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For many Americans, especially males, self-worth and self-esteem are wrapped around work.
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For many Americans, especially males, self-worth and self-esteem are wrapped around work.

Stressed out?
5 tips to balancing career, family, well-being

By Danielle Komis Palmer
dpalmer@decaturdaily.com · 340-2447

Every day, the pounding continues.

Deadlines. Meetings. Budgets.

You feel that you are being slammed into the ground, buried under a workload that seems unmanageable. You spend longer hours at work, chasing something that is always just out of sight. The most dangerous part about it?

You may not even notice.

Whether you’re a teacher or a lawyer, male or female, young or old, many of us slowly begin to lose ourselves for the sake of our careers. Date night with our spouse or boyfriend evaporates, shopping trips with friends disintegrate and our moments of peace and quiet are nonexistent. Our lives easily are thrown out of balance, setting us up for a fall.

Wrapped up in Work 101

So how do so many of us allow work to become our No. 1 priority?

For many Americans, especially males, self-worth and self-esteem are wrapped around work, said counselor Jewel Euto of Tri-County Counseling in Decatur.

“If my self-worth is coming from my work, then that is where I’m going to put all my emphasis,” she said. “It’s hard to pull away from that if you don’t have something just as fulfilling in your life.”

Also, our performance at work is often measured, while our performance outside work is not. Therefore, many of us take our relationships with spouses, children and friends for granted, Euto explained.

“There’s no yearly evaluation for marriage. It’s the one area of life we don’t get graded on. ... We never sit down in our marriages and say, ‘How are we doing? What do you need from me and what do I need from you?’ ”

Many “Type A” personalities, as well as those with demanding careers, or children of alcoholics who are “the family hero,” often find themselves wrapped up in work, Euto said. They often tend not to notice how much time they’re spending at work, and resent it when it’s brought to their attention.

“They think, ‘I do a great job. What more could you ask for? Everything in this home is paid for. How can I be such a bad person?’ ” Euto said.

Help yourself first

But making time for recreation, family, friends and yourself is critical to the “balancing act” of life. If not, we end up exhausted, irritable, depressed, frustrated — and likely leave a wake of that negativity behind us.

“We think we have to do and do and do and we wake up burnt out,” said life coach Becky Waters of the Spiritual Coaching Center in Ardmore.

The emergency instructions given on airplanes to always “put on your oxygen mask and then help others with theirs next,” should apply to our lives in general, she said.

So how can we get better at helping ourselves and the people around us? Waters and Euto offer some tips.

1. Consciously start making time for the other people in your life. Schedule a regular date night with your spouse and don’t stay at work so late so you can make it to your son’s school play. Call old friends and schedule a lunch date with them rather than eating at your desk.

2. Don’t run from alone time. While many people are afraid of silence, Waters said, you should make the effort to grow accustomed to it. Squeeze in that time alone without outside stimulation of the TV or radio so you can have time to think about your life and whether you’re being fulfilled. Or, use the alone time to meditate, pray or relax.

3. Just do it. If you’ve always wanted to learn to play the violin or wanted to start a business, do it now! “One of these days ...” is never going to arrive unless you make it happen. Many people don’t let themselves stop and think about what they really want out of life because these unfulfilled dreams can be too painful or intimidating to think about. Don’t be a victim of fear — grab your dreams.

4. Go play! Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun. Euto said she knows many people in demanding careers who work hard, but also balance it out by playing hard. “I know surgeons who are race car drivers, or who dive,” she said. “They make sure in their schedule they do this periodically to break that (work) cycle.”

5. Evaluate your life regularly. Waters always evaluates her life on New Year’s Day and on her birthday in June. Choose times that will work well for you. Starting your evaluations on a monthly or weekly basis may work best at first. Notice if you are spending time where you want to be spending it. Also, are you meeting your goals, such as leaving work by 6 each night?

What’s a life coach?

A life coach is not the same as a therapist. Rather, life coaches use a variety of methods to help people evaluate their lives, set goals and reach them. Currently, there is no regulatory standard to become a life coach, though certifications exist through several coaching organizations. To find out more about life coaching, visit Becky Waters’ counseling Web site at www.spiritualcoachingcenter.com.

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