Work life balance – How do I achieve it?

A poor work life balance can be addressed through psycho-spiritual considerations as well as renegotiation.

work life balance

The signs of poor work life balance are feeling overloaded, taken for granted, and drained. Working parents may become a little detached from the children and feel what they do is not good enough. So what causes this state of affairs and what can you do about it?

Cultural change and the work life balance

Until a few years ago professional workers who were obliged to take work home, set aside time there in order to get the work done when it would not impinge upon their personal life.

Since then technology has become more sophisticated. The “2015 Workplace Flexibility Study.” was based on a survey in the USA. It found that 64% of managers expect their employees to be reachable outside of the office in their personal time. This trend has now reached Europe.

The lack of work life balance becomes more acute for parents, particularly mothers. This is because of the increase in their numbers in the workforce, together with the unwitting expectation that they will continue to shoulder most of the responsibilities of child-rearing and domesticity.

Self-care and the work life balance

Most of us know only too well that looking after oneself is crucial for health and well-being. This means time to get a proper night’s rest – doctors recommend 7-8 hours: time to have a little regular physical exercise which helps to relieve stress: and time to renew batteries through being on one’s own and having meaningful contact with family and friends.

These sound like the bare minimum for self-care. Yet, even these are under threat from the office email demanding some immediate response. How can one switch off one’s mind from the demands of the world if one’s smart phone is always switched on? And even if you do turn it off, you are likely to regularly turn it back on just to see if anything has turned up whilst it was off.

“Technology has expanded the 9-to-5 workday into the 24/7 workday, which has made it extremely difficult for employees to have personal time”
(Dan Schawbel, Founder of WorkplaceTrends.com)

Addictive technology and the work life balance

When people use this technology at work it can be adopted for their interests at home e.g. social media and use of search engines. Often a lot of this is in some way work-related e.g. professional networking, and information gathering. There is thus a blurred line between work responsibilities and personal life. The frequent use of Twitter, Facebook, Google etc at home can be so habit-forming as to even be seen as an addiction.

Fear and the work life balance

The fear is in missing something important through not being constantly connected. What if a crisis occurred and they couldn’t contact me? Or something happening which I feel I need to know about?

Often the fear is partly rational with some element of exaggeration. Is it really the end of the world if you don’t respond to that enquiry during unsocial hours? Or to that international customer from another time zone? Unless you are on call and working for an emergency service, you are not going to respond to a text message during the middle of the night – or are you?

An underlying unreasonable fear may be one of catastrophic failure, making obvious mistakes, not meeting people’s expectations, and being criticized. Why not replace this desire for faultlessness with being “good enough.” After all no one is perfect.

Negotiation with the boss about work life balance

Re-negotiating boundaries should not be considered as negative. Rather, it is a way of affirming something about one’s own self-worth and is a path to sanity. Saying ‘no’ to unreasonable demands can be an important first step in bargaining. One compromise deal might be not taking the work smart phone on holiday but giving your private phone number just to the boss on the understanding you may be called only in a dire emergency.

A reasonable boss, who values your work, may be willing to do a deal. If there is no organisational policy regarding a general flexibility for employees’ work life balance, this may be just a private understanding only with you. Such a deal may or may not be at the cost of reducing your further advancement within the company.

Other managers, however, may be intransigent and refuse to compromise. And so it may not be possible to strike a compromise in favour of a better work life balance. In such a scenario you possibly will need to consider looking for another job where the need for worker flexibility is better understood and where work goals better resonate with you. However this could mean having to accept lower pay.

Staying attuned spiritually and the work life balance

One way of dealing with our fears is to get some perspective on them by getting in touch with the higher dimension to life.

With late night and Sunday opening, modern secular life doesn’t allow for any special day of the week. Yet, according to the biblical legend, even God rested on the seventh day of creation! Perhaps we do need permission to keep one day for ourselves. A chance, without the ubiquitous smart phone, to get out into the fresh air, connect to nature, or listen to music. This creates space for personal reflection focusing on the deeper things of life: considering what really matters.

Look at what the world’s religions teach about the importance of meditation and prayer. Such spiritual disciplines calm the spirit and help you focus less on mistakes and the bad things and instead remember what is going right and what it means to you.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Socrates)

Swedenborg on the work life balance

Spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg wrote about the religious significance of the seventh day of the week. According to him, people with inner religious faith want regular time to devote themselves to getting in touch with their image of God. This means reflecting on spiritual lessons and allowing oneself to be led by the ‘Divine within’ rather than by the demands of the world. In so doing they are said to find the tranquillity of ‘peace that passes all understanding’

Copyright 2015 Stephen & Carole Russell-Lacy

Stephen Russell-Lacy is author Heart, Head & Hands (http://spiritualquestions.org.uk/2012/10/heart-head-hands-ebook/)

Addiction – A form of spiritual slavery?

Addiction means that when you crave something, you engage in habitual self-destructive activity driven by obsessive thought. This happens in drug dependency, alcoholism, compulsive gambling, and compulsive eating. We can extend this idea to include any activity that we have repeatedly failed to eliminate from our lives and that is detrimental to inner well-being – both our own and those around us. There are many hidden and subtle forms of addiction. We can become driven by a compulsion in just about any area of life. Examples include watching porn when you crave sexual excitement, verbal cruelty when you crave expressing resentment, or when you crave power or success at any cost.

External force in addiction

We subjectively sense these patterns of thought and behaviour as aspects of our own being. However they can also be seen as learned behaviours due to external events. For example if we receive abuse, we are likely to become abusive or associate ourselves with an abuser. If we experience sarcasm, we are likely to become sarcastic or associate with those who are. None of us can escape the results of negative life experience.

“We don’t want to eat that second piece of pie. We don’t want to snipe at our children or spouse with snide comments. We don’t want to work overtime every day, leaving us with no family time…. But these good impulses to escape the addiction are dwarfed by the power of the possessing forces.” (E. Kent Rogers, Co-Founder of the Loving Arms Mission)

addictionAnd so a key element of addictive craving is when one’s desire has become a slave to something external to oneself. If things have got as bad as this then it amounts to enslavement: a dependency which is often so subtle that we fail to distinguish our own will from that of the external force.

Steps to Freedom from addiction

According to this idea that external forces are wedded to one’s sense of self and will, there is no chance of getting rid of them without a great deal of help.

After many failed attempts to free yourself from your craving, you probably have come to realise that you have no power over your addiction. If your own will has been hijacked you have no chance of yourself of making any change.

According to the Twelve Steps Recovery Program, the first crucial step towards freedom is to admit you are powerless over the force of the addiction and that as a result your life has become unmanageable.

The divine spirit of healing for addiction

We need somehow to access something pretty powerful to rescue us from the habits which have taken over our life causing us such misery. This is where a spiritual approach may be said to come in. It encourages a belief that a power greater than oneself can restore one to sanity and asks us to decide to turn our will and our lives over to the care of what we understand to be the divine spirit of healing.

Lies in addiction

In his book “12 Miracles Of Spiritual Growth”, E. Kent Rogers suggests that the addictive force tells us lies in which we come to believe.

“I don’t have a problem”

“The addiction or habit is who I am”

“I can overpower the addiction on my own”

“I cannot change”

He points out that the lies can be seen to be unreasonable. The first two are mutually exclusive and the second two also contradict one another.

Alternative ways of thinking might be to say that you do have a problem in so far as you have given your life over to destructive forces within you, but you yourself are not the problem. Only with the help of the power of the divine spirit of healing which is greater than yourself, can you be set free.

Depiction of addiction

In the book, Rogers recounts the biblical story about a man called Legion, someone not in his right mind who lived alone among the tombs. He had often been chained hand and foot but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. Night and day he would cry out and, against his own will and better judgement, cut himself with stones. This man was enslaved to an evil force; a pawn to their destructive whims. There could be no better depiction of addiction as a living hell. When he saw Jesus Christ from a distance he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. And was healed of the evil spirits said to possess him.

In our current era, where scientific thought is the dominant way of thinking, it is difficult for us to relate to the idea of evil spirits, let alone demonic possession. However, are there not spirits of the past living within and animating us? Are these not the external forces that take over the will of the addict?

According to this way of thinking the spirits caused the man to abuse himself with stones even as he moaned and cried out in agony. Likewise, we moan with anguish as we watch ourselves sink further into self-destructive behaviour. Like Legion we live as if alone even when in the presence of others, feeling isolated from them and not making meaningful connections. Like Legion, who lived among the tombs, we also are amongst the dead in the sense that we when are possessed by addiction, we experience our own spiritual death and decay.

But like Legion, can we not find healing from spiritual slavery by asking for help from a divine healing power greater than ourselves?

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems