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The Work-Life Balance Paradox

Written by: Dr. Pamela Stoodley, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Dr Pamela Stoodley

During this week of Mental Health Awareness, I thought I’d reflect on an age-old phrase that I feel needs to be addressed. A phrase that can actually change the story we tell our brains.

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Have you ever had thoughts about how you feel you've not been giving enough time to some aspects of your life because work (or something else) that occupies a major time of your day, is draining you completely?

Traditionally, the term "work-life balance" has always been a mantra chanted by many to indicate that an individual must aim to strike a balance between these two entities. By that definition, one would assume the following to be true.

On one hand of the scale we have 'work', the endeavour we dedicate a significant portion of our lives to, that can be both fulfilling and challenging; on the other hand, 'life' encompasses everything outside of work, viz. family, friends, hobbies, and personal pursuits.

But I invite you to pay close attention to this phrase (and by virtue, the concept) and you will notice the subliminal message we send to our brains. A separation between these two realms implies that when we're at work, 'life' stops – and we function mechanically. This would also mean that we return to 'living life' once work is done.

Now why is it a problem if work and life are viewed separately?

Consider the following

  1. Mood Swings: Our mood can be heavily influenced by work, affecting interactions with loved ones and other aspects of life. We can’t wait to finish work to return to ‘life’.

  2. Emotional Restraint: We often repress our emotions at work, which can lead to a release of pent-up feelings when we return home. Ever been asked by a loved one, “Bad day at work?”

  3. Intrusive Thoughts: Work-related thoughts can intrude into our personal time, disrupting our mental peace.

  4. Impact on Relationships: Negative work experiences can spill over into our personal relationships, affecting our interactions with family and friends.

To learn more about strategies to help deal with repression of emotions and intrusive thoughts, check out my book Cracking the Happiness Code.

And the above works both ways, that is personal thoughts, moods, and to-do lists can affect us while at work, disrupting the flow.

So what do I propose?

Well, for starters, let's reassess what is it that requires balance in the first place.

Work is not separate from life, it is a subset of life. A crucial part, but, a part nonetheless. Work-life balance is as meaningful as saying you are trying to maintain a relationship-life balance or even a health-life balance!

To achieve a healthier equilibrium between work and any other aspect of life, it's essential to reconsider the terminology we use. Instead of "work-life balance," try opting for phrases like "balance of life," "harmony of life," or even "balance between personal and professional life." These terms emphasize that work, like everything else, is an integral part of life, not a separate entity.

The equaliser of life

I want you to imagine your life as an equaliser, like the ones used in music. Each bar on the equaliser represents a facet of your life, such as health, family, social interactions, personal time, work and other categories unique to you. On some days, some bars appear high while others may, by default be low. These bars rise and fall, creating a harmonious balance unique to each day. Just as in music, where certain elements take the forefront while others recede, your life's balance requires adjusting the frequencies of these bars dynamically.

And so balance then is nothing but making sure we maintain the equilibrium of our life.

The key to true life balance is accepting that each day may have a different tune. Some days, work may dominate, while others may not - time with the family, time spent towards health, friends and/or personal time.

Remember, the goal isn't to forcefully equalise all the bars every day but to recognise that each element deserves its moment in the spotlight. Struggling to make every bar rise to the top would definitely create an out-of-tune symphony (translating to an unbalance of your system making you feel out of sorts at the very least).

The dynamic approach of maintaining that equaliser ensures that life's melody remains harmonious.

Essentially the balance is within each aspect of life.

Constantly overdoing work (or neglect for that matter) is where you must pay close attention to and just do that in moderation. Just like everything else you do – eating, sleeping, exercising and the like. This means not answering your emails while vacationing with the family, when spending time with your child, or even when at the gym.

Life is a multifaceted melody, with each day offering a unique song. Embrace this harmony, adjust your life's equaliser as needed, and let the music of life flow naturally.

"The key is not to prioritise what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities." – Stephen R. Covey

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Brainz Magazine Dr Pamela Stoodley

Dr. Pamela Stoodley, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr Pamela Stoodley is a polymath with her range of specialties in being a general physician, child and adolescent psychologist, neuropsychologist, counsellor in addictions psychology and a nutritionist. Dr. Stoodley's first book 'Cracking the Happiness Code' teaches people the way our minds work and how best to use it to our advantage. Her life's mission is to show people how they can break the myth of a hard-wired brain and leap forward into the world of neuroplasticity for their own mental (health) agility. Her wish is to be able to empower every human on this planet ‒ from toddlers to retirees, the weapon of Mastering our Minds.



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