by Sonya D. Lavett
As April is both Stress Awareness Month, as well as Work-Life Enrichment Month, I thought I would write about each of these as they are both intertwined and each concept contributes to the other.
This month, I reflect on my life as a single mom and how I scramble to get it all done.
Most of us probably are not getting enough sleep. This has been documented over and over again. In order to attain a healthy lifestyle, adequate sleep is just one of those components that cannot be ignored. Yet so many Americans overlook this need.
However, in reality, during a regular work week, this is a huge challenge for so many of us. By the time I get home from work, prepare dinner, clean the kitchen, ensure the kids are handling homework, walk the dog, prepare for the next day, get baths, and everyone tucked in, it’s around 9:30 and I’m mentally exhausted. I know I should go to bed and get some sleep, but I also would like a few minutes of down time by myself where I can read and not feel like I am just working, running around to complete tasks (or things I have to do to keep the household functioning), and sleeping all of my hours away.
It’s a tough call and a daily juggling act. Sometimes, minute by minute.
And by the way, as I’m sure you are familiar, that is just a light day without hitting the gym, my own homework, band practice, school meeting or planned event that evening. On these days, I’m not thinking too much about my work-life balance. Enrichment is not a word that enters my mind. I’m just wondering how I will get it all done.
I am by no means a superhero, and I fully admit, some days, I feel spread a little thin. When my daughter comes home and tells me she has two hours of math homework to do before bedtime. When my day has been filled with 3-4 meetings spread throughout different buildings. And then a meeting is cancelled at the last minute, but not before I have gotten in my car and driven to that meeting. When someone promises they will absolutely follow up with me and I don’t hear back from them. When I cook what I consider to be a wonderful dinner and neither of the kids is happy. Everyone is complaining. And the dog ate my sofa because he was feeling anxious while we were gone all day as well. On these days, yes, I absolutely feel spread too thin. And on those days, I just know if one more thing happens, I will crack.
On those days and in those moments, I know that it is a smart move for me to just walk outside and take a deep breath. There is something calming about being outside, away from technology. I usually feel better almost instantly and the noise in my head begins to subside.
Being aware of that thing that is soothing to you and then taking steps to do it in times when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed is really important to your health. What is your calming habit and how does it help you in times of stress?
If U.S. workers ever stopped to take a breath, we may notice that our work days are longer than almost any other country in the free world. You may be surprised to learn that there is literally one other country who has longer work days than the U.S. It is North Korea.
Yes, you heard me. North. Korea.
Who has time for enrichment?
Well, if you want to have a happy life, it is very important that you schedule some enrichment, playtime, or some time just for yourself. If your life seems hectic and the things you have to do only seem to multiply, find a way for yourself to carve a chunk of time to do something you love. It could be anything. If sitting in the sunshine doodling or daydreaming is your thing to do, then do it. Maybe there is a volunteer opportunity that is close to your heart.
The thing is not everyone feels enriched at work. There are definitely some that absolutely love what they do, feel a burning passion for their work and would do it every day without pay if they had to. For those that do not feel the same way, build enrichment into your daily life and find that thing that you are super passionate about. Then the next step is to schedule time to do it.
Do not let anyone say that there is no time for you to do the things that you love because your free time and your happiness are necessary to your life. A truly enriched life. Your needs should never be ignored. Ignoring the things that make you happiest has been scientifically shown to have a seriously negative impact on your health, both emotionally and physically.
Even though my schedule is hectic most weeks, I have discovered a volunteer program that I absolutely love. I love it so much that I do not mind driving the 75 miles one way to participate in this awesome program on the weekend. I’ve also involved my children so they can participate. It fills my heart with joy to be part of it, and it also ties into my future career goals, so it’s a win-win.
Americans are certainly no strangers to hard work, and we all need to work to support ourselves and our families, but sometimes we may feel like we are spread a little thin. April is a great month to rethink how we are approaching our lives, our busy schedules and how we work.
Schedule some time for you each and every week and keep those appointments with yourself. It may just be the most important thing you do to care for yourself and manage your stress levels all week long.
Thank you for taking the time to share your moment of enrichment! Personally I like to go outside and play in our gardens…sometimes it feels like work when I am turning the soil, however even that has a way of calming me down. The awesome rewards of seeing the flowers or eating the vegetables and fruit is priceless. I have been asked why I don’t hire a gardener, or how do I fit in the time…it is easy to answer; I could go sit and be entertained by the TV with the little time I have left over after a 60 – 65 hour work week, I am done with homework and/or all of life’s other contingencies, however this is what keeps me grounded (pun intended)…and I like to do it.