5 Ways to Balance Work and Leisure

Balance. An ideal we all strive for but seem to miss. Some of us may be struggling with ways to cut down work time and practice relaxation methods, and others (me) have too much leisure time and need to incorporate more productive days into our lives.

I thought this topic was important to talk about because balance is key to a successful and healthy life. When we don’t have balance, our lives are not being lived to the fullest.

Why is balance important? Simply put, picture a balancing scale. One side of the scale is work and the other side is leisure. When you put more energy into only one side of the scale, that side falls down. Take this collapse of the scale personally, because it’s your life. Taking a job or work seriously is a great quality to have, however, having your work consume you can cause you to burnout. Unfortunately, burn out does not just impact your work life, it impacts you as a person, your home life, relationships, etc. By focusing most or all of your attention on work, other parts of life, which need attention, are left in the dark.

On the other side of the scale, we have leisure time. I am currently a part-time grad student and am not working (for now). Because of this, I find myself doing a whole lot of nothing most days. I believe it is crucial to live an exciting, yet disciplined life, and I am bothered that I am not following my own rule. I have all the time in the world to do whatever I want and do as many productive things as possible, but I don’t. I am procrastinating my school work, and even letting my writing pile up on the blog platforms I write for. Now that I realize that this is an issue, it is now a goal of mine to work on balance, and it can be a goal of yours too.

Just follow these 5 steps!

1. Leave work at work.

Do not bring your work home with you. When your clock out time strikes, its time to leave your work at your desk, turn off the lights and head home. You don’t have to worry about work until your clock in time the next day. Go home, have dinner, go to the gym, or go see some friends and just focus on you. By bringing your work home with you, you are causing yourself additional stress that is not needed or necessary.

2. Listen to your body.

Your body is going to tell you what you need whether you like it or not. If you over-work yourself, your body is going to let you know that it is time to chill out. On the other hand, if you are partaking in too much leisure time, your body can show you that it’s time to start doing some physical activity, or you may feel groggy and lack energy most days, and that may happen because you are not letting your body have what it needs such as, healthy foods, fresh air, vitamin D, or physical activity. When your body is ready to tell you what it needs, LISTEN.

3. Make time for you.

Whether you are working too much or doing a lot of nothing, you need to make time for yourself. If you’re overworked, maybe a walk outside, or a nice day at the spa would be beneficial. Do something to help you relax and regain your thoughts. If you have too much leisure time, make time for yourself to do something productive. Clean your house or apartment, get a bunch of those annoying errands done, or pick up a new hobby. Complete tasks that can help you get organized, feel accomplished, and feel as though you are fulfilling your goals.

4. Hangout with friends or family.

For those of you who work a little too much, hanging out with friends or family is an extremely beneficial way to relax and get your mind off of anything that is weighing on you. They can be a great distraction from the things that you are trying to get away from. If you are someone who is trying to have less leisure time, ask your friends or family members to try a new activity with you. See what kind of different activities or events are going on locally, and invite them along. Friends and family can also act as a great source of motivation and help you achieve new goals.

5. Plan

As I said before, the reason why I chose this topic for this piece is that I currently have too much leisure time. So, I found an awesome planner that, basically, helps you get your shit together. I just purchased the Purposeful Planner by Corie Clark and am very eager to start planning out my life. The benefit of using a daily planner is that you will be able to write down the things that you need to get done, but also be able to physically see what you will be spending your time on. If you notice that you are still working too much, or still doing a whole lot of nothing, you can easily fill in the hours you have open for what you need to do in order to get that balance in your day.

Balance. A word we all strive for but seem to miss. The thing is, we don’t have to miss it. Balance is the key to a happy, successful life. If you want that life, go get it. It is as simple as that.

Olivia has her bachelor’s degree in Human Development & Family Studies, with a minor in Psychology, and she is currently working towards a master’s degree in Social Work. Her dream job is to work with service members and their families to help them navigate through military life and daily challenges. Olivia is an avid reader who loves a great murder mystery, a die-hard Fleetwood Mac fan, and will never miss an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, of course accompanied by a box of Kleenex. She also writes for Unwritten, Thought Catalog, and That First Year.

Kids These Days

Five classes of thirty.

One hundred and fifty kids a day for 180 days. (In this job at least – my second teaching job fluctuates.) I don’t teach Honors or AP. I teach what is usually referred to as the “regular classes”. Say that down your nose with a sniff like you just smelled something nasty. That’s what I’m used to.

I like my kids. All of them. Of course, we all have bad days but in another 24 hours you walk into that room and you forgive them. Every day. You show superhuman patience. You model kindness. You give them pats on the shoulder and chocolate when they’re blue. Provide them with pencils, tissues, hand sanitizer, cough drops, lotion, pens, highlighters, stickers, lollipops, and unconditional love. All out of your own pocket.

It’s upsetting to continually hear about “kids today” because unless you spend 8 hours a day with them, you really can’t say you know what’s best or worst about kids today. My kids today? They’re brown and beige and white. They are depressed and struggling. They are the sole provider for their families. They are the only person in their household who speak English. They include a wonderful mother and brand new big brother. An Eagle Scout. A refugee from Nepal. They work multiple jobs. They volunteer to help out without you even asking. They donate their own money to a fundraising cause and go without treating themselves that day. Their faces light up when you’re the first person to get their name right. They love to laugh and want you to feel better when you’re not 100% so they tell you dumb jokes to get you to giggle. They lie like a rug to keep from getting in trouble at home. They build guitars. They dream about college.

I want to teach them everything but I can only do so much in 43 minutes with the materials I have. It feels like 30 pairs of arms grasping at me at once, pulling me apart like a starfish or a long-legged spider. When I get a new student in a class I try to do as much as I can to be helpful. Is this person new to the school? Have a locker? Use specific pronouns? Need accommodations? Sometimes, there’s not enough of me to go around.

Today, a group of students proved to me how great “kids these days” can be. My new student Ritchie didn’t speak English. Poquito – a bit – I was able to understand. The crew coming in didn’t hesitate. One by one they stuck out their hands and introduced themselves to the new boy. His smile and return handshake were filled with warmth and enthusiasm. More than a few are bilingual and switched from English into Spanish so smoothly it was seamless – united. They asked if they could move their seats around to accommodate him. Of course, they could. One boy chose to sit on the floor so he could still be a part of the welcoming team and give Ritchie a place to sit. They guided him through the bell ringer and the poem of the day, and away we went to hang out with Walt Whitman and his “Song of Myself.” Together as a team, the class flew.

I was so proud of these beautiful young humans who went out of their way to make a new kid feel welcome and comfortable. These are kids who will leave my class and be judged by society as something they are not; lazy, irresponsible, different, unworthy. Are they perfect? Hell no. But is there potential in these “kids today?” If you ask me – If these are the hands my future is left in, then we’re going to be fine.

And yes, I would take a bullet for them.

Karen Padden

Karen, Queen of the Paddens and first of her name. Teacher, Baker, Petter of Cats, Multiple Sneezer and Crocheter of Wubbies. Believes in kindness, always.

Live Your Life According to Your Own Timeline

I am a firm believer in letting things happen in their due time.

Often times we work so hard to make things happen now and are so worried if what we want does not happen fast enough in our lives.

This is a persistent problem that social media has only enhanced. We have come to compare ourselves to others, and sometimes we feel like a failure and that we have let ourselves down if we aren’t living up to the standards of those around us. It can be hard when people are posting pictures of all the incredible things that are doing or accomplishing, like their destination trips or latest job promotion.

I graduated from college a year early, and I wasn’t one of those lucky ones that had a job lined up upon graduation. Some of my other friends were, though. And as I have been trying to get going with my life, I have been witnessing people that I should have graduated with this year apply for and get jobs, or get accepted into post-grad programs. It left me feeling a little defeated, and that something was wrong with me — that I wasn’t being successful and accomplishing the great things that I thought I should have accomplished by now.

When people are off living the ultimate lives, we can feel that something is wrong with us or we are behind the curve, but there is no need to feel that.

We are all living according to our own timelines. Sure some people may reach a certain milestone before we do, but that doesn’t mean that we will never reach those milestones. And there will certainly be milestones that we reach before others do.

One of my favorite films, Under the Tuscan Sun, has this one scene that has always resonated with me. Katherine, who is very eccentric and full of life, tells Frances in one of her many chats of wisdom, that when she was little, she used to sit in the fields and look for ladybugs. She would look and look all day, and eventually, would just give up and fall asleep. When she woke up, however, she found ladybugs crawling all over her. 

Katherine tells Frances that the ladybugs in her story represent dreams. And just like she was looking for ladybugs so intently, we need to stop trying so hard to make things happen now. Instead, we just need to just focus on what we love to do, and eventually, in its due time, the life we have wanted or the dream that we have wanted to accomplish will become reality.

So, we don’t need to feel like we have to be achieving certain things when others are. The point is that we must live according to our own timeline, and not be so worried if our timeline doesn’t match up to other’s. It’s not supposed to. Our lives and our experiences are unique to us.

Remember to just do you. Do what makes you happy, and don’t worry about anyone else. Live your life according to your own timeline, and just focus on being the best that you can possibly be.

Emily Veith

Emily has her bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and has always believed in helping and serving others. She wants to make the world a better place, and aspires to be a politician someday to do just that. She is an old soul who loves Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Glenn Miller. When she isn’t writing about imperative news- and political-related, she can be found attempting new recipes, playing her guitar or reading a good mystery book.

Will The Real Karen Please Stand Up?

Some good advice for job hunters is to practice the interview questions before the actual interview. My favorites are the weird ones like,

“If you were a fruit, what would you be and why.”

It’s like an improv game because you never know what they’re going to ask. You can have some fun with it. I like to say that I’m a watermelon. I’m round, versatile, and very sweet on the inside but I have a thick skin that can take a lot of punishment.

Then there’s the standard opening question, “Tell me about yourself.”

This one I don’t find so easy or quick to answer. There’s the pressure of a job on the line and you don’t know which you to pick. What are your best features that you think they want to hear about? What if my best features are the ones you usually don’t put on your resume?

Yes, I’m a teacher with 20 years of classroom experience under my belt, but have you tasted my Orange Creamsicle Fudge? It’s pretty addicting,

I do a lot of second guessing myself. What do I highlight? I’ve spent a lot of my life acting and teaching acting to kids, but I learned that some people equate acting to lying so I’ve become reticent to mention it because of the negative connotation that I didn’t even know it had.
At work, I’m one of maybe two of us in our department who welcome student teachers. I love working with new teachers, they fill me with fresh ideas and force me to be on top of my game. When I was earning my degree, I had two student teaching placements. The first one was a nightmare but the second more than made up for the first. It was from my experiences with student teaching that I want to be the kind of cooperating teacher that I needed but didn’t get in my first weeks in the educational trenches. My goal is to be open and nurturing, real and practical, kind and supportive. In 2016 my student teacher shocked me by nominating me for the Outstanding Cooperating Teacher award at the University of Scranton. She and my other student teachers have moved on to rewarding careers of their own, but they’re all still a part of how I teach today. I strive to be the teacher I needed in high school, and the co-op I needed in college.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? If I mention it, however, I wait for the comment, “Must be nice having nothing to do for a couple of weeks.” No, it’s not, because that’s not how it works. See how something I value that is enriching and positive can get turned around negatively to the point where I fear to mention it?

They always ask what your strengths and weaknesses are. (Hint, “Area of Improvement” is a tricky way of saying “weakness”.) Strengths, not difficult. What do you say about your weaknesses, honestly, that doesn’t negate all the good that you’ve just built up about yourself?

Strengths: I am extremely patient, always kind, and have a wicked sense of humor.
Weaknesses: Brussel sprouts, ignorance, and running.

I never know what to say that fully encapsulates the real me. There’s never enough time and too many endorphins that make me sweaty and forgetful. If you’re facing a job interview – virtual high five – I feel you, friend.

It’s a dilemma not only in the job market but in life. How do you decide what’s important and what’s not? I guess I’ve done well enough in the past, but this recent series of interviews just threw my self-awareness for a loop. Ok, I know a job doesn’t want to know how I made my work husband an heirloom blanket for his new baby, but that’s still an important part of me that’s illuminating.

Karen Padden

Karen, Queen of the Paddens and first of her name. Teacher, Baker, Petter of Cats, Multiple Sneezer and Crocheter of Wubbies. Believes in kindness, always.

Why I Chose to Share an Honest End-of-the-Year Reflection on Social Media

Anxiety.  Depression.  Rock bottom.

Not exactly the phrases most people would typically use on social media to highlight their year.  The majority of social media users choose to ring in the new year by regaling their friends and followers with the past year’s adventures and accomplishments — tales of vacations, graduations, promotions, accolades and successful career changes.

When reminiscing about the past year on social media, mental illness virtually never receives a mention.  It’s not glamorous enough.  It’s not flashy enough.  And, in a world focused on who took the most expensive-looking vacation and who outshone the rest in their extremely successful career, it could be seen as a real downer.

Every New Year’s Eve for the past few years, despite my constant struggle with anxiety and depression, despite spending a significant portion of the year feeling panicked, numb and emotionally shattered, I, like so many others, have posted a happy-go-lucky recap of my year on social media.  My year was amazing, incredible, wonderful.  I became president of an honor society.  I attended a conference.  I discussed climate change with members of the United Nations.  I graduated college a full year early, Summa Cum Laude.  I traveled across Europe.  I became a published writer.  And, most importantly, I was happy.  Not anxious.  Not depressed.  Definitely not mentally ill.  Wholeheartedly, unflappably happy.

Until this year, when I chose to be radically, unapologetically candid about my mental health.

This past year forced me to reevaluate my approach to discussing and treating my mental health.  It was my first-year post-college — a tumultuous whirlwind of temping through a series of agencies, frantically searching for a permanent job, and, with every rejection, sinking further into depression and a perpetual sense of anxiety over my uncertain future.  For the first time, I realized that in order to improve my mental health and garner hope for the future, I should remain open and honest about my struggles with mental illness, particularly on social media.

In the wake of the anxiety and depression that threatened to numb my mind, I wrote about the unending worry that consumed me.  I shared my sense of hopelessness with social media followers.  In opening up about my mental health, I had never felt so free, but my sense of liberation was not without consequence.

Social media soon became a minefield.  As my mental health faltered, I remained inundated by a sea of perfectly posed, smiling pictures and proud status updates about graduation ceremonies and dream job offers.  I lay in bed, my chest throbbing and my eyes damp, as I witnessed my former classmates moving towards careers before me — without me.  I wrongfully assumed that their bright smiles could not possibly hide any traces of depression or anxiety.  They appeared happy and healthy, already living the life I had been attempting to build myself for nearly a year.  And I was mentally ill, struggling to stay afloat in the wake of the storms that sent my mind adrift.  I was open and honest about my health, but I felt completely alone.

Even though I may have felt alone, I was certainly not alone.  1 in 4 American adults lives with mental illness.  40 million American adults live with anxiety and 15 million live with depression.  But, under the guise of carefully selected social media pictures, it’s easy to make any trace of mental illness vanish, which can amplify symptoms of anxiety or depression, particularly in those living with mental health conditions.

Which is why, this New Year’s Eve, I resolved to share an unfiltered, honest reflection on my Year.  I wanted to break down the unhealthy facade of perfection that inundates our social media feeds.  I strove to remind others with mental illness that they are never as alone as they feel.  I hoped that speaking out about my experiences with mental illness would encourage others to share their experiences, ultimately working to mitigate the mental health stigma.

I acknowledged that this year was difficult for many people — and that I was no exception.  I wrote about hitting rock bottom with anxiety, depression, and my lengthy unemployment.  I revealed that this year, I learned to prioritize my mental health.  I confessed that 2017 didn’t truly start to feel like a “good year” until October.  And, naturally, I shared the highlights of the year, too, to remind others that even in the most difficult times, there are always moments of joy and light.

My candor resonated with others, particularly those living with mental illness.  Some admitted that their years had been challenging, too.  Honesty bred honesty.  Hope bred hope.  In challenging convention by openly discussing our mental health, we all began to normalize being unapologetically mentally ill online.

This may have been the first year I shared the challenges of my mental illness in my end-of-the-year reflection, but it certainly won’t be the last.  I strive to continue to openly discuss my personal experiences with mental illness online, in the hope that I can encourage others to do the same. Together, by defying convention with our unfiltered honesty about living with mental illness, we will shatter the mental health stigma.

*Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world — no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.