By Resha Desai┃Posted: February 25, 2019
I was tossing madly in the air. What happened? One minute I was on a see-saw, and the next minute, I left the see-saw handles far behind. I was desperately flapping my arms and legs, hoping that a nocturnal bird would happen to be flying around. There are good Samaritans everywhere, right? My luck, obviously, was running out. And I braced myself for the inevitable thud.
2:00 am: I woke up in a sweat, gasping. My husband slept on, oblivious to my discomfort. I switched on the night lamp and reached for a drink of water. I decided to read a little to calm down.
“Studies show that a poor work-life balance can result in unhealthy levels of stress, unhappiness, and unproductivity. A recent study revealed almost 70% of people who suffer from stress at work experience physical and psychological impacts such as sleepless nights, headaches, depression, anger.”
I closed the report. This obviously wasn’t going to work.
6:30 am: Groggy, irritable, and anxious. I wasn’t supposed to feel this way. I was on a three-month-long WLI (work-life integration) campaign. This included seven to eight hours of sleep every night, yet here I was.
Meanwhile, my husband covered his ears to drown out my complaints.
8:45 am: I finished my practice of yoga and meditation, and was ready for a bright new day. The children went off to school, my healthy lunch was packed (WLI frowns on fried, preservative-rich food) and I was ready. Though my hubby looked amused at my daily time tracking, he remained mum. I took it for support, as I scribbled away at my WLI timesheets.
10:15 am: Our morning meeting just finished, we were having a 15-minute catch-up with our WLI coach. I had enthusiastically volunteered to be a guinea pig in my company’s HR intervention program. Thirty of us were divided into groups of three, and we were coached by a WLI coach on how to balance our lives. This was an initiative to make life easier for us, in hopes that the company would roll out similar pilots.
“We’re going to change this,” said our HR head, almost growling at a printout that stated: “According to EY's Global Generation Research, nearly one-third of millennials say that managing their work, family, and personal responsibilities has become more difficult in the past five years.”
12:30 pm: After the mandatory afternoon meditation before lunch, I was back at my desk. Surprisingly, I was feeling more energetic. My colleagues laughed at my nightmare, saying that the see-saw was symbolic of my work-life balance. I didn’t find it funny.
6:15 pm: The mandatory evening scrum is on. It reminds us of the rules to follow once we step out of the office. Honestly, this was getting a little stressful. I quickly took a few deep breaths and paused all my work. This was creating the recommended white space in my day: little pockets of ‘blank’ time to unwind and relax.
10:23 pm: The WLI checklist:
Did you check your work mail after getting home? No.
Did you get dinner two hours before turning in? Yes.
Are you getting support from your family for this initiative? Yes.
(Hmm…The children laughed at me as I filled in the checklists. Also, the husband smugly reminded me about the WLI-imposed 30-minute television curfew, telling me not to watch Netflix. Does this count as support?)
Did you color in your coloring book/listen to music/journal/do some creative activity for a minimum of ten minutes? Yes, I drew a rabbit watching television, while I longed for Netflix.
(Note to self: remember the orientation program. Though this activity might seem simple, it’s critical. Artwork and creativity help to balance the two hemispheres of the brain. We mainly use our left brain at the office and need to stimulate the right brain, too. Balance in both leads to clarity and better productivity.)
Did you get any thoughts (anxious, guilty, bored) about pending office work? Yes. (Guilty about not finishing the report, but promising to finish it tomorrow by noon.)
Did you log in to your social media account or watch television for over 30 minutes? No. (This was the hardest for me. I missed my paparazzi avatar on Instagram, and the Facebook stalking. I momentarily worried that my skills would grow rusty, but brushed it away. Believe you can do it: the first golden rule of WLI. I was sure I could apply it to social media spying as well, albeit a full three months later.)
Three weeks later:
10:15 am: Thankfully, no nightmares. We were a month into the WLI program, and had some introspection to do on this anniversary.
What did you learn?
I realized that I couldn’t live without my social media accounts constantly buzzing, and I need to have more than two cheat meals a week.
I learned that I could get better at managing my time, my priorities, and have enough energy to pursue other activities in life. I learned that small habits are worth investing in: sleep, exercise and meditation, and the right food. My childhood punishments had become my adult goals. I also realized I only missed one deadline the whole month, instead of my average three.
Has your understanding of work-life integration changed?
Yes. Work and life are part of one whole; that is me. I realized it’s like riding a bicycle. I instinctively know when I’m going off balance and which area of my life is losing priority: my children, home, work commitments. And I can quickly regain my balance by making a few corrections.
If you had to advise your colleagues on three things to help them with work-life balance, what would you say?
Consider what balance means for you, take time out to relax, and manage time better.
Do you want to continue with this program?
Yes! If more people change the way we look at work-life balance, we’ll be closer to exploring the potential of our lives. Instead of becoming stressed corporate warriors, we’ll have a more well-rounded personality. I want people to look at me and say, ‘Here’s what a life well-lived looks like.’
There are simple tools to help achieve work-life balance. One of them is the Sudarshan Kriya, taught at the Art of Living Happiness Program. This technique has helped people around the world to be healthier and happier. Experience this for yourself. Find a program near you.
This fictionalized account has been written by Resha Desai, who was inspired by real-life incidents with self, friends, and kin.
This article was originally published by Art of Living, India.
Resha Desai is a student of life, searching for ways to explore the expression of life's anchor.