Finding a Work-School-Life Balance

Let me tell you of the day I almost died… well, not really… almost… there was just a lot of work. Three grad classes, two jobs, problems in family finances… and so on, and so on. I used to pride myself as a person of reason, but now delusional thinking took over. If only there were twenty-seven hours in the day, I’d even settle for twenty-six. I was also confused about what to do… Should I try accomplishing more in one day? Should I try to dig a trench? How deep should it be? Nothing was working, I was overwhelmed and I felt the, once unfamiliar, tingles of anxiety in my rhomboid muscles.
I sought out help, there were so many tips, so much contradicting advice; ‘Try to get as much done in one day,’ ‘set things aside and let time fix everything,’ ‘drink whole milk,’ ‘don’t drink whole milk.’ Most solutions were programmatic; they had seven steps, eight steps, 21 steps, 39 steps. When I found out that, according to a study by The American Sociological Review, 70% of American workers struggle with finding a work-life balance, I thought I should give up, what makes me any better than those people?
But then I put down the gadgets, Dr. Google was not providing adequate relief for my stress. As soon as I tuned out of the three screens that were operating in my room simultaneously, something happened. Thoughts came to me that were no longer delusional but well defined, clear and yet still introspective.
I began to ask myself questions that were lost in the onrush of tasks, deadlines and commitments. The questions were as follows: What did I want to accomplish in each one of the commitments I was balancing? Was I expecting straight A’s, employee of the month awards and my love life to be fulfilled all in the next month? What was working in how I set up my daily or weekly tasks? Was I operating under the delusion that I would have twenty-seven hours in the day to complete everything I set out to do? And most importantly, what was my definition of success? Amid the fog of pressure to do well at everything, what would be a deciding factor in my long-term fulfillment? Would I be reading at yet another symposium or catching on lost time with my friends and family? Could I do both, and if not which was more important?
Temporary relief from all external stimulation, particularly the stimulation coming from a screen, allowed me to briefly see inside myself and get a greater clarity on who I wanted to be, what I wanted to accomplish and how I could plan about doing so. Asking those questions helped me a great deal and it might do the same for you.
With finals coming up you’re probably struggling with a massive workload. Take a break, look at a wall, and even better… look at a tree. Close your eyes, and as meditation guru Shane Wilson recommends, take deep breaths while counting to 21. Accent the number when you exhale. Taking 2 minutes a day for yourself, concentrate on your breath and slow down your thoughts. You’ll find an increase in focus and a decrease in anxiety. And those twenty-seven hours that you think you need might just turn out to be four or five.

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