How to Balance Work, Relationships, & Self-Care

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Hi there! Today, I’m answering the question: How do we balance work, our personal responsibilities, our relationships, and our own self-care? This is a challenge, isn’t it? It’s like chasing a unicorn; it’s really hard to achieve work-life balance, and it’s something that requires almost constant attention and awareness. We need to be mindful of our work-life balance because it’s constantly shifting, and during the pandemic, all of our work situations have probably changed pretty dramatically, and our home lives look different. We have different responsibilities, less access to support, our social lives have changed tremendously, and we may have different self-care needs than we had prior to the pandemic because the greater our stressors, the more self-care and support we need.

So, I want to share with you what I’ve learned personally in my own journey as well as what I’ve learned from my clients. I named my practice Urban Balance because I really wanted to cultivate work-life balance for myself, my staff, and the clients of Urban Balance. This is a challenge, but I remember I saw a career counselor, Arlene Hirsch; I highly recommend her. She’s in Chicago, and I believe we all need whether it’s therapy or career counseling or coaching or mentoring; we need to access others for support, guidance, and perspective, and I do that all the time. It’s an investment of time and money, but it pays off tremendously.

I went and saw Arlene, and I actually only had one session with her because she was so fantastic. She really set the foundation for my whole work-life balance plan. I told her that I wanted to start a group practice, which became Urban Balance, and that I also wanted to become a mom. She said, “Joyce, you have to plan your career in the context of your life, not the other way around.” Isn’t that brilliant? So smart! And it may seem obvious, but to many of us, it’s not. We start chasing our career, and maybe we’re driven or we’re trying to make ends meet financially, and so we want to do our best at work, and suddenly we’re trying to smush our relationships, families, personal lives, and self-care around our work when really it needs to be reversed.

So, I encourage you to think about what do you want your life to look like from a holistic perspective? Really visualize in your mind if you had a magic wand, what would you like your work schedule to look like? How would that enable your own wellness? In my very first job out of graduate school, I got a nine-to-five job like most of us do. At the time, I was living with my partner, didn’t have kids, and was a young single person living in the city. I had a hard time adjusting to the nine-to-five; I felt chained to my desk, like I didn’t have time to run my errands. I got home from work at 5:30 or 6 and didn’t have any time left during the evening really to do anything because stores were closed, etc.

So, I asked my employer if it would be possible for me to shift my hours to 7:30 to 3:30, and I loved it! They were like, “Yeah, no problem. That’s zero problem for us. It’s just most counselors tend to work nine to five, so that’s what we offered you.” Sometimes we need to think out of the box and ask for what works better for us. I know now many of us are working virtually, but I’ve done this many times in my career where I’ve asked my employer to change my schedule for my wellness.

At that time, getting out of work at 3:30, there was still time to go to the gym, some time to run by the lake, see friends, run an errand, or get my hair cut, or whatever it was, and I had much better work-life balance simply by asking for that shift in my schedule. So, I encourage you to do that if you can think of a shift that would work for you.

I know that my next job, I wanted to really develop my private practice, which I started on the side. So, in this full-time job at an employee assistance program, I worked about 10 hours a week at my side hustle. I was in my late 20s, working hard and trying to build my career as a private practitioner. I saw clients two evenings a week and Saturday mornings, two or three clients each of those shifts, and I loved it. That kind of work fed my soul. Even though I was working more, it was meaningful work that made me feel like I was moving forward in my career. So even though it was extra work, it led to more income, I felt more fulfilled, and as my private practice was succeeding, I went back to my full-time EAP job and asked them if there was the possibility of shifting my schedule to four days a week.

I said, “I can do my job in four days a week, and I don’t need health insurance.” So basically, I was offering them to, in some ways, pay me less because at that point, I was married and had insurance through my husband, so it was no loss to me, and it enabled me to have another day of the week by still receiving the same salary so that I could build that private practice. Eventually, I left the EAP job when I had my first daughter, Celeste, and it was at that point I knew that motherhood was my highest role.

And I wanted to be with Celeste as much as possible, but I also love my career, and let’s face it, I needed to pay the bills, right? So, huge student loans, living in Chicago is expensive. My husband at the time had a good job, but it’s hard. I know you know. And so, of course, I had to work, and I chose to work three days a week, seeing 10 clients a day. I know you therapists know that’s a lot. So, I saw ten clients eight to ten on Mondays and Wednesdays, and then four or five on Saturday mornings. And then I was able to be home with Celeste four days a week, which was amazing. I loved my days in the city, and Celeste’s dad took care of her on Saturday mornings, which was good for all of us.

Throughout my career in private practice, as my kids have grown, I’ve shifted my schedule to only working school hours so that I was able to drive my kids to school and pick them up after school. And of course, being self-employed allows you to be your own boss, so I feel very privileged in that way. I’ve been able to take time off when I want to take time off, be with my kids at school if they had a field trip or something like that. Of course, I love supporting people and starting their own businesses. I’m such an entrepreneur at heart, and I love supporting other entrepreneurs.

But I recognize that many of us are working jobs where we’re working for an employer, and there isn’t that same flexibility. So, it’s really up to you to be assertive about your schedule, to advocate for yourself, to ask for any shifts that might be helpful to you, whether it’s the hours that you work, the times that you work, or if you’re working virtually or not.

I think work-life balance is about your energy. So, what depletes your energy and what gives you energy? For me, helping people and hearing about meaningful life changes is so exciting. That really fills my cup. Do I enjoy sending invoices for my speaking engagements or sitting with my power points for hours? Not so much. So, I really try to be mindful about delegating tasks, asking for support, and being thoughtful about the type of work I choose to do.

Several years ago, I recognized that I’ve seen clients for many years, and as much as I adore and love seeing clients, part of my journey has shifted. Now, I’m loving speaking, writing books, blogging, and giving trainings and workshops. That is really filling my cup. So, I have a very limited practice, and that way, I’m able to still keep my hand in but shift to doing the work that is rewarding and meaningful to me.

You might want to reflect on what it is that you’re doing that you enjoy and that you don’t enjoy because we spend so much time at work. We need to make sure that it’s supporting us emotionally, spiritually, and financially. And with our family lives, we need to be mindful about who we’re spending our time with and make sure that our relationships are filling our cup as well.

Being thoughtful about our partnerships, friendships, and choosing relationships that support us is crucial. Setting boundaries in our relationships is very important to make sure that we’re operating better and feeling better. Setting aside time for self-care is vital and needs to come first. Making sure that you’re getting enough sleep, having time for exercise, connecting with friends and loved ones, and practicing good nutrition are all important aspects of self-care.

I’m excited for my book to come out because I have tools that I want to share with you, like the self-love wheel, which is a good tool to remind ourselves how to take care of ourselves in various important ways. We need to be protective of our self-care, and even moments of meditation or a long hot shower can be beneficial.

The main theme to achieving work-life balance is to work on loving yourself, valuing yourself, and respecting yourself. This translates into healthy assertiveness in your work and relationships, even with your kids, setting boundaries that give them roots and wings. I want to continue supporting you in making these important shifts in work-life balance.

Think about your vision for your perfectly balanced life and start advocating for yourself with your employer or clients if you’re self-employed. Create the life that you deserve. I wish you all the best, and I’m here to support you every step of the way. Thank you, and goodbye.

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