Work Life Balance, three simple words we hear often but how much notice do we really take? For many this may seem an impossible dream, something we’d like to aspire to, but not a reality we can maintain.
Demands on our time can be endless. Work, family, keeping up with the household chores, friends, demands of children’s clubs and hobbies, school needs. Balance is more than a tricky prospect.
However, the importance of having some quality time is paramount and helps prevent long- term burnout or continued stress.
When we are stressed we are producing chemicals like cortisol, adrenalin and norepinephrine. These chemicals are necessary for everyday functions such as controlling mood, motivation, metabolism and immune function to name a few but when we are continuously producing these chemicals at high levels, it can be damaging for us, with increased blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar levels. We might find our work rate efficiency or accuracy is adversely affected which can then spiral into further stress, chasing our tails and so on.
When we are able to reduce stress and give time for relaxation, fun, love and creativity, we are engaging other parts of the brain and produce different chemicals such as Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins (DOSE). The connection between mind and body is very powerful. These chemicals help us to maintain a sense of wellbeing and inner contentment. Dopamine is a reward chemical. We experience this with things such as achievements, little glimmers, and looking after ourselves. Oxytocin is regarded as the love chemical and we feel this through being connected and through play. Serotonin is the mood stabilizer and we can experience this more during wellbeing activities such as being in nature and exercising. Endorphins are nature’s pain reliever, we can release endorphins through exercise and laughter.
Whilst sometimes it’s nice to sit, relax and watch TV or read a book, it’s also important to recognize the role nature can play to bring about a sense of relaxation and wellbeing. What could be better than a walk in the woodland with someone we love or taking the family to the beach, playing in the sea and building sand castles. We naturally use more of our senses in natures spaces. Whilst a trip out is not always practical, affordable or timely, we can think about how we connect with ourselves and our loved ones and just take time out to enjoy some fun or laughter with each other, or, give yourself space to do something just for yourself to boost your DOSE levels and more importantly reduce your stress levels.
The important thing is to recognize that, whilst we might have a million and one things to do, we could be doing them more productively and effectively, if we DO take time out to enjoy the simpler things.
Written by Karen Allin, Integrative Counsellor and Psychotherapist