I graduated in 2004, eager to work and have a career as an OB nurse to provide for my girls and myself with the goal of finally getting off government assistance. As a new graduate working night shift, it wreaked havoc on my mind and body. My sleep cycles were off, single parenting was harder, school schedules, and my work schedule didn’t align. I began missing school events, holidays, and many weekends. I was left feeling, “Is this worth all this?” and “Did I go to school to live like this?”
It only took the first year as a nurse to realize my life was “off-balance!” I had no established boundaries for myself or others towards me. I had become the “go-to” person to pick up extra shifts, change shifts, or even holidays I wasn’t scheduled for in addition to my obligated holidays. I pleased everyone but myself. I was running ragged working and couldn’t enjoy the fruits of my labor. The extra money wasn’t even worth it! At this moment, I realized the importance of establishing a work/life balance! Unfortunately, being a new nurse and a single parent, I grew dependent upon the extra money via the shift differential to survive. Going to day shift was not an option at that time. I eventually moved to day shift about 12 years later and was truly able to put this work/life balance into motion.
Co-workers, family, and so-called friends will deplete you, making more withdrawals than deposits into your metaphorical account. It is up to us to close the account. When this occurs, your life will be off-balance! Even as I write this, I am still actively working on this very thing of closing those metaphorical accounts. Having a work/life balance accomplishes many things. It improves mental health and clarity. It allows one to set goals in life and meet them. It is an integral part of a much-needed self-care regimen. It establishes a level of respect that is given and expected of others towards oneself. This is not all-inclusive but sets the precedence for how others treat you and how you treat yourself.
We will always have work obligations and stressors. The same is true for life. Some strategies I’m currently using to maintain my work/life balance include:
- Learn to say “No” without explanation!
- Not checking emails after the workday is done or on weekends unless I choose to.
- Take one day a week to be lazy and do nothing….recharge.
- Light my candles or use my essential oils to create the ambiance needed for mental clarity.
- Establishing reciprocal relationships in life that are meaningful and purging those that are not.
- Not over obligating myself to work responsibilities, committees, and organizations that don’t align with my purpose or goals.
- Keep work and personal life separate as best I can.
- Focus on mental health by physically working out, having a great support system, and realizing that time and respect is more important than money.
When we are “off-balance,” we are compensating for something believing that it is more important than what balance can bring us. We must recognize when we are off balance and take corrective measures to remedy this situation. Even if small changes are made, it is one step closer to bringing you into your own alignment with work/life balance. This looks different for everyone! In my case, it took me to recognize that being a nurse is only a part of who I am! You are replaceable at work, but not at home!