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Slow Down, Smell the Roses: Let’s Talk About Dangers of Work-Life Imbalance

Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

Unchecked, the 21 st century’s fiery loop of speed and consumption threatens the mind-body-soul state of balance and harmony. When such a state is tinkered with, the resultant work-life imbalance may precipitate mental chaos, bodily discord, and the unrest of the soul. These states further manifest in ways that may seem funny at first, but fatal at last!

Consider this story…

Unopa (not her real name) had left RingaRinga mall, an upmarket all-under-one-roof shopping complex. She found her children where they had been dropped off by the school bus. After picking them and heading back to the parking lot, she realized that she had no recollection of where she had parked her Toyota Mark II Sedan.

She suggested a game of who finds the car first. She would compete with her children, going round the huge mall in opposite directions. As the children waited at a traffic light, they noticed what looked exactly like their car speedily leaving the parking lot. They pursued the sedan. They screamed, shouted, waved; breaking all traffic rules. Behind the wheel of her car, Unopa was on a call that had just come through. You see, family life had taken a toll on her, and the pressure at work wasn’t helping the situation either.

From the side mirror, Unopa noticed two children with their hands waving and running carelessly in the middle of the road. Children of nowadays, she thought to herself as she hang-up on Ntsoso, her ex-husband. Suddenly, it dawned on her. She hit the emergency breaks, her sedan screeching to a dangerous halt. Behind her, speeding motorists hooted and hurled ungodly insults as they swerved their cars to avoid hitting her bumper. Unopa got out of the car, leaving the door open. Then with open arms and tears rolling down her cheeks, she ran back to her terrified children. Traffic slowed down. Mother, son, and daughter collided in an emotionally charged long embrace. Drawing them to her arms, she whispered to herself, I need to slow down. How could she have forgotten about her kids and left them behind?

Unopa is not alone…

The story is told of a young man who turned up at work with a burn on his right ear. When concerned colleagues inquired what had happened, he informed them that he had been ironing his clothes when someone called! Caught between feeling sorry for him and laughing at how ridiculous picking the hot iron box instead of the phone was, the colleagues also noticed that his left ear, too, had been burned. And his explanation? “The idiot called again”.

Whereas such a mishap may be excused as a possible mix-up first, repeating it tells a different story; one of mental chaos and moments lived unconsciously.

Let me bring this closer to home…

I once worked as a cashier in a supermarket. On uncountable occasions, customers would pay for their goods, get their change and receipt, then walk out leaving their shopping behind. I once found a friend and a senior employee scavenging through a litter bin next to a busy bus station. Reason? He had been given change, and instead of discarding the receipt, he discarded several dollars. There is also the case of a lady who calls her lady friend to find out if she had left her phone at her place. And her phone? Exactly the one she was using to call!

Self-awareness as a way of striking a healthy work-life balance

Life happens; fast, then furious, and everything except ourselves seems to come first until we start falling apart. Bouts of momentous out-of-touch(ness) may be warning signs of accumulated fatigue, work-life imbalance, living unconsciously, and not caring to exercise mindfulness. Soon, such bouts if unchecked may develop into anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.

It's been said that sometimes, to quickly get to where you want to be, you need to slow down. Click To Tweet

Each one of us ought to strive to attain a state of balance and harmony within, and without. On this front, increased self-awareness is a vital first step in taking charge of how we think, feel, and act. This positively boosts the kind of energy we possess and project. This skill endows one with the capacity to ‘monitor’ where their thoughts and emotions are leading to (and probably the deceptions that create them).  The mastery of this skill also enables an individual to catch oneself before the unchecked mental and emotional states precipitate into stretched mental disturbance or undesirable behaviour.

Also read: Working From Home Is Good, but Work-Life Balance Is Better

In simple terms, self-awareness is one’s ability to have a 3D view of your inner experiences. There are three main directions to this:

i) To be aware of messages coming from your physical body through the five senses: You may have heard of the phrase …slow down, smell the roses. Yes, when you eat your food, experience its taste. Smell your coffee before you drink it, feel the texture of the bark of a tree when you go for a walk in the forest. Listen to the sounds of the waterfall and the storms in you. Be silent in the moment of awe and wonder as you watch a bird fly.

ii) To be aware of your cognitive processes: This entails being aware of faulty thoughts, and faulty interpretation of reality. It involves catching the mind when it is presenting false evidence as real (f-e-a-r). Being aware of the mental clutter, chatter, and chaos; and countering that with opposing thoughts of clarity and positivity, as the mind is not able to fully focus on two opposing polarities of the same thought.

iii) To be aware of your emotions: Ensure that as emotions come and go, you become an observer, and not necessarily an active participant. Which emotions last longer and why? How are you feeling right now? Can you define the emotional state you are in at this moment, and can you deduce why you’re feeling so? What about your mood and your attitude? Once you can answer these, then learn how to starve those that don’t serve you by denying them attention, and feed those that serve you by attending to them…

It’s been said that sometimes, to quickly get to where you want to be, you need to slow down. It is time to slow down and build your capacity to smell the coffee before you drink it!



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