Let me first say that I am in no way an expert on work/life balance. I’m not a life coach or a counselor or a therapist of any kind. I’ve been through my fair share of sh*t (haven’t we all?) and get tons of questions about how I’m able to maintain a blog and my completely separate career all while living my best life. Well, here goes nothin’, kids. There is no balance. At least, I don’t think there’s balance. Each bleed into my life. Deeply. So deeply, in fact, that I’ve been sick for the greater part of 2016 because I’ve been stressing myself out and it’s been manifesting itself in a few different ways. What a bag of fun, right?
I’ve always needed to work on balance. But especially since I started this blog, life has been hectic. Like, constantly hectic. Maybe I’m just one of those people who thrives in chaos. The thought of living in a slower paced environment where everyone is mellow and no one bothers to wear suits actually stresses me out. So maybe I’m one of those chaos-thrivers. Even so, a girl needs to be able to manage and enjoy her life. Especially when it got to be as bad as it got for me. Getting sick was a wake-up call. Not a ‘quit your job and move to Tahiti’ wake-up call but I’m not ruling anything out just yet.
These next 10 steps helped change my life. Yes, dramatic but also completely true. It hasn’t been easy but I’m no longer sick. So… that’s something. The balance you find starts with you so some of these might work for you and some might not. Figure out the ones that do and incorporate those into your routine. These are the 10 steps that helped me. And if all else fails, go talk to someone. Sometimes all it takes is a completely neutral party to tell you that you’re doing just fine.
Clear the clutter // This book has changed my life. And not in a ‘here’s a product link so I can earn commission’ kind of way. An actual life altering book. I wouldn’t classify myself as a hoarder but I absolutely hold onto things longer than I should. Maybe because there’s a sentimental attachment or I think I’ll need it one day or I’m just too lazy to toss it out; either way, I’ve always lived with shit in boxes. Storage boxes, decorative boxes, you name it. This book explains why that’s detrimental to your health and shows you how to change your behavior in a way that most people can relate to. 10 pages in and I’d already started to declutter. The book suggests surrounding yourself, exclusively, with things that bring you joy; I took that to mean possessions and people… we’ll get to that part later. By the time I had cleared my space, I felt like my life was more clear. I found it was easier to stay on top of bills and emails, make plans with friends and not cancel, procrastinate less with assignments. Basically, I’ve been more motivated since decluttering my space. Major improvement.
Set a schedule // This goes hand in hand with keeping a decluttered space and mind. When I lived in clutter, I didn’t want to wake up and deal with it. My alarm would go off every morning at 630 and I’d sleep in until 730. Why. Stop it. Set a time and get up. Do not hit snooze. Get out of bed and attack the day. Set a time to eat lunch. Set a time to answer emails (although I tend to do this as they come in throughout the day, prioritized by urgency). Set a time to eat dinner. Set a time to workout. Set a time to do nothing. Yes, nothing. Scheduling downtime is not lazy, it’s necessary. Not every day has to be the same but every day should be scheduled. Now, I’m not saying you have to throw spontanaiety out the window but you must introduce some form of structure into your routine. Getting up, going to work, and getting in bed doesn’t cut it. You’re a grown up now and grown ups need to get shit done. They do that by setting a schedule. So make one. Now.
Schedule downtime for yourself // This might be one of the most important parts of the schedule you just created. Like I just mentioned, downtime doesn’t always have to be a lazy, pantless Cheeto fest, although right now that sounds pretty spectacular. I don’t even like to think of downtime as recharging because that suggests you’re just going to get right back up in the middle of the chaos. Downtime can be napping, blogging, reading, exercising, examining your pores in the 20x mirror… whatever. Just time you’ve scheduled for you. Not you and your roommate. Not you and your significant other. YOU TIME. The easiest way I’ve been able to do this is to set aside Sunday nights for myself. Simple and effective.
Eat breakfast // Take vitamins. Simple enough, right? But I never do it. So, I’m always running out around 10am to find something to curb my hunger meanwhile I’m distracted from work I could be doing. Make things easy for yourself (and your wallet!) and eat breakfast before you leave the house. I like to blend up a quick protein shake and drink it on my walk to work.
Make lists // Mainly so you can cross off the items in that list. One of the most satisfying experiences. Even if it’s a goddamn grocery list. Lists also house every last thought that roll across my mind throughout the day. Big or small, if they make it onto the list they always get crossed off. This way I’m not waking up in the middle of the night remembering I forgot to pay that bill or send that email. Girl, no. Make a list.
Drop toxic relationships and habits // If they fall into one of these 5 categories, cut ’em out, let ’em go, sianara sucker. You have no idea how toxic a relationship actually is until you get out of it. This is when you see a change. If you don’t feel like it’s right, it probably isn’t. I recently ended a relationship because it caused me so much anxiety. No, I’m not being dramatic. This is actually a thing. I let it go on until it started having an effect on my body. Yes, really. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I got OUT. And I feel so much better. How does that even happen? I was living in clutter. Physically and mentally. I wasn’t dealing with that source of stress because there were so many other things going on. I didn’t want to deal with it. So I just let it live. But once I decluttered, it became that much easier not only to make the decision but to execute it. You’re not healthy for me. Literally. Bye.
Leave work at work // I know this is easier said than done. And from personal experience, I know that it is not always possible to do so. Like many of you, my 9-5 doesn’t always fall within those hours. Being “on-call” as necessary is one thing. Checking your Blackberry for the sake of checking it is another thing entirely. Stop tethering yourself to your job. It’s not necessary and it’s not returning the favor. It’s one thing to put in OT during the week. It’s another to be entirely emotionally invested in your job. Be proud of the work product you create, absolutely. But work should be work. The end.
Unplug // My phone was always the first thing I looked at in the morning and the last thing I was on before I fell asleep at night. I slept with it. In my bed. Just me, my dog, and my iPhone!? Crazy AF but it’s 2016, right!? Wrong. You know it’s awful for you. Read. Snuggle with your dog. Reorganize your bedroom furniture in your mind. Cry. Kidding. But get the damn hell off your phone. Again, there are always exceptions to the rule – maybe you’re a doctor and you have to sleep with your pager to know when they’ll need you to come in and save a life. That’s how it works, right? Thanks, Grey’s Anatomy. The point is to get your face out of your phone and live in the moment. Be in the now. Example: Within the last year I’ve seriously contemplated moving. New York, Colorado, Paris… somewhere that’s not here. For a lot of reasons but ultimately because I don’t want to be 40 and regrret that I only lived in my hometown (Washington, DC). The whole comfortability vs. complacency thing. Until recently, I didn’t realize another driving factor in this was legitimately, “What will people think if I just stay here?” And in the same breath I thought, “What in the actual fuck is wrong with you.” WHO. CARES. But because I was thinking in Facebook statuses and Instagram filters, I wasn’t thinking clearly and that was affecting how I actually felt vs. how I thought I should feel.
Exercise // Every day. No, I’m not crazy. Even if it’s taking the stairs instead of the elevator. To keep unhealthy anxiety at bay you should be exercising 4x a week. But you should be moving every day. Figure out what works best for you, set a schedule, and stick to it. I like Crossfit and Kayla Itsines workout plan. Done. Bye. The End. Just do it.
Respect the rules you’ve made for yourself // It’s easy to get sucked into a social media frenzied dinner on a Sunday night with friends. How fun is that!? But in the back of your mind you know that time is better put to use by prepping for the week ahead. Don’t do it to yourself.
It takes 30 days to make or break a habit. So, don’t be surprised that on Day 3 of this new journey things don’t magically get easier. It’s going to take time to get used to your new routines. Just realizing that something has to change is a good enough place to start. Go you.
Do you have tips that work for you? Share the wealth and list them in the comments section below!