Feel the Work-Life Integration Rhythm.
by Denise Berger
I recently attended my college reunion. I won’t say which one. Suffice to say, it was not my 5th or the 10th! Naturally, this event caused me to reflect on my younger days and, in particular, those where I was fresh in the workforce and life seemed…well, it was…simpler. Work-life balance wasn’t even a topic, let alone on my mind! We moved more effortlessly between work and leisure, even if the work hours were the same or longer. Was it because I was younger? Was it because I was single with no responsibilities? Was it because I didn’t have children or pets? Maybe it was because work moved at a slower pace and there were time grants given every day – for the slow mail, the slow fax machine, the slow computer, the telex, the MAIL. Back in that day, there was no email, there were no cell phones (shocking), there was no internet or online shopping or banking, and we shared - - that’s right - - shared computers for our work… graciously! We took time to hand-write faxes and send them out one-by-one on the fax machine to places all over the world. Communicating via fax with France or Japan was considered advanced!
We certainly know how quickly we have evolved and life has a new frame of reference, the age of technology, which causes us to think about how we allocate our 24 precious hours in each day and achieve that work-life balance. It is getting harder and harder to “live in the moment” with just-in-time demands around the corner, a laptop full of “fix-n-finish” work, and the pressures of the economy looming. Who can even think about work-life balance at a time like this?? In fact, nowadays it is more about work-life integration, as Rebecca Shambaugh points out. Hopefully, we learn to blur the lines between work and home gracefully so that we can achieve harmony. It simply is the modern imperative. The cell phones and the blackberries and the iphones are here to stay, but we can accept, perhaps embrace, them and learn to “live” around the demands that they naturally impose. What can we do to keep our lives in perspective? As I discussed on Martha Stewart’s Whole Living radio show recently, stress creeps into our lives if we do not consciously manage it. Here is my “Top 10” to maintaining inner balance. We might not always get it right, but by putting these in practice, we can all achieve better work-life integration and keep stress at bay.
10. Just breathe… deeply. That’s right. Research has shown that short, quick breaths that emphasize inhalation trigger the “fight or flight” response in your body, which naturally elevates stress hormones. Instead, deep breaths, particularly exhalation activates the parasympathetic nervous system which lowers heart rate and blood pressure, cleanses the lymph system to get rid of toxins, and ultimately leads to lower stress. Seem weird that it is that simple?
9. Activate the brain. You’ve heard of left-brain/right-brain, and that the left side is responsible for analytical/linear thinking while the right side processes the creative and intuitive aspects. Try to do certain tasks with the opposite hand from what you are accustomed.
8. Clear your head. Feeling overwhelmed? Take a walk around the block. Unlike a strenuous work-out that pulls oxygen to your muscles, walking increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
7. Engage in physical activity. It goes without saying that physical activity is beneficial, but what if you just don’t have the time to workout? Everything you read says that you should do something active for at least 30 minutes, 4-5 times per week. I don’t know about you but I get stressed thinking about how to accomplish that goal. Instead, try to stretch for 10 minutes every day. There are numerous exercises that you can do at your desk. Try to do something physical for 30 minutes two times per week – walk around the block, if nothing else! And get a 60-minute work-out in, even if just once a week.