Prioritizing Wellness and work-life balance are important. Yet why does it feel so impossible to achieve?
Life is a juggling act.
Like me, you have probably had many conversations about barriers experienced when trying to juggle all the “balls in the air” without dropping them. If you also are like me, not only do you frequently drop the balls, but then trip over yourself in an attempt to pick them back up again for the next juggling act.
A failed attempt at juggling can be a moment to laugh at yourself. It can also be an opportunity to get serious and refocus. As women, the time has come for us to stop using the word “balance.” Rather, we should be talking about the word “wellness.”
Wellness involves satisfaction (not perfection) in various life domains to include those listed in the wheel: emotional, spiritual, environmental, social, physical, intellectual, and professional. Each domain includes habits that contribute to a healthy and fulfilling life. When there is a struggle in one domain, each domain is impacted.
Here is an example of the wellness ripple effect:
A poor evaluation at work (in the professional domain) can contribute to feelings of disappointment and anxiety (emotional), questioning the meaning and purpose of your work (spiritual), feeling displaced at work (environmental), isolating from others (social), not sleeping well (physical), and having a difficult time concentrating (intellectual).
Step back and take a self-inventory.
It’s important to attend to all areas of your wellness. By doing so, you are allowing successes in one domain to transfer into another. In order to do this, you must first take an inventory of your satisfaction in each area. Below are four simple steps:
Step One: Review the activities in each wellness domain and check off the ones that you do! Give yourself credit where credit is due. Even if you do them just a little, give yourself a check mark. Feel free to add additional activities that are not listed.
Step Two: In the small circles, rate your level of satisfaction (on a scale from 1 to 100, with 100 = perfectly satisfied) for each domain. Remember, none of us are perfect – this is about satisfaction.
Step Three: In the large circle, add your overall score. If you are a math person, insert the mean (by adding up all of your small circle numbers and dividing by 7). If you are not a math person (like me), just give yourself a ballpark number.
Step Four: Reflect on your overall score. If it is helpful, insert your score into a general grading scale (90 or higher = A, 80-90 = B, 70-80 = C, 60-70 = D). Then ask: What range do I need to be in to feel healthy and fulfilled? For example, you may seek to strive for an overall score of 85 (B+) and higher.
Develop a plan and stick with it.
Reflect on your self-inventory scores. Ask yourself: What is working? What needs to change? Identify 1-2 wellness activities for each area that you would like to increase or newly add to your schedule. Write these activities on the edge of the circle next to the relevant domain.
In developing a plan for your wellness, consider a few of these tips and tricks:
- Be specific. Instead of writing “exercise more,” write “exercise three times a week for 60-90 minutes at the local gym after work on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.” Also, think about how being specific can be used in preparation for achieving your goal. For example, “I will pack a workout bag and leave it in my car, set a phone reminder, and celebrate by having a home-cooked meal with my partner when I get home.”
- Use a planner and carve out time for each area of wellness as part of your week. One idea is to use color coding (for example, write all of your physical health activities in green, or create a green blocked off area that stands out with your activities listed inside). Another idea is to create daily check boxes for each day for each domain.
- Announce your goals to others! Research shows that when we “go public” with our goals, we are more likely to achieve them. Tell others beyond your immediate family and closest friends. Shout to the mountaintop!
- Find a “success” partner. Is there anyone you know that can check-in on you as you work toward your goals, or accomplish them with you? Think about your social network and identify those who you admire for their high level of motivation. You can both work to push one another to achieve goals, even if they are different! (Interestingly, research shows that having a “success” partner provides a greater edge for achieving goals beyond announcing it to others!)
- Reward yourself. Rewards can serve as an effective incentive for changing behavior. Think about the difference between internal rewards (such as joy experienced from being absorbed in a task, feelings of pride related to accomplishment) and external rewards (such as buying yourself a gift or going out for a nice meal). Based on your individual situation, think about whether you would benefit most from external or internal rewards – or both!
- Continue to reflect and re-evaluate. How is juggling going? Do you need to let go of some balls? Add on a few new ones? Juggle faster? And what are you juggling – glass balls, plastic ones, or both? Glass balls are the wellness activities that you need to protect the most (such as cherished relationships, aspects of your health). If they fall, you risk them shattering. Avoid the constant pick-ups and cleans up: When you find yourself having a difficult time juggling the glass balls, it’s a good time to revisit the wellness wheel again.