When it comes to work/life balanace most of us are playing lip service to the concept. We express any number of excuses as to why we “Don’t have time,” for things such as healthy eating, diet, hobbies, and quality family time. We are out of touch with friends and often do not feel like taking part in the weekend’s social outlets due to being tired and needing to decompress. The fact is that we just aren’t prioritizing enough regarding what is important, and are letting the pace of life sweep us down stream living weekend to weekend. Because of the overload on our stress systems, not taking time for self-care can have an even bigger impact on survivors of complex childhood trauma making them more susceptible to mental health symptoms, drugs use, physical health issues, and all the other complications that are highlighted by the ACE Study, which if you have never seen is a must read.
What’s Really Going On?
Past trauma that is not in a state of being actively addressed continues to live on and rear its ugly head in spite of our denial. Two related ways that this can be subtly evident can be shown through the concept of “Motivated Reasoning,” and “Aversion to Intimacy,” that many trauma survivors either don’t want to acknowledge they are dealing with or are unaware that this is happening at all. For instance, overworking and career growth can often times be justified by the need to make money and provide for yourself and your family. The long hours that are required are tied to promotions, raises, and acknowledgement that might otherwise be missed. These are seemingly worthy reasons in and of themselves. However, work is not an intimate endeavor and is not sufficient in and of itself to provide for our wellness. Often times our best features are brought out by our work and who doesn’t want to be in a place where they are seen at their best, respected, and validated. On the other hand, our family and friends seem to strike that emotional nerve and challenge our emotional well being. They tend to bring out our worst and work our last nerve. In other words, we are not able to hide who we really are in more personal settings. In turn we use the job as a place to escape from intimacy while shrouding our real issues in a logical reasoning, or “Motivated Reasoning,” that justifies our workaholic nature. This kind of example shows how Motivated Reasoning and Aversion to Intimacy go hand in hand especially for trauma survivors.
What to do?
Awareness is the key because without it we can not take an active stance to better our situations and care for ourselves in ways that promote whole health. It is hard to make a concentrated effort to get to the gym or prepare healthy meals, but these actions are essential to our health. It is imperative that we spend quality time with family and friends and engage in hobbies and social outlets if we are to be “happy.” It comes down to a simple math equation. There are only so many hours in the week to get all the essentials done, but if your essentials come down to work and sleep then you will have an entirely out of balance life.
Taking Care of Yourself is Initially Hard, but Pays Off in the Long Run
Prioritizing our health may require us to take a honest look at how we are spending our time and may be a shocking challenge to our motivated reasoning logic and our avoidance of intimacy. The answer to the question of work/life balance comes down to being honest and willing to challenge our current lifestyle. If we agree that health and relationships are essential then we have nowhere left to hide in our work. It will require to you to make some tough choices and take some hard action. You may solicite the support of a friend, counselor, or pastor to push you and hold you accountable. Make no mistake about it though, not dealing with stress at a foundational level is producing more toxicity than you can bear in the long run. The question is are you willing to invest in your health and take the challenge that comes with it, or will you write off the consequences of your lifestyle as unfortunate happenings? Will you take responsibility for your emotional well being and sense of peace in life or will you continue to take on the victim role that was prescribed to you in your trauma? Work life balance is a choice, but not an easy one!