Running Towards Work/Life Balance


We all stress. It's natural. We get overwhelmed at work or home, things pile up, and we fear that we'll drop one of the many balls that we have in the air. And it happens. We screw up and drop the balls and stress out about it.

The danger with stress, though, is it causes us to confuse what's important with what's inconsequential. It blurs our perspective and rearranges our priorities. This is when a minor task at work is valued more than a major event at home. When we try to please everyone, we end up alienating someone, and it's usually the one closest to us. It's safer to piss off your spouse or your best friend, rather than your boss, right?  After all, they'll understand. And they will understand, at first. Work is important. It generates income, which we obviously require to survive in the modern world. The problem is that that we put a premium on the almighty dollar and forget how valuable our time is (time with family and friends, time pursuing hobbies, time developing new skills, etc.). Time is our most precious resource, but it's easy to forget that reality as we go about our days, often within the constraints of the 8,10,12 hour workweek, focused solely on making money to support whatever lifestyle we aspire to. Then, suddenly, we wonder where the time went and ask ourselves why we can't seem to connect with our family and friends. We wonder why we don't actually do anything anymore.

This ultimately gives birth to stress, which, more often than not, spawns bad habits. We've all been there. You're on edge, so you lash out at friends and family. To take the edge off, you develop addictive, unhealthy behavior. It's a cycle that can lead down a dangerous path that's difficult to course correct.

I have a tendency to stress big time. About everything. I often stress out about feeling stressed out. I don't have the answer to this problem, but I have a working theory, and isn't profound or groundbreaking - implement healthy behavior that's also a natural stress reducer.

Like many people, I have days when I love my job and days when I hate my job. But the latter days were starting to tip the scale. I was bringing my job home with me physically and emotionally, I was spending more and more time away from home (staying late in the office or traveling oversees), and it was causing an unhealthy amount of stress. To cope, I was indulging in too much alcohol and too much junk food. I'm normally a skinny dude, but I was carrying 25lbs more weight than usual, mostly in my gut. I felt like shit.

Partly to lose weight, but mostly in an effort to take control and do something, I started running. After a month of running 3-4 days a week, I was happy to see my gut was disappearing, but I was more surprised to realize I wasn't stressed anymore. Sure, I still had stressful days at the office, but they weren't staying with me. If I felt on edge, I'd run and leave my worries in the dust. I'd simultaneously clear my head and work through whatever issue was bothering me. I also began eating better and drinking less, without really thinking about it. It just happened naturally. I found balance and became a happy person again.

Around the time I began running, my work/life priorities started shifting. I curbed the overtime at the office and stopped taking work home because, most of the time, it was work for the sake of work. It didn't carry any urgency. More often than not, the task could wait until the following day. I also started cutting the duration of work trips, so I could limit traveling on weekends. This allowed me to take back my time, so I could spend it with the people I care about. Of course, there are exceptions. I still travel regularly and I occasionally have to put in overtime at the office, but I changed my thinking so the exceptions were no longer the rule. 

We all stress. It's natural, so don't fret it. The best we can do is put mechanisms in place that counteract stress and encourage a return to stasis. I run. What do you do?