Finding a Work-Life Balance in a Strange New World

Maria Considine King

Maria Considine King

05.13.20 in Culture & Community

Culture and Community

Over the past month or so, the Practice Management team here at Commonwealth has reached out to our advisors across the country—particularly those in COVID-19 hot spots—to check in and hear firsthand how things were going. Of course, we wanted to make sure they were taken care of from a business standpoint. But, more important, we hoped to start conversations about their personal well-being.

We learned a lot from these discussions, and a common theme emerged: how to go about finding a work-life balance in this strange new world. With many “normal” activities and ways of living having shifted or disappeared completely, we’ve all been forced to make adjustments in how we take care of our work and ourselves. Our advisors shared what’s working with them—and we hope that some of these ideas will also work for you.

Invest in Your Well-Being

When your work life and home life overlap, investing in your own well-being becomes more critical than ever. Why? Much like a car running out of gas or breaking down from lack of oil changes, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to bring your best self to your family, your clients, and your community. In other words, investing in your wellness is the bedrock of being able to be of service to others.

How you make this investment will likely look different from how others do it. In general, though, you should consider the four main pillars of life:

  • Physical well-being

  • Mental well-being

  • Relationship/social well-being

  • Purpose

Here, you might think about setting a rule that you will keep no matter what. For example, commit to cooking at least one healthy meal a day or taking a daily 20-minute walk outside. Science is clear that daily habits are much easier to stick with than those that involve doing something once per week or every other day. Of course, picking something fun may also be far easier to commit to.

Go Back to Basics

Another key to finding a manageable work-life balance is to get back to basics—those things that sometimes suffer in uncertain times like these.

Get some shut-eye. Sleep (or lack thereof) affects our health, mood, and ability to focus. Maybe you’re not getting the eight hours of sleep you’re used to—and that’s okay. But you can try to relax and disconnect (which means no scrolling through your phone at 2:00 A.M.).

Eat healthy. Although it can be hard to stick to a healthy diet when anxiety is running high, eating nutritious foods has been proven to improve mood and lower stress. Here, it might be useful to take bite-sized steps toward healthier options. Skip the soda and drink plenty of water instead. Try replacing those high-sugar snacks with a fruit or veggie plate. Find whatever works for you—your body and mind will thank you.

Start moving. With gyms closed and group exercise classes canceled—combined with long hours in front of our computers—many of us find ourselves being more sedentary than usual. But sitting for long stretches of time can have negative effects on our health, including increased risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. So, why not use this opportunity to get back to nature and soak up some vitamin D? Explore a state forest or embark on a long hike. If it’s raining or you just don’t have the time, run up and down the stairs in your house, build a makeshift standing desk, or simply get up and stretch every hour.

Establish New Habits

Maybe you’re already focusing on the basics and are looking for new ways to maintain a positive balance between your work and home life. Here are just a few tips our advisors shared on what’s been working for them.

Create a new commute. Walking from your bed to your laptop not really motivating you to take on the day? One advisor created a new “commute” while working from home:

  • Get dressed and ready to leave the house.

  • Take a 15-minute walk.

  • When you return home, go straight to your workspace and start the day.

  • Schedule lunch and other breaks into your calendar.

Limit your news intake. We’re all trying to keep abreast of the latest news about the coronavirus, but sometimes it can be overwhelming. To avoid information overload, consider the following:

  • Watch a digestible amount of news each day (maybe 30 minutes), choosing sources that are informative rather than alarmist.

  • If you can, watch the news with someone else.

  • Talk through what you are feeling and thinking in response to what you’re seeing.

  • Turn off your cell phone and TV before turning in for the night.

Get out of your head. It can be all too easy to ruminate in times like this and to worry over things that we can’t control. One way to avoid going down that rabbit hole is to get out of your own head.

  • Think of those less fortunate and what you might do for them. Focusing on how you can take action to make a positive difference will surely get you off the worry wheel.

  • Find ways of giving to others (e.g., sewing masks, writing notes of gratitude), as thinking of others is an excellent antidote to thinking about yourself.

Hold on to lessons learned. Start a list of what (if anything) is better in your life right now so you can hold on to lessons learned.

  • How do you want to carry these lessons forward into your post-coronavirus life?

  • Can you schedule five minutes per day to reflect on the joy they bring?

  • What lessons have you learned from your clients?

Take Care of Yourself

At a time when you’ve been so focused on helping your clients, your staff, and your business navigate these uncertain times, you may find yourself suffering the burnout sometimes known as compassion fatigue. Perhaps working from home has turned into working all the time. Or maybe you’ve found yourself more wrapped up in the news and worry than you normally are. By implementing just a few of the suggestions discussed here, you may be able to reestablish the work-life balance we all need now more than ever, in this strange new world.

This material is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice.

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