Ah, the elusive "work life balance."

 Sounds like a fairy-tale that we might not ever achieve. Work life balance sounds like this concept that you have to find the perfect 50/50 balance between work and life, as if the two should be totally separate, or as if we should enjoy work but only enjoy our time out of work. Yes, millennials have been classified as stressed out workaholics (well, we kind of are) and we have a hard time ‘balancing’ or harmoniously integrating work with our other pursuits in life. I would like to introduce to you a new (or not so new) term: work life harmony and work life integration.

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Work life harmony is the idea that you can arrange your life in such a way that you’re not always trying to achieve the perfect balancing act. Even if you use ‘work life balance’ it’s not the end of the world; however, the word harmony comes off as this less forced, more flowy concept (to me at least). Nevertheless, we all aim for that one big goal- a meaningful existence where work doesn’t consume our lives yet we find a sustainable connection with our work that doesn’t burn us out. I just like to use work life integration and work life harmony interchangeably. However you say it, here is some insight as to what this beautiful concept looks like:

Identify your priorities

To live our lives with full consciousness and a life out of intent, we must decide what our priorities are. Taking into account the type of work you do, how involved you have to be, your job/career satisfaction, and how much you DESIRE to be involved in your work. In the same regard, take into account your life outside of your work- how much time is involved dedicating to your family and friends? How much time do you want to dedicate to them or your own hobbies and interests?

Focus on being well-rounded

In order to live a life that we look forward to each and every day, you must be mindful of your identified priorities and what steps you can take to live a more integrated, harmonious life. In many regards, quality trumps quantity. Instead of spreading yourself too thin in trying to take on new relationships, hobbies, interests, jobs, etc.- focus on going deeper, not wider. Take on your work with more passion if it means something to you. Learn to say NO to the things that do not inspire you or bring you happiness. Don’t feel obligated to commit to everything that comes up. You will find that although it may be hard at first, it feels like a million pounds lifted from your chest when you say no to something that doesn’t serve you and start to focus more on the quality things in your life. This will make you a better person which will in turn help you to positively face the world with more energy.

Prioritize your work experience

Do you find yourself working in a toxic environment? Do you find that your co-workers just don’t share your same values and beliefs? Are you surrounded by co-workers that are perpetuating negativity, gossiping, and creating unnecessary drama? Or perhaps you are striving to make healthier choices but the work environment is filled with not the best choices- donuts, sitting for hours at a time, etc. Whatever it may be, is there something you can do to lessen the time spent with co-workers (say no to lunch?) or change your interactions (promote friendliness over gossiping). If you find that the environment is harming you physically, emotionally, and mentally, maybe it is time to consider changing positions within your company if possible or leaving altogether to prioritize working with people that lift you up and inspire you.

Turn frustrations into opportunities

We may see everything happening to us or at us- for example, we’re always stuck at that annoying red light on our way to work, we have to take some work home, your kids get sick, you fight with your spouse- every day life inconveniences. How do you turn these misfortunes to work in your favor?

Turn that long bus/train/car ride to work into a growing time; listen to a podcast or audio book. Bond with your spouse after an argument- maybe this argument gave you insight into having a solidified date night to spend more uninterrupted time together. Had to take some work home? Listen to classical music while you’re working and follow the 42/18 rule (work 42 minutes, rest for 18). Life will just be so much more pleasant when you learn to just face what is and turn moments into beautiful opportunities.

xx, Erika

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Mondays, you’ve been on my not my favorite list for so many years. After a fun, relaxing (or whatever type of weekend you had), getting back to the routine can make some people have legit Sunday night anxiety. Well, today on this fabulous Monday, I’m here to share with you how you can turn Mondays into your new favorite thing!

Mondays Mean Money

Finding things that make you grateful about your work will help to take some weight off the Monday morning grind. Your job provides you the means to live and enjoy your life. Focus on what you can do today at work that will make your Monday awesome- your job allows you to pay your bills, feed your family, etc.  Sure, your job and work may not be happy- nothing is perfect- but it’s your effort and beliefs that count. The more things you find to be grateful about relating to your job, you’ll look forward to your work, which in turn might help Mondays suck less.

Mondays Are a Chance to Restart

I love planning my week- planning out my workouts and recipes. I look forward to doing the things that make me FEEL good. I look forward to doing things besides just work and watch TV during the week- what are some things you can add to make your week something you look forward to?

Don’t Just Live For The Weekends

The trap so many fall into. It is a cycle that always robs us of the joy we deserve to have each and every moment, despite what day of the week it is. Prep your mind to love and enjoy each day- it may take time, but having a limiting mindset and beliefs around the weekend/week is most likely not contributing to your happiness. Living for those 48 hours each week is a life of slavery- set yourself free of that. Don’t just wait until you’re done with school or get a new job to be happy- you’re putting off your happiness instead of enjoying the day now. Looking for ways you can improve everyday is more constructive and positive way to give each day newfound energy.

xx, Erika

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It’s summer time! Time to slow down, take a vacation, enjoy the sun, go to brunches on rooftops (that’s me at least!). Although the weather is warm and we have may more down time, that doesn’t necessarily correlate with an improved mood of overall happiness. If we rely solely on external factors to ensure our happiness, we are doing ourselves a disservice- no matter what time of year. These are simple things that you can do TODAY if you are feeling a little slumpy (I just made up a word) and need a pick-me-up!

Internal Locus of Control

Fostering a greater sense of an internal locus of control- a sense that you are responsible for how you feel- gives you greater joy in life. Why? Because instead of just being the victim of what’s happening to you (external locus of control), you realize that yes, things will happen to me, but I’m in control of how I react to it.

Put Down the Technology

The social media trap-spending hours mindlessly scrolling. I’ve been very aware of not falling down that rabbit hole since I spend a good amount of time online for my business. If you wake up and scroll your feed in bed before you start your day, or you lose your whole lunch hour watching YouTube videos, or you spend hours at night on your phone and watching TV at the same time (multi-tasking- not!), and you feel like you’re losing so much valuable time, take a step back. Assess how much time you are spending just “checking in.” Keep track of it for a week and I’m sure you’ll be very surprised. Sure, we all need to catch up on social media and it does have its benefits- but can you use some of that time and put it towards something productive and/or fun? A date night, a workout, cooking, dancing around your house while you clean- turn the phone off or put it on airplane mode for two hours a few times a week. You’ll survive. I promise.

Do Something for Someone Else

It feels damn good to be giving – to give to someone without expecting something in return. I love spoiling friends with little gifts and surprises from time to time. Some people may say it’s selfish to give if it makes you feel good- but hey, I’d rather be selfish in that manner than actually doing something selfishly that won’t benefit others. I had a freak out attack ordering a drink from the Starbucks drive through because a spider was crawling into my car through my open window- the Starbucks employee gave me a free drink for my troubles. I felt great about getting a free drink, but I’m sure that employee felt even better doing a kind gesture to a girl in distress (that spider was too close for comfort). I donated to my friend’s charity without even being asked to- because it feels good to give.

xx, Erika

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Burnout is a hot topic, for good reason. It’s fair to say that our always-connected work environments contribute to this burn out. Checking our work emails and messages at night or first thing in the morning (even waking up in the MIDDLE of the night to check!) takes you on the fast lane to feeling burnt out. Fuzzy boundaries make for unclear expectations for employers and employees alike.

When you’re always on, you feel it- physically, emotionally, mentally. You are become exhausted, and that exhaustion becomes your norm. Here are some tips to be proactive to prevent burnout:

Experience life for what it is

It’s important to have a bigger picture in life. However, nowadays there are so many different factors and unpredictable twists and turns in our journey that can really stress us out. Nothing is really stable or secure, although some people may perceive some positions as ‘secure.’ It’s hard to imagine where we will be 10 years from now, let alone two years from now. Just roll with the punches and take every experience for what it is- don’t expect to have it all figured out because you never will.

Be intentional

Do you find yourself busy but not productive? It’s a curse from us millennials. To be busy looks deceivingly good. Taking on all the tasks and projects ourselves makes us look like the heroes; however, don’t mistake busy for productive. Be intentional with what you decide to focus on, what your next moves are, and how you rest.

Focus on your quality of sleep

Do you have that little red light coming from your DVR player?  Is your cell phone screen changed to night shift? Is your cell phone on airplane mode the whole night? Let’s face it- most of us don’t get enough sleep, or better yet- great quality of sleep.  Create a space of darkness, prevent exposure to bright lights and screens at least one hour before bed, as bright lights can interrupt our circadian rhythm.

Don't let the feelings of not having enough time get to you

We all know the “I don’t have enough time” line. Sure- we can work til our faces turn blue or until the cows come home, but that is really necessary? We simply are not carving out the time for self-care, because it may be perceived as selfish. How can you expect for your light to burn brightly if you don’t take care of yourself? Creating a balance- however that looks like for you is crucial to making time for things that make your soul feel good. Stop letting that phrase sneak into your day to day- if you don’t make the time to take care of yourself now, it may negatively impact you down the road.

xx, Erika

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Stress! Work-life balance is increasingly non-existent as in today’s world we are an “always on” work culture. The physical ramifications of this imbalance may cause changes in:

  • Physical comfort (fatigue, compromised health)
  • Mental signs (forgetfulness, loss of focus)
  • Emotions (irritability, lack of confidence, apathy)
  • Behaviors (restlessness, increased alcohol consumption, insomnia)

As you may know, stress is not new for humans- it served a purpose back in our beginnings. However, in recent decades, stress as evolved from life and death issues to much less threatening concepts- most of the time, it is caused by expectations. The easiest way to reduce stress is to streamline your level of organization. Tackle your to-do list! By doing this, you will organize your life, reduce your stress, and improve your mood.

If you feel like your to-do list is never-ending and it has control over you, it’s time you take charge so you can clear your mind and reduce your stress. You don’t have to stop everything to be organized, you just have to START. You’ll never really find the time to organize, you need to make it happen! Here are some tips to help you find a place to start:

Schedule your day the night before

Write down six things you need to do the next day and rank them in order of importance. The first thing on your list should be the first thing you do in the morning- no matter what. From there, move on to list item number two. The least important tasks on the list should be numbered four-six; if you don’t get to them, they can be rolled over to the next day if needed.

Invest in a planner

I’ve gone old-school and I have an agenda/planner that I regularly write in. If you’re more into technology, you can maintain a to-do list on your phone and use your phone calendar. I use a combination of both- for example, if I have a doctor’s appointment, I’ll mark it down in my planner and my phone calendar. I find that having a planner helps keep my day organized.

Minimize Distractions

I follow the 42/18 rule- Out of an hour, I will dedicate 42 minutes to 100% focus on a task that needs to get done. I can’t sit for too long, so I will set a 42 minute timer. Once it goes off, I can relax a bit, stretch, check my social media, eat a snack- recharge my batteries. I won’t even look at my phone during those 42 minutes of work time.

Set Your Own Deadlines

A task can go on until the end of time if I don’t set a deadline. I really don’t want to clean out my trunk and I have that task on the back-burner so it will NEVER get done. This week, I decided that my trunk MUST be cleared out by the end of week. Having a deadline replaces the “I’ll get to it sometime” mentality- which we all know we won’t if we don’t put some urgency behind it.

Catch Up on Sleep and Rise Early

I’m SUPER guilty of this. I will go to sleep late and wake up not as early as I’d like. It’s all about making this a consistent routine. What you get done everyday matters more than what you do once in a while. This is an important habit to establish as I definitely feel more productive if I get up early and have some quiet time before my day starts.

xx, Erika

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I had my first panic attack when I was seventeen years old at a concert. Soon after, I started getting more intense and frequent panic attacks towards the end of high school and in college. It go so bad at one point I didn’t want to leave the house.

Basically, when we are in full-blown panic mode, our sympathetic nervous system is activated- digestion slows down and your heart rate and blood pressure increase. I saw several psychologists on/off for years, up until several years ago. I can comfortably say that I did not necessarily “grow out” of panic attacks, but  I just developed strategies to deal with them and have been working on shifting my mindset. I am still susceptible to a panic attack of course- however, they are far and few now due to several techniques I’ve been implementing over the years that have turned sheer overwhelm to more of a “You got it!” attitude. Here’s how I do it:

Practice mindfulness

I sit down for 10 minutes every morning before my day starts and I close my eyes. I don’t try to stop thinking, I just aim to be aware of all the sounds around me, how my body is positioned in the chair, my breathing. I will count my breathes and draw my focus inwards. I use the Headspace app for a guided and short meditation. I find that this has added tremendous value in my life. Instead of reacting to everything that happens to me, I take some time to set my day off right, take some deep breaths,  and soothe not only my brain but my soul.

Practice gratitude

Along with my guided meditations, I take time afterward for an extra few minutes to think about all that I’m grateful for. I’ve added this at the end of my meditation everyday because I feel like all too often, we get caught up in wishing/wanting for things to be different in our lives. I truly feel that I am much happier and fulfilled when I do take the time to realize all that I’m thankful for and I stop thinking so much about what I don’t have yet.

Take a break

Take a walk, go to a private place and take some deep breaths- remove yourself from the stressful situation if you can.  There is evidence to suggest even taking a quick walk outside can boost your emotional, physical, and mental state.  Getting that new perspective even just from a walk can do wonders. You’ll likely find that you can accomplish more in less time and with less frustration once you’ve allowed yourself a break.

Make a plan

I find that I can go to sleep much better if I write down everything I need to do in my planner before I go to bed. Having this piece of mind  does so much for me because I take everything out of my head and put it onto paper, where it can no longer bother me during sleep. I have also realized planning too much in advance for certain things increases my anxiety, so I take it one day at a time for the little stuff. For the major stuff, it’s necessary to plan things out as needed.

Change your mindset

Going from drowning and panic mode to a mode of empowerment and a “I got this” attitude while implementing the tools I mentioned above is so powerful. I find myself in small bouts of overwhelm everyday (I’m not immune to it!) but I can definitely say I can handle it much better. These simple strategies will help you calm the physical and mental responses you have to overwhelm so you can turn overwhelm into opportunity.

xx, Erika

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The way you set up your week will have either a positive or negative impact on you. It may sound daunting to have to do a ton of preparation at the start of your week, but what I’ve found is that the more prepared I am, the better and smoother my week goes.

1. Get all groceries/plan all meals of the week.

To make my life easier, I stick to the same breakfasts, snacks, and lunch ideas for the most part on a weekly basis. It limits the mental effort and time required to look up brand new recipes each week. I play around more with my dinners and will cook on average two big meals a week to last me a few days. I look up two recipes on Sunday and will add those ingredients to my list of breakfast/lunch/snack ingredients. My grocery list rarely changes.

2. Plan 10 minutes of stillness

I have made this part of my routine every day. If you feel like you don’t even have 10 minutes, then you really need those 10 minutes. I have used the headspace app; you can just set a timer for 10 minutes and sit in a quiet space before you start your day, go for a 10 minute walk outside- however you can get in 10 minutes just for YOU, do it. You can just be aware of your breath, pray, meditate, write in a gratitude journal- whatever you feel is best. This has been the MOST important thing I’ve added to my routine that has reduced my anxiety.

3. Schedule in your exercises

It has to be a priority. If you don’t, it won’t happen. That’s why people fall off so easily- it’s because it isn’t a priority. Schedule it in, tell a friend to check in with you, go to a class, join an accountability group- do something that you can implement into your routine. Whether it’s walking around the neighborhood, following a home program, going to the gym- you have to find something REALISTIC that you will stick to. If you’re not a gym person but you got a gym membership because it’s what everyone is doing, but you prefer to squeeze in 25-30 minute workouts at home or vice versa, find it, stick to it, and schedule it.

4. Clean up your space

Who is guilty of leaving their laundry in the bin all week, or having that chair that gets all the laundry instead of putting it away? I find that if I take the 10 minutes to put my laundry away, I am oddly more at peace with my space. Your space plays a role into your daily performance (occupational therapy facts); organize your space, be proud of it, sell some of your junk or give it away. Make your space welcoming!

5. Stick to your priorities

Don’t neglect date night with your spouse, girls night, yoga class, or anything that makes you happy. I’ve learned that just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you are productive. Do your work, but schedule in FUN time- this could be that Friday night date (phones off!), annual girls trip (I gotta thank Laura, Andrea, Val for that one), read a book, take a bath, etc. We have to take care of ourselves and nourish our relationships.

xx, Erika

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