Work-Life Balance: Greening Your Life

The month of February seems to focus on Valentine’s Day and the notion of telling others that we love them. The whole concept of finding work-life balance comes down to turning that around and saying “I love you” to yourself. What might that look like?earth and heart

A search on “work-life balance,” “productivity,” and “time management” on Amazon.com turns up over 210,000 results (including the alarmingly-titled “Attack Your Day Before It Attacks You”). The Center for Disease Control reports that 40 million people in the U.S. have a chronic sleep disorder, which costs employers roughly $300 billion annually in lost productivity and stress-related health care and contributes to chronic health conditions including diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and depression. A Society for Human Resource Management survey shows that 89% of Americans say that work-life balance is a problem, with 54% calling it a “significant” problem.

One of often-cited defining characteristics of the Baby Boomer generation is “workaholic.” The GenXers value “work-life balance.” And the Millenials are catching some flak for “not having a work ethic.” I can happily argue whether these labels actually fit, but I really think the Millenials are on to something. Is our work ethic ruining our lives?

There’s a lot of research out there that says we feel better when we give to others, but not at the expense of our own sanity. As my minister once said to me, “Love is infinite but time and energy are not,” and suggested that I start considering myself to be one of my family’s resources – not just my time and energy, but also my peace of mind and level of stress and degree of tiredness.

So I got to thinking: what if I applied the reduce/reuse/recycle mentality to my own life? Thanks to several environmental websites for ideas about conserving precious resources:

  1. Place value on (your own) ecosystem. Can you put a dollar amount on the value of the services you provide to others? Of course. Can you put a dollar amount on your body’s ability to get you through the day? Less clear-cut. You are precious and irreplaceable. Let a sense of your own preciousness be the start to your day.
  2. You are a limited resource. If you continue to burn through your physical and mental reserves, there will be less available for you to use in the future. Conservation of your resources now means you are more likely to have time, energy and attention available in the future.
  3. Consider ways that your social, cultural, and spiritual life is influenced by your physical state. Changes in your ecosystem can be disruptive in ways that aren’t immediately obvious, so consider the wider implications of your current mad pace.
  4. We need diversity to be resilient. Just as natural systems need biodiversity to retain their ability to bounce back from environmental challenges, we need to cultivate different parts of our lives and interests in order to retain the flexibility to adapt to sudden, large, or unforeseen changes.
  5. What’s your footprint? How much of you is being used up thoughtlessly? Consider your obligations and demands that others make on you. Is meeting these obligations more important than a sense of balance in your life? What are the implications of saying “no”? Will others find more efficient ways of meeting their needs once depending on you stops being a habit?

We don’t necessarily think of the cost of using something until the bill comes due. In the case of our health and well-being, it may not be possible to pay that bill. Start treating yourself like the precious and irreplaceable resource that you are.

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