Clarity abounds when you’re at rock bottom. For me, that moment came as I lay on a stiff hospital bed in the local emergency room.
Sitting there, as the doctor asked me to remain as still as possible — because he thought I was experiencing a heart attack — I realized just how shattered and skewed my work-life balance had become. It was, in fact, practically nonexistent.
While my husband and I waited for an EKG and chest X-rays, I took a few deep breaths and decided my nonstop work schedule needed restructuring. The breakfast meetings, the eight-to-five work days, the evening meetings, and the weekend events — they piled up until I collapsed, completely exhausted both physically and mentally. I had unceremoniously shoved everything non-work related to the back burner.
So, in the following weeks, I decided to make some changes.
Take Care of Yourself
As it turns out, my heart was healthy. Once I learned the stabbing chest pains were due to severe anxiety induced by chronic stress, however, I immediately quit my job. Freshly motivated, I returned to my previous career as a full-time freelance writer. Though, even when my daily gig focused on word-slinging, I still didn’t have the perfect work-life balance. With my evening trip to the hospital still fresh in my mind, I decided to implement a tip colleagues from both careers suggested.
Schedule “me time.” Make these appointments as important as meeting with a client or penning an article on deadline. Dedicate this time to your favorite activities, and set aside time to socialize with friends and family. For me, the hobbies and self-care routine I once enjoyed finally reappeared on my daily schedule again. Aqua therapy to soothe my rheumatoid arthritis. Yoga to clear my mind. Scrapbooking to preserve memories. Blogging for fun. Growing healthy food in my garden. Attempting to create Pinterest recipes.
Regardless of the activities you love, make sure that you do you.
Make It All Work
I still struggle with creating boxes on my Google Calendar for me time, but now, I understand the value of doing so. Both my body and my brain need adequate rest and rejuvenation — especially if I want to become a strong, successful business woman! I’m a solopreneur, and if I don’t stay healthy, no one will take care of my clients.
Now, I prioritize self-care and happiness each and every single day. I’m learning to not feel guilty about taking desk breaks or explaining that I already made an appointment — even if it’s just for taking a walk with my dogs to enjoy the sunshine. Plus, taking a small break from the computer screen can help you brainstorm better ideas.
Finding balance is tough, though — no matter how you slice it. Jumping over the mental hurdle of knowing you don’t need to work 24/7 as an independent contractor almost feels like admitting defeat. For instance, you may worry your peers think you’re lazy when you take time for yourself in the middle of a traditional workday. But, do you know what they don’t see? The hours you put in at your desk on a Saturday afternoon and the times you wake up at 6 a.m. to answer emails to ensure you’re top-of-mind when that favorite client checks their morning messages.
Do they know you lay in bed at night, thinking of business strategy and marketing plans? Probably not.
Take Action Now
Look at your schedule for the next few days. Did you include exercise? Time for a hobby? Time to rest? Time for family and friends?
If you can’t figure out how to fit it all, ask for help and think outside the nine-to-five mindset. Can a family member watch the kids one night a week, so you can enjoy a quiet dinner out with your spouse? Is there an early morning class at the gym you can attend? Can you take your lunch to go, and enjoy a walk on a nature trail?
At the end of the day, it’s important to be proactive — personally and professionally. Don’t wait for this type of revelation to hit until you’re already on the hospital bed. Push the boundaries set by the “regular” working world, and get creative to truly improve your work-life balance. After all, the success of your business depends on your physical and mental state.
Your greatest work asset is your health — so take care of it!