Why assessing your work-life balance is so important

As an adult, how often would you say that you feel tired? Stressed? Burned out? Maybe, if you’re athletically or academically or artistically inclined, you’ve felt this way even before you became an adult. Given the way our society is driven by time and money, I don’t think these feelings are by chance.

Over the weekend, one of my favorite creativesΒ of all time, Marina Diamandis, published an open letter about taking a step back from music.

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The splash page of Marina Book, where fans will be able to keep up with Marina Diamandis off-stage

Diamandis performs alt-pop and electro-pop as Marina and the Diamonds. The artist has been going strong since her 2010 debut album, The Family Jewels. (She had a poppin’ demo before that called Mermaid vs. Sailor, but I’m not about to get into the whole How Long Have You Really Been a Fan of XYZ Artist phenomenon today.)

In her letter, she explains that she finally took a break from touring after seven years. For Diamandis, the problem wasn’t so much the “creating” part of being a creative but how the different parts of herself were no longer in tune with one another. No longer in sync.

“Just as people construct online personas, artist construct visual ones,” Diamandis wrote. “And over time, the lines between art and reality can drift apart.”

She described vacillating between her artist self and private self. She also voiced her frustration at the detachment of the two.

“I was one or the other,” she said. “Neither part of my personality could be present in the same environment.”

So for her, taking time off from artist duties and official business was in order to investigate that. Diamandis realized she didn’t have any sense of self without the inevitable album cycle, string of videos or tour on her plate.

Diamandis is self-aware, wondering aloud if others have experienced this. Naturally, many people have. I know I have.

I worked non-stop for the past two years as a writer and editor for a handful publications while at school. Mind you, all while being a full-time student who really does value her grades. I tried to minimize my involvement across campus and really narrow the focus of my efforts. But I still ended up tired. Stressed. Burned out.

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Photo by Leonard von Bibra

And to Diamandis’ point, I really did not have a concept of who I was outside of those publications. Of course, I value all the experience they gave me and I have met some of the finest people at my school through those publications. So I am not knocking the people or the work. But there comes a point where you have to pause and reconsider. Regroup. Recuperate. Recover.

That’s what I did last semester. I sent my creative energy into personal projects, such as The Heartbreaker Podcast and Brown Girls Only. Entertainment and pop culture and the arts are my first, intrinsic loves, so it is always an absolute pleasure to combine them with my social justice orientation. And to do so with friends, no less! Shout out to Danielle for the podcast. Thank you for indulging me in pop culture foolishness and celebrity thirst.

This summer, I took time to enjoy myself and figure out who I am when I’m not reporting a story or editing a few of them. I took time to work and pursue my love of coffee and aid others in their love of coffee. I took time to be with loved ones.

And through feeding my heart and my soul and my intellect, I came back ready to embark on something as crazy as updating this blog every single day of study abroad. I came back into my senior year as a journalism student excited about storytelling, about expressing myself, about writing again.

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Photo by FloorTwelve on Unsplash

Looking at studies such as research on work-life balanceΒ among families, it seems common for adults in the West to feel like they have to pick and choose between working hard or being the best parent they can be. Likewise, this same drive to prioritize work over relationships extends to romantic and platonic ones as well.

Having a successful career is all very well and good, but you can’t forget the things that make you human. Humans weren’t meant to be alone. So whether it’s your best friend or your partner or the people at work, it’s important to nurture relationships.

It’s also important to nurture yourself. For women and feminine people, we are socialized to give, give, give to others. Nurturing and care-taking are intrinsic to our ascribed identity. It’s for that reason in particular that we should look into self-care.

Methods of self-care include venting, being in nature, breathing exercises, grounding exercises, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, taking a shower, listening to music, lighting some candles, watching your favorite TV show, buying yourself flowers or feeding a part of yourself you haven’t explored in awhile.

There are loads of masterposts on Tumblr with self-care resources such as things to cheer you up,Β distractions, soothing sounds and practical advice for recovery.

Even though Tumblr has been formative in my understanding of mental health, I didn’t come to know about self-care through that platform. My friends Nicolette and Natalie were a huge part of understanding the importance of stopping to take care of yourself in the midst of the work-life grind. As I’ve mentioned before, I was never taughtΒ that concept. Mental health was not a priority in my family. I was only conditioned to work tirelessly and then work tirelessly some more.

Taking time for yourself is so important. Taking a step back from your career is important. It doesn’t have to be a year or anything. It can be a week. It can be a couple of much-needed days sprinkled throughout a hectic year.

I do hear the argument that it is a waste of time, because you could be doing so many other useful things while you’re on vacation, or having lunch, or finally going to sleep instead of pulling an all-nighter. But I guarantee you: you will be so much more productive in the long-term if you do choose rest in the face of exhaustion.

Checking in on your mental health, getting enough sleep, forcing yourself to put the textbook or the laptop down and relax will help you for the end game. There really is something to that.

The time you take to rest and reflect is just as important as the time you use to work hard and push ahead.

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