It’s no secret that in today’s society of smartphones and digital networks, we are currently living in the “plugged-in” era. In fact, the average American spends upwards of 85 hours a month on their phone alone, and while conveniences such as texting and social media place the world at our fingertips, the luxury of “unplugging” seems to become less and less realistic. While it may seem that smartphones and internet are to blame, the reality is that Americans are slowly losing their ability to detach from the digital world and the ability to spend more time decompressing in the present. While many professionals at the crux of their career may struggle with learning to destress, the rigors of college only reinforce this idea of “all work, no play” at a young age. With that being said, while digital technology may contribute to higher levels of stress in the American individual, the average US work week continues to rise, essentializing the notorious and often ignored principle of “work-life balance”. Somehow, the concept of having a life outside of work has faded from the norm, but why should it? While many of us may feel “guilty” for taking some time for ourselves, when doing so, our productivity increases while our stress decreases. So, while having dedication to one’s career is admirable, feeling stressed, unhappy and overworked at the end of the day every day is not necessarily the hallmark of a great work-ethic. Instead, making room for one’s own self-health is an excellent way to promote long-term happiness and fulfilment in whatever career path one chooses! This may raise the question and perhaps biggest conundrum of those struggling with work-life balance, “but what if I have no time for self care?” to which I would like to reply with a few helpful tips for those of us who feel like we simply do not have the time to dedicate to ourselves.
- Find comfort in your nighttime ritual– Maybe your evening routine consists of brushing your teeth and going to bed, but setting aside a few minutes for a cup of calming tea or perhaps reading the first chapter of that book you’ve been meaning to read can give you something to look forward to at the end of a long workday and BONUS, will also promote better sleep!
- Call a friend- You may be thinking, “wait, weren’t you just saying that I need time to myself away from my phone?” but if one thing’s for sure, a good chat with a friend can be the cheapest and easiest source of therapy there is. Friendships can dwindle from busy schedules and long distance, but setting aside as little as 15 minutes to check up on someone is enough to stay in touch and know that despite your lack of freetime, you are supported by those you love most.
- Try a new recipe- Perhaps you’re the type of person to “burn water”, or maybe you have your favorite restaurant on speed dial, but according to a study reported by Dr. Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist at Stanford, people are reportedly happier and less stressed when they are able to prepare their favorite meals at home. Part of the reason for this is due to the fact that cooking produces a physical reward, which can be beneficial for individuals that spend a lot of their time working behind a computer. Another bonus? Cooking can be an excellent way to bond with others and score some helpful tips and yummy food in the process! Still fearful of that ominous stove, or wanting something quick? In the age of the internet, there are copious amounts of meal-kit delivery services that provide the ingredients and instructions for whatever meals you choose, and most have gluten free, whole30 and vegan friendly options as well.
- Discover your hobbies- We’ve all been there. Whether it’s a networking event, job interview or even just meeting a new coworker, we’ve all been propositioned with the occasionally dreaded question “what do you like to do for fun?” While some of those more well-rounded folks may respond with “hiking” or “going to concerts”, a few of us may discover that recreation has taken a backburner in lieu of our careers. As a college student, this question seems to be the notorious icebreaker from my professors, and sometimes I can’t help but to feel envious when others spew their hobbies of horseback riding, world travel, basket-weaving, water polo, you name it. Suddenly, I feel like my entire identity is saddled (no pun intended) in the recreation and free time that I am not even sure exists in my schedule. Discovering (or sometimes rediscovering) your personal interests can be difficult, but even something as simple as learning how to knit or riding your bike can add another dynamic to your personal life.
- Do not be so hard on yourself- This part may seem obvious and perhaps even a little cliche, but regardless of whether or not you are a working professional, stay-at-home mother, college student, etc, it is absolutely crucial to demonstrate patience with yourself as you navigate the waters of adult life. Years from now when you look back on your life, you’ll thank your younger self for taking the time to enjoy the little things that life has to offer (and besides, older generations reportedly feel more “serene” than younger generations, so they must be doing something right).
In summary, I have explained to you why working more does not necessarily impact whether or not someone is a “hard worker” and I have also provided a few helpful tools to help you unplug from life’s daily stressors. With that being said, I hope that you have gained something from this, whether that is a new habit or even just a new outlook on the necessity of reducing stress and finding enjoyment out of every individual day!