Over the past few months, my job as a Health and Wellness Coach has shifted from working mostly with adults who were determined to eat healthier and be physically active, to adults who are feeling exhausted, unproductive, and overwhelmed. It breaks my heart to witness so many clients feeling that they are losing their grip on life and, worst of all, feeling guilty about it.
Work-life balance: a concept long forgotten?
The pandemic, because it has changed the way we work and live, is blurring the boundaries between work and personal life. Many of us are not commuting to work anymore. At first, it was perceived as something positive. We were given a chance to reclaim several wasted hours every single day! It sounded awesome and refreshing.
But soon, that “free” time got filled up with extra work, a little extra browsing on the phone, a few extra social media posts, and nothing healthy, relaxing, or rewarding. Few of the activities we fill our extra time with give us a sense of achievement or a sense that we are living a purposeful life.
Some of us have decided to sleep a little longer, which would have been a great decision if we were still going to bed at the same time as before. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. The lack of physical activity has also impacted our ability to fall asleep at night, so we go to bed later and later.
Some of us take our time in the morning instead of rushing the way we used to. This could be a good thing too, if going slower allowed us to live in the moment, be more mindful, and be more aware. But that is rarely the case. We just end up feeling lazy and wandering around like lost souls in our cozy pajamas.
Worst of all, what most of us end up doing is work longer hours. We start earlier in the morning, finish later at night, and just let workdays drag along, somehow filling up the time that we could have called “free” time if it hadn’t made us feel guilty. We are not always sure why we work longer; we just tell ourselves that we don’t have a choice or that there is nothing else to do anyway.
Am I working enough, am I enough?
We work longer hours, yes. And yet, we can’t shake this nagging feeling that we are never doing enough, or that we might not even BE enough. When you start working early, nobody sees you. When you work late at night, no one notices. You might skip lunch for a Zoom meeting, but nobody cares. If you don’t leave your desk all day, there isn’t a colleague or a manager who will stop by to encourage you to take a break.
We work longer hours, we don’t connect casually with our peers, there are no happy hours, no more chatting by the water cooler or the coffee machine. We feel invisible and it seems that even if we worked 24/7, we would still feel that we are not doing enough, because there is no acknowledgement of our dedication.
We, ourselves, don’t even acknowledge our own work! But why?
Productivity has dropped, so has self-confidence
Even though we are working for longer periods of time, we are also extremely distracted because we are working from home. Checking the news, sending texts, interacting with trolls on social media, home schooling, shopping online, doing the laundry, and checking the news again… It is a recurring issue for many people I have been working with lately: distractions are endless and tempting and it is very hard to stay focused. To the point where people have wondered if maybe they should seek treatment.
This lack of focus is reinforcing the feeling that we are not productive and leads to us losing our self-confidence. Because we feel that we are not enough, we say yes to all the demands from our peers and managers and we end up not only being overworked, but also falling behind on projects. Of course, this is feeding a vicious cycle that leads to even more time spent working, more stress, and sometimes even the fear of losing a job, which can be terrifying in such a tough economy.
It gets even worse for parents as they try to juggle working from home and home-schooling. They feel that they are not fully committed to their work, and they feel that they are doing a poor job supporting their kids. They are under the impression that they are failing both their company and their children. Their self-confidence shrinks as they unconsciously add more and more tasks to their to-do-list, making their life increasingly overwhelming.
What can you do about it?
Not everyone will need the same approach, and we will actually look into solutions in another article called . For now, the very first step you need to take is to acknowledge what is going on and find out what you are using your time for and how what you do makes you feel.
To do so, journaling for a few days will do wonders! Grab a notepad and write down everything you do and at what time you do it. You don’t have to go into much details. Just check out the time, write down the activity, and as soon as you interrupt yourself to do something else, do the same. You will most likely notice a lot of back-and-forth between activities. Listing what you do all day for 2 or 3 days is challenging. But it is SO worth it! It will create awareness and help you discover patterns, which with then help you pick easy and efficient ways to change your behavior so that you can feel good about yourself and more fulfilled, even during a COVID lockdown.
Once you have looked at what you do all day, in a very ” matter-of-fact” manner and without judgement, check out 5 strategies that you can implement right away to break the cycle and go back to a work/life balance that will give you a new sense of control over your life. Read the article “5 Strategies to Work Less and Get More Done“.
Talk to you in a few days, have fun journaling!