move as freely as I wanted to. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood.
The important thing is doing little things. Doing the best you can do. Each day. Don’t be too hard on yourself. But also make sure you’re not being too soft, like if you were your grandma when the kids wanted something.
Some things that help me take care of my body
- exercising, and doing so because I love my body. Try different things, eventually you will find something that will help you relax, disconnect, feel stronger even! This leads to a more positive mindset for me. Like the day I did a plank for over a minute and felt like NOBODY MOVE, I’LL FINISH THAT PROJECT TODAY.
- eating healthy, whole, foods: I come from Brazil, and we have one of the best cuisines – not because it’s fancy, but because it’s nutritiously rich. Most people will eat good proportioned food that is home made and that should be (nutritionally) enough for our bodies. Not to mention we actually leave our computer desks and take proper breaks to eat and refill on energy. I was not someone who cooked, but apparently I like it now and I’ve learned to value more the full process. At home, we make lists of what we’ll eat during the week, then grocery shopping and sometimes we even do a meal prep so that we can freeze things. Having my lunch be frozen so that all I need is to microwave it makes me instantly happier and gives me extra free time for my lunch break, yay! (Of course this is coming from someone with no kids and I have a partner that shares this work with me so I’m speaking from my experience 🙂 ).
This is part of what helps me maintain a good work/life balance. I’m also part of a group of people at work that encourages others to be more physically active. We promote stretching and meditation weekly sessions with the team. I think that even just talking about it at work and making people see our efforts and concerns reminds them of “hey – other people are feeling the same and they care!”. Thinking of our shared human connection can have a huge impact on our work/life balance.
Special thanks to TJay for hosting this month’s theme 🙂