A Balancing Act
All work and no play? Even in today's topsy-turvy world, you
can still find your equilibrium
DURING A RECENT ROUTINE PHYSICAL, as the nurse was
checking my blood pressure I said, "It's probably higher than it
should be because I'm kind of stressed out." While she squeezed the
cuff, I tried not to think about the work waiting at my desk, my
responsibilities at home and the huge project I'm involved in at my
local community theater.
The nurse smiled at me sympathetically and replied, "Everyone is
feeling that way these days."
She's absolutely right, of course. Susan Bartell, Psy.D., a New
York-based psychologist and author specializing in work-life
balance, says people are finding it much harder to achieve a
balance between their professional and personal lives.
"People are afraid of losing their jobs, or they're feeling
guilty because the guy who was with the company for 20 years just
got laid off," Dr. Bartell explains. "They feel like they need to
work harder to keep their jobs or make more money, but they still
want to be there for their kid's Little League game, too."
Achieving a healthy work-life balance has definitely become a
juggling act that's more difficult than ever to pull off. At my
doctor's office, I was frankly surprised that my blood pressure was
only slightly elevated. But maybe it was because I'd started trying
some of the techniques I learned while researching this story.
Draw the Line
In many ways, creating a healthy work-life balance is about
"When you're at work, work-the more time you spend being
distracted by gossip or personal e-mails, the later you'll have to
work," says Dr. Bartell. "And when you're home with your family, be
fully focused on your family. Be present and in the moment wherever
Dr. Bartell suggests turning off your PDA before you walk into
your house. Otherwise, she says, you don't ever get a chance to
de-stress and recharge. Plus, you're not giving your personal
relationships your full attention, which is bad for your
relationships and your own state of mind.
"Spending time with people you love fosters feelings of
happiness and high self-worth," Dr. Bartell says. "And don't waste
precious free time with people you don't like."
Do the Math
People are watching every nickel these days, but that isn't
always the best work-life balance strategy, says psychologist Debra
Condren, Ph.D., author of Ambition Is Not a Dirty
Word (Broadway Books).
"You might feel like you shouldn't pay someone to do work you
could do," she explains. "But you might actually be losing money by
doing the work yourself instead of hiring someone to do tasks like
cleaning your house."
Dr. Condren suggests estimating how much you make per hour at
work. Chances are, you could pay someone a lot less to run errands
and do chores for you, which means more time to spend with family
and friends, pursue business opportunities or just take a
Give Yourself Some "Me" Time
An important element of achieving a healthy work-life balance is
taking good care of yourself. Dr. Bartell suggests eating right,
getting plenty of sleep and practicing brief relaxation techniques
throughout the day.
"It can be as simple as taking four or five really deep breaths
every hour," she explains. "Everyone can do that."
can also be very helpful, Dr. Bartell adds. "Anything that can help
relax you and make you feel like you're nurturing yourself is
beneficial," she says.
Sounds good to me. In fact, I think I'll schedule a massage for
myself. As soon as I finish writing this story, that is.
-By Amy Lynn Smith