For years, the work-life balance has been scrutinized and picked apart. Is it attainable? Is it, at its core, the wrong way to think about your career? Yes, at the end of the day, we all need to be able to physically and mentally clock out of the office and switch gears in order to take care of ourselves and our families, but when the stress of trying to balance your work and home lives turns into guilt, your health and happiness can fall by the wayside. In the July issue of Forbes, Amy Rees Anderson, contributor, mother and entrepreneur, gave tips to those seeking the ever-sought “balance,” such as cutting out things that don’t add value to your life and scheduling down time, both of which can be easier said than done.
Step one is to realize that your work is part of your life and, just as all other aspects of your life—personal, romantic, professional and self—it’s important to find ways to keep them all in good health. Cobb County, ranked sixth healthiest county in Georgia in a 2012 County Health Rankings by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is well equipped to help its residents maintain a healthy balance in their lives. From fitness facilities to parks, therapists and life coaches, Cobb is armed with options to keep you happy and healthy, just in time for the often-stressful holiday season.
Richard P. Schuyler, D.C., executive director of Advanta Total Health in Marietta, defines a work-life balance as a harmonious relationship between what we do to make money and what we do to feel happy. “I have been privileged to have an occupation that makes it possible for me to do both at the same time,” he says. “The biggest obstacles to balancing work with happiness are the limits we impose on ourselves. Sometimes we think we must settle for an occupation that makes money but which stifles our creativity and joy.” Schuyler observed this in his father, who spent most of his time in accounting despite plainly disliking it. “After years of watching my father’s unhappiness, I decided I would have a job I loved. So now I work with the most wonderful people I know, doing something that makes a difference in their lives. That makes me happy every day. To me, it’s not even work.”
Learning to eliminate the noise and remain focused can help bring your work and personal life into alignment. “Your work and personal life have ebbs and flows,” says Karen Mathews, director of WorkLife Services at WellStar Health System. “Learning to be nimble, adapt and prioritize is critical to maintaining a healthy ‘work life fit.’ It is achievable, but greater success is realized when you are making decisions based on your values around work, community, family, etc.”
The very idea of balance may pose a problem when trying to alleviate work-life stressors in your life. “I prefer to think of it in terms of work-life integration because the word ‘balance’ may lead people to think that they must equally allocate their time between work, health, relationships and introspection/spirituality,” says Linda Thurwanger, a life coach with Your Empowered Self. “When we have successfully integrated our work and our personal life, our prevalent feeling is inner contentment and we feel as if we are in the flow. We have more clarity, so we make better decisions both in business and our personal lives.” In her coaching, Thurwanger finds most often that people often “should” themselves, or constantly tell themselves there is something extra they should be doing either at work or at home. She finds this to be more evident in mothers who have a career outside of home. “We can have it all, but it is not humanly impossible to have it all, all at the same time,” she says. “When we understand that this is true, then we can give ourselves permission to relax and take our foot off the ‘gas pedal.’”
For Craig Dekshenieks, director of communications at Life University, a work-life balance is achievable if you have the proper perspective and attitude. “We all need to work in order to pay the bills and live whatever lifestyle we’ve chosen,” he says, “but oftentimes, people get so caught up in their work and trying to make enough money, that they forget to enjoy the journey. Make enough money to live, but don’t forget the live part.”
The fact is, most people spend more waking hours working than doing anything else, “and sometimes it can become cumbersome,” says Dekshenieks. “I know so many people who have dreams almost nightly about work—forgetting a project or missing a deadline.” One thing Stacie Vaillancourt, co-owner of Orangetheory Fitness in East Cobb, considers a factor in hindering work-life balance is accessibility. “I am an advocate of using technology, however, this is one influence in our lives that makes balancing work and personal life a challenge. As hard as it is to unplug, there is no doubt when you turn off the smartphones and computers it allows you to spend time focusing on other important factors in your life,” she says.
From the Silver Comet Trail and dozens of parks and recreation areas as well as the local shops and restaurants, Cobb County offers residents many opportunities to escape the office and do something for themselves. Life University’s campus provides students, staff and members of the community with more than five miles of wooded trails for physical as well as mental fitness. They also offer chiropractic services in their public outpatient clinic, the Center for Health and Optimal Performance. WellStar offers employees and members of the community numerous opportunities to improve their health with programs such as HealthStart, Speaking About Wellness and Live Well Marietta, the goal of which is to identify and reduce health risks while empowering people to make healthy lifestyle choices.
John Hyatt, a certified life coach known as Coach on the Square in Marietta, helps anyone out of balance to discover values in their life as well as tools to connect and communicate with others around them. “As a motivational and keynote speaker, I inspire audiences, clubs, groups, organizations and businesses/corporations to raise the bar on what they want and give them tools on how to get it,” says Hyatt. “What I really enjoy the most is seeing someone get unstuck, turned around and taking steps in a new direction they never felt capable of taking.”
Physical fitness can often help to hone mental healthiness, and Vaillancourt has recently brought Orangetheory Fitness to Cobb, where members participate in a high-energy, results-oriented group workout—a great escape for those who only have so much time in their schedules to devote to daily workouts. “Orangetheory Fitness provides heart-rate based interval training in a one-hour total body workout,” says Vaillancourt. “We offer classes throughout the day, so it’s a convenient option for Cobb County residents to fit in a great workout despite busy schedules.”
Advanta Total Health also offers Cobb residents services with their best health in mind, such as anti-aging and functional medicine therapies. It’s crucial to schedule time for yourself and to treat yourself appropriately, especially when work is at its most hectic or stressful. Thurwanger uses a four-step process to help burned-out business owners create fulfillment in their lives by showing them how to disrupt their current, unproductive patterns and make manageable and significant changes in how they allocate their time. “When entrepreneurs are less stressed they think more clearly and make better decisions in both their personal and their work life. Increased creativity, productivity and profits are natural by-products,” she says. “Combine family time with hiking at Kennesaw Mountain State Park or riding bikes on the Silver Comet Trail and you’ll be amazed at the positive impact it will have on your health, inner well-being and your relationships with your spouse and kids. This is the only kind of multitasking that I recommend.”
Center Your Life
Being kind to yourself is a common piece of advice among Cobb’s health professionals. “Take time for friends, family and your health. Be selective about what you commit to do. Your work and your family will benefit more when you are in a healthy and energized place,” says Mathews. She also recommends setting realistic goals around your health, family and coworkers, as enormous energy can be found in relationships that are mutually beneficial and supportive. Sometimes one of the hardest things to do is ask for help.
“Work-life balance involves deliberately setting times for different activities,” says Hyatt. “It involves being aware of where my energy and focus is going, a need and desire to shift it, then deciding when and how to shift it. A helpful key for me is to remember that no matter what I am doing, I want to be present and mindful.” Thurwanger advises being realistic about the amount of activities you schedule for yourself in a day and do what you are doing in full consciousness, without multitasking. “Let go of perfectionism,” she says. “It can take days, weeks or months to put together a big business deal, but the smallest investment of time with your family and friends can reap great rewards. Look for little things you can do to stay connected to the people that are most important in your life.”
“I believe in the old adage that you ‘work to live, not live to work,’” says Dekshenieks. “I work hard, but when it’s time to go home, I try my best to leave work (both literally and figuratively) so I don’t bring my stress, projects and thoughts of work home to my wife and kids. It just takes a little discipline.” Take advantage of all Cobb has to offer to keep all aspects of your life healthy and balanced, especially as the stressful holiday season adds extra items to your to-do list.