So, as those of you who have been following me for a while know, I spent the first part of this year travelling around New Zealand. What a FANTASTIC way to kick the year off with new experiences, adventures, new friends, new levels of confidence and a deeper understanding of myself.
But, as we are all aware, sadly, money doesn’t last forever! I had to return to the UK and back to work at some point.
Let me tell you, it has been somewhat of a shock to the system to be back in a full time job with an hour and a half commute, spending the whole working day in an office in front of a computer screen looking at numbers. But, it’s all good because this new job is going to fund my next adventure: getting my own place in Shrewsbury! (More on that in another post.)
Incredibly early mornings (a 5.45am alarm – groan!), a good portion of the day spent driving to and from work, and feeling really rather tired by the time I get home make it hard to achieve the kind of balance I want. I am sure we all know the struggle: fitting in work, exercise, cooking, chores and personal down time is tricky!
So, I have decided that I am going to be realistic about my lifestyle, look at my absolute non-negotiables and ease up on the rest.
Spending time in nature. I literally crave nature, and especially so now that I can’t just strike off on a hike at whatever time of day I want. Fortunately, my commute is a nice drive through the scenic, agricultural countryside of Shropshire and my office is surrounded by trees; but, although looking out of a (car or office) window at decent view is nice, it’s no substitute for physically being outside in nature. So I absolutely make time to get outside either by stopping off in the woods for a 15-30 minute walk on my way home, taking a short hike into the fields or woods in the early evening, or just being in my garden. I try to do this every day, even if it is just letting my bare feet feel the grass for five minutes, letting my toes wiggle free.
Fresh air, sunshine (or rain, whatever!), greenery, bird song and movement do absolute WONDERS for my spirit and happiness after a long day inside. I am not unhappy in my work, but being away from people and computers is vital for me to re-centre myself.
There is always a little bit of magic in nature. Last week I went for a walk down an overgrown tractor track, infrequently used by humans. Passing by ripening wheat fields shimmering gold with a spattering of red poppies, I happened upon a fox. A big, strong, deep red, magnificent looking fox. And in those 2 seconds of us locking eyes before Mr Fox scarpered, my whole day was uplifted to another level. It was no longer just about work and feeling tired from work.
Spending time reading, and writing my blog. This is easier said than done, especially when I am tired in an evening, but reading is one of my favourite things to do and I will not compromise on it. I try to find time every single day to read either in my work breaks, in the garden at home, or snuggled in bed. Writing is my creative outlet but I often let it fall by the wayside. I am allowing myself one evening a week and some time at weekends to forget everything else and focus solely on writing.
Spending time with friends. Connection, communication and having a laugh are so important. We are all busy people, but I will always meet up – perhaps not as often as I’d like, but as often as we can.
Taking work breaks. I will not risk my sanity or raise my stress levels by pushing myself to work more than I should, or more than I am getting paid for. I have done that enough times in the past, and it wasn’t even noticed by my managers! Some days things don’t always go smoothly, but no matter how busy it is, breaks are vital. Respect yourself enough to give yourself a break.
Moving. Walking and some yoga stretches are things that make me feel so good after spending sooo looong sitting down. Already, all this sitting has started to affect my body (twice this week my glute muscle has seized up and gone painfully tight), so I try to move as much as I can. I do a few warm up exercises in the bathroom a few times a day, I go for short walks in my breaks when I can (to look at the trees outside!), I stretch it out regularly whilst sitting in my chair, and I exercise in an evening.
However, let’s be realistic here…
I wish I could be one of those amazingly committed people who get up an hour early to jump around and get all sweaty, but I am just not. Managing to have a decent breakfast is enough of a trial for me! When getting up at 5.45am anyway, I am certainly not getting up an hour earlier to exercise. Neither am I going to spend so much of my precious free time every evening working out. It feels good to exercise every day of the week and I know it is vital for my health and longevity, but I don’t want my daily routine to be work – exercise – cooking dinner and chores – bed every day of my week, just so I can get my flattest abs and shapeliest legs. Frankly, I’d rather have a slightly flabby gut and time to chill out. So, I am compromising on this and committing to 4 hours exercising over 7 days (anything extra I manage will be a bonus).
Eating super healthily and prepping all my meals. If I was rich and someone could present me with green juices, smoothies and delicious veggie-rich meals on command, I’d happily live a perfectly healthy lifestyle (with some added dark choccie and the occasional bag of crisps). But, I am not. So, there are some days when I will hastily pull together a less than optimum lunch in my sleepy morning rush, or have spaghetti hoops on toast for dinner.
Having everything in perfect order. My life, my house, my blog, my appearance, whatever. If I don’t get up early enough and have to eat toast in the car, so what. If some days I am too tired to get my hair perfectly coiffed, so what. If the house hasn’t been cleaned quite as soon as it needed to be, so what. If I don’t manage to write as many blog posts as I’d like, oh well. Where’s the crime?
The point I am making is that going to work is unavoidable for most of us and the day only has so many hours. Yet, it is possible to create a lifestyle that is fulfilling and happy. It won’t always be 100% perfect and compromises will have to be made, but that’s why it is important to really examine what is important to you and ensure there is time for things you really enjoy. Quality of life is EVERYTHING, and that means you can’t necessarily do everything, and you certainly can’t be perfect at everything.
That might sound depressing, but I actually think it is liberating! I could easily get stressed out trying to do a great job at work all day, do an hours exercise each night to get my perfect bod, spend ages preparing the best meals so my body is healthy as well as everything else, but what is life really about? Happiness. The present moment. Balance.
Compromise doesn’t mean failure…
For example, in order to find a happy balance, I accept that because I only have so many hours in an evening I will have to compromise some time exercising in order to write my blog, and vice versa. I accept that I will have to compromise some ‘living in the moment’ freedom to schedule my week and allot time for the different things I want to do and achieve.
Compromise doesn’t mean failure. I think that’s key. These days we expect so much of ourselves and struggle under the burden of trying to be perfect at everything, punishing ourselves when we can’t do it. All we are doing is filling our lives with stress. Compromise means finding what really works FOR YOU. I might not get washboard abs but I will have time for creativity, reading, being with friends and resting. And that makes me HAPPY. And that certainly isn’t failing… that is the very definition of success to me.
How do you find balance in your life? I think it is an ever evolving process and it is always great to learn from other people. Let me know below!