Choose Happiness

Being super busy and stressed seems to be a badge of honor. “Clearly I’m important and in-demand because I have so much going on!” But is it really good? Any health care provider would tell you no. Stress does bad things to a body. And a soul.

Chronic stress is one of the most common health issues in the workplace. It can lead to physical consequences such as hypertension, digestive troubles, chronic aches and pains and heart problems. Chronic stress can also negatively impact mental health because it’s linked to a higher risk of depression, anxiety and insomnia. Ugh. No thanks.

So how do we cope? How do we balance what we have to do with what we want to do?

We need to approach balance in a practical way. The small things matter. Being more balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval in your life. It means integrating what we need and want in a way that can accomplish both. I prefer the terminology work-life integration or work-life harmony. It’s a matter of making everything function together and fitting it all into your life context, not necessarily balancing them.

In fact, I have stopped striving for “balance” at all. My life is imbalanced. And that’s OK because I’m happy. I’m not striving for a level see-saw. I am trying to do well in both my professional and personal lives and be a happy person. And it works for me. I’m happiest when I’m right where I am, appreciating what I am doing. Writing this blog post. Talking to a student. Preparing dinner. Helping my daughter with homework. I’m not looking ahead, not looking behind. I’m not thinking about other things or worrying my life away. These moments are my life. I love my moments. And I love my life.

It’s up to us as individuals to take control and responsibility for the type of lives that we want to lead. If we don’t design our own lives, someone else will design them for us by default. If we simply react, we give others the power to shape our days and use our time. Again, no thanks.

Be intentional about your priorities and how you spend your time. A few tips…

  • Don’t overschedule, especially in your personal life, so you have downtime. Your brain needs time to relax!
  • You cannot be all things to all people, and you cannot please everyone all of the time. Accept that now and save yourself countless hours of anguish.
  • Learn how to say no. It is extremely important. Set (and maintain) boundaries.
  • Unplug sometimes. You don’t need to be accessible constantly, and social media is a time & energy sucker.
  • Schedule time for yourself. Put it on your calendar so that it is incorporated into your day. Do something you really enjoy. Go for a run. Draw. Sit outside. Write. Take a bubble bath. Whatever! Your mind will be a little more refreshed and a little sharper by the end of it.
  • Organize yourself – find the way that works for you. Get ideas from others but figure out the system that is best for your life and your preferences.
  • Use technology to help you remember things and clear mental space for what matters.
  • Accept imperfection. It’s inevitable, so embrace it.
  • Prioritize ruthlessly. So many things take time but matter very little.
  • Practice gratitude. When you focus on what you have and what you are grateful for, you are focusing on the positive.
  • Know yourself and what works for you to de-stress.
  • Take care of yourself. Sleep. Eat well. Exercise. If your physical self is off, everything else probably is too.
  • Celebrate successes and move past disappointments. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Learn what you can and move on.
  • Life is short – avoid energy vampires. You know who they are! They drain you and bring you down. You don’t need that.

Happiness is the journey, not the destination. You do not “arrive at” balance or happiness. There is no point where you just say, “OK I’m here! This is happiness. I’m done.” If you’re unhappy along the way, do you really think getting to a specific place or point in time will automatically turn that around? Clearly not.

Remember – it’s your life. Live it your way.

Until you read again…

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