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Serendipitous: Work-Life Balance, Earth Day & National Stress Awareness Month

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I was already excited to be talking about work-life balance at an upcoming Administrative Professionals Conference on April 22nd. Then, it dawned on me that it’s also Earth Day.  Later, it hit my radar that it’s also National Stress Awareness Month. How perfect?!

Why do we need a National Stress Awareness Month anyway? Per the U.S. Offices of Health & Human Services, we need to “take time to unwind… It’s healthy to relax, renew, and rejuvenate.”

Stress Awareness Month is a national, cooperative effort to inform people about the dangers of stress, successful coping strategies, and harmful misconceptions about stress that are prevalent in our society. (More info)

Rather than just being aware of stress, I’m suggesting we start with an assessment of our current state of well-being:

Of course, we all know that eating right, getting enough sleep and generally managing stress are the foundation of work-life balance… It’s what we have the most control over anyway.  Employers are increasingly noticing the benefits as well and incorporating a corporate culture more supportive of wellness.  With 70% of workers claiming to be disengaged at work, employers are listening now more than ever.

The best summary for improvement/action that I’ve found comes from Action for Happiness. They capture it all with Ten Keys to Happier Living:

  • Giving
  • Relating
  • Exercising
  • Appreciating
  • Trying Out
  • Direction
  • Resilience
  • Emotion
  • Acceptance
  • Meaning

I’ve found that the hard part is getting buy-in from our brains.  They just don’t want to listen sometimes! Starting with meditation only a few minutes a day can kick-start initiative though.  And, research supporting the benefits of meditation is overwhelming and no longer uncommon in the media:

  • The practice can lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation associated with chronic disease.
  • It can enhance immune function and lessen fatigue.
  • Meditation can ease anxiety and depression, down regulate stress hormones, improve mood, resolve sleep difficulties, and boost self-esteem.
  • It can strengthen memory and problem solving skills, sharpen concentration, improve decision-making, and slow the deterioration of cognitive abilities that comes with age.

(Source)

One of the best guides for learning how to meditate that I’ve come across is via Lifehacker:  A Guide to Meditation: A Guide for the Rest of Us

Just a few other ideas for I’ve recommended for immediate action regarding work-life balance (well-being) include:

  • Walking meetings… Achieve 10,000 steps in no time! Set department or team goals and host a contest.
  • Take a few moments each morning to plan your day. Try a personal Kanban experiment.
  • Set SMART goals that get you thinking about short and long-term objectives.
  • Write down three things you’re grateful for each day. “People who are grateful tend to be happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Being grateful can help people cope with stress and can even have a beneficial effect on heart rate.”
  • Spend time off dedicated to yourself, family and friends. Schedule it if you have to.
  • Use your vacation days.  Research from Gallop found that American workers of all income levels who regularly take routine vacations are happier than those don’t and earn far more.
  • Take breaks throughout the day to regroup and refresh. A study by the National University of Singapore discovered that taking a few moments can actually increase productivity by 9%.
  • Work on being mindful… Watch Jon Kabat-Zinn with Google Training to learn how.

What suggestions do you have? How can we improve Quality of Life and our work-life balance? 

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