Nov 05 2021| Leadership | leaders

Having a balanced life

Can you both be at the top of your game and living a balanced life?

by Kareena Hodgson Leaders Consultancy

Can you be both at the top of your game and living a balanced life? The answer to this question is very simple – of course you can. In fact, in our experience at Leaders we consider living a balanced life to be an essential component to staying at the top of your game.

Living a balanced life can seem tricky: it takes self-awareness, self-care and a whole lot of intentionality. ‘That sounds like hard work’, I hear you say, ‘I don’t have the time.’ Let’s unpack this a little more.

So why bother investing your time and energy on pursuing a balanced life?

If we continually operate at speed, working long hours and not understanding how to prioritise, it will inevitably lead us to burn out. The impact of burnout affects our ability to take care of relationships, we feel tired and sleep doesn’t help; irritable, we lack focus, we become forgetful, and we make poor decisions. None of these qualities enhance our lives in the workplace or in our personal lives.

But we can take steps to prevent burnout, keeping us at the top of our game at work and at home. So what is the solution? Rest. 

That’s a four-letter word that might feel underwhelming, but let’s explore it.

This idea of living a balanced life is something that I am actively exploring and pursuing, so here are some of the things I have discovered along the way. Two experts on the topic of ‘rest’ that I have found inspiring and helpful are Bec Heinrich, a growth and transformation leader, and Dr Saundra Dalton Smith, a work-life strategist. Both recognise the fundamental importance of rest and how it is the only way to avoid burnout and be our best selves.

For too long busyness in leadership has been celebrated, rewarded and role-modelled, and rest has, at best, been relegated to an occasional vacation. We need to do better, for ourselves and those who work with us and ‘do life’ with us.

I have long held the view that you work hard and then rest, but that’s the wrong way round. We don’t work to rest, we rest to work. Any type of leadership is demanding, leaders constantly give of themselves and logically we know that if you are giving outwardly, you need to replenish those supplies. You don’t expect to keep spending out of your bank account without gaining funds to replenish what you’ve spent, why would we expect that of ourselves? Working from a place of rest and renewal is far more effective than the opposite.

So now we have the correct mindset, how do we rest? Rest is not just getting a good night's sleep. Bec Heinrich defines rest as ‘the renewing of depleted physical, emotional, mental and spiritual reserves’. Whilst according to Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith, there are seven types of rest:

  • Physical - this includes sleeping and being inactive, as well as restorative activities like yoga or massage.
  • Mental - if you are one of those people who goes to bed and your brain just won’t switch off, or you try to relax on your sofa and end up thinking about all the things you haven’t done, then you need some mental rest. Give yourself regular short breaks at work, set a time every two hours to break away from your workstation, even just to get a glass of water.
  • Emotional - spend a few minutes reflecting on your day, share things that are bothering you with a close trusted friend.
  • Sensory - too much screen time? A noisy environment? Find somewhere quiet, maybe on your own, switch off the radio on the drive home, and don’t, just don’t reach for that phone.
  • Creative - are you a great problem solver, or are you required to think of new ideas all the time? Then you need this type of rest. Go outdoors, appreciate nature, see a play, go to a gallery, read a book - do something that does not require you to solve or create but rather appreciate other’s creations.
  • Social - so you love people! Or maybe you don’t. Either way, being wise about who we spend our time with is critical. Find out what kind of people energise you and what kind of people deplete your energy, then set some boundaries and make healthy choices.
  • Spiritual - Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith describes this type of rest as ‘the ability to connect beyond the physical and mental and feel a deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance and purpose’. Get involved in something greater than yourself, maybe start engaging with something you find meaningful in your community, pray, meditate, find whatever works for you.

So what are you going to do next? What kind of rest do you need to invest in more? Remember it can be small, simple changes.

These are my three takeaways:

  • I am going to take regular short breaks from my laptop and workspace – this is easy for me to achieve because I get a constant reminder. If I am sitting at my desk for too long the automatic office light goes off and I need to move to switch it on again. This could be irritating but I choose to use it as a reminder to get up, move and take a break.
  • I am going to set time aside to read rather than just watch TV.
  • I am going to take a few minutes at the end of the day to stop, reflect and identify something I am grateful for or which has brought me joy that day.

About The Author | Kareena Hodgson

Having achieved a degree in Community and Youth Work, Kareena built her career in the third sector. She was head of Action for Children in Guernsey for over 10 years, working with a wide range of often challenging situations. Kareena is keenly committed to fostering systems and environments that enable people to flourish. This includes substantial experience in team building and leadership, engaging with multiple stakeholders and supporting individuals in creating healthier habits in work and life. The combination of her encouraging style, people-first mindset, creative thinking, aptitude for utilising insights from psychometric surveys and passion for healthy environments is an asset for any team in any sector.

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