10 ways to have peace without work-life balance.
I want you to be happy in your job. Why? Because I’ve been in the position where I felt trapped, wanting to love what I was doing but feeling like I couldn’t do a good job, that the hard work of being a nurse was leaving me empty for all the other things I wanted in my life.
I resented work because I felt like all my energy was gone by the time I got back to my family and I was overwhelmed with trying to keep up. And the cycle began, go to work, resent the energy expenditure involved with caring for people, come home exhausted, resent it more, have no energy to enrich my life outside of work, feel discouraged, dread going to work.
Any of this sound familiar?
I choose to work as a nurse not only to provide for my family but because I feel like I am meant to be a nurse. If I start to resent my job because I am blaming my general life struggles on it, I lose the power to change my personal life and give up any possibility for job satisfaction in the process. I give up the positive energy that I get from helping people in exchange for fatigue and discouragement.
It’s a lose/lose situation.
If I take responsibility for all of it, I can fashion it into what I want and have peace, whether it is balanced or not.
Work-life balance isn’t what you want (gasp). Give up the misguided hope that achievement of balance brings contentment. Balancing anything is hard, 2 opposing forces exerting equal pressure, without swaying. Just talking about it is exhausting and pursuit of it can lead to discontent, guilt, and feeling inadequate.
I propose that we strive for peace, not balance.
I propose not only managing your time but yourself.
I propose a counterintuitive approach. Bring all the positive things from work INTO your home life instead of trying to keep your work identity totally separate.
How can I be a nurse at home? What does that look like? What makes me a nurse and why did I gravitate to this.? How can I be resourceful, resilient, compassionate, and smart at home? How can I solve problems on the fly and with confidence? These are characteristics that make me a great nurse and I can be a great nurse at home too. Because really, the problem is when I don’t feel like I have a good grasp on my life outside of work, I blame work and the fatigue of the job.
So what are the 10 Ways to pursue a peaceful life instead of stressing about balancing?
1. Be super clear on what your priorities are.
What do you really want in your life and it is currently showing up anywhere in your day? When the things that we hold dear are getting pushed to the back burner the heaviness of discontent sets in. Identify what’s important and let’s put that on the schedule FIRST (hint: this doesn’t usually involve washing the kitchen floor).
2. Stop telling yourself you have no choice.
Be peaceful with the choices you ARE making. “I HAVE to pick up my kids” or “I have to make dinner.” WRONG. You choose to pick up your kids and make dinner because that is the type of person you want to be. If you don’t want to be that person, then don’t do that stuff. But telling yourself you have no choice makes you feel oppressed instead of in complete control. Trying to take positive action from a feeling of oppression definitely does NOT lead to peace.
3. Don’t turn everything into a problem and yourself into the solution.
If something is really a problem, leave the possibility open that there may be a solution other than you (WHAT?!?!?!). Pick your focus. As a nurse, I find this one tough, especially since we are trained to look at all the issues, the person as a whole, and bring it all together in a plan of care. At home, we can pick what to deal with. Don’t throw this gift away!
4. Be honest.
What are you jamming into your life that makes you resent work and feel rushed? When we try to do too much after work somehow we turn it into a work issue not an unreasonable expectation issue. Coming out of work with misplaced resentment isn’t a springboard for a great evening. Which leads to the next step.
5. Weigh the benefit of NOT getting something done.
Is the worst case scenario actually that bad? Could it just as easily be seen as a best case scenario? Is this one of those things that you are jamming into your life that you don’t really want?
6. Strategize your day the same way you would strategize your patient load.
AKA make a plan (make sure to schedule in some time to pee). Don’t be responsible for 800 things after a 12 hour shift if you can arrange your life a different way. Be smart, not busy. By making a plan, you can respond to life instead of reacting like a crazy person.
7. Let go of the fight against reality.
This maybe should have been step #1. Life is 50/50, not ALL happy or ALL negative. Some of work life is going to suck- it isn’t because of balance. Some of home life is going to suck. It isn’t because of work. There is good and bad to every situation every day. If we make peace with this we can ride out the bad and enjoy the good without feeling like something has gone drastically wrong.
8. Watch your language, young lady!
How do you talk about things? Be careful about putting negative labels on things, ie: neglect vs. prioritizing, have to vs. choose to, crazy vs. awesome, always or never. Think this isn’t an issue for you? Check in with that feeling in your chest when you talk about something. “I have a crazy weekend with lacrosse” feels significantly different than “I get to spend the weekend watching my son play lacrosse.” If you get that tightness in your chest (or whatever your physical symptom may be) take a look at how you are talking. It may seem like semantics but trust me, it’s a game changer.
9. Build in an intermission. (Resist the urge to tell me you don’t have the time for this one).
After work and before you start with your post-work life, make time for an intermission. I don’t know what exactly this will look like for you but don’t go rushing into the second act of your day without recalibrating. For me, I have a snack on my commute home while listening to a podcast. When I get out of the car I walk 1 mile around the neighborhood right away. I don’t change out of my scrubs, I don’t go searching for headphones. If I am really dedicated I spend 5 minutes writing out the plan for my evening when I get home so I can decide with intention what my evening is going to be.
Do I do all of this every day? Of course not, but I am getting better and better at it and my evenings are MUCH better when I do. Nobody has died yet as a result of waiting an extra 20 minutes to start the evening. We resent when we don’t get a break at work but then we don’t give ourselves a break when we are dealing with our own time. Interesting, right? Take a 10 minute break to decide what Act 2 will look like for you, if you have to sit in your car to do it, you have my blessing.
10. Give yourself an “end-of-shift report” each week.
Take a look at what worked, what didn’t, and what still needs to be done. Can anything be delegated? Does some process need to be rethought? Do you need to change your assignment? Evaluation can save you the drama of repeating the same week over and over.
Everyday we get to build the day we want. I’m going to build a peaceful one, even when it falls apart and I have to start again. I have all the tools I need.
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