A new study shows that one-third of people in the workplace struggle with depression. In the past, there has been a lot of attention paid to gaining a healthy work/play balance, which basically boils down to making sure you leave the stress of work at the office and play hard at home. Good advice, but if our stress level is building throughout the day, by the time we arrive home, we often feel exhausted, irritable, and spent. We don’t have the energy for making a healthy meal much less having fun with our children. When all is said and done, we are lucky to get in 5-6 hours of fitful sleep before dragging ourselves through the same routine the next day.
Sound familiar? If so, I would argue that waiting until after work to “balance” out your life is setting yourself up for failure. Instead, the more stressful your job, the more critical it is to add play and rest into your day rather than stockpiling it for later.
I know what you’re thinking. I don’t have time for pee breaks much less playing during the day. Believe me, I understand. As a therapist specializing in trauma with a full practice, I feel a huge amount of pressure to do my best and give my all for my clients. My workday is full of stress. On any given day, I start the day with a client ready to kill themselves followed by another shaking with anger (possibly at me—that transference stuff is no joke), and then a couple awkwardly trying to talk about how sex triggers PTSD flashbacks. And this is just what happens before lunch. The idea of stopping for a bathroom break, much less play, can seem trivial given that my clients are literally dealing with life and death issues.
But the problem with calling my basic needs trivial compared to the needs of my clients (or your own compared to those of your company or that deadline) is that, in the words of my mother, it’s not a competition. This idea that we have to choose between our own needs and those of our business is as silly and backwards as my daughter feeling like I love her brother better when I tell him I am proud of him. The reality is that we can…and should…meet our needs so that we can better meet the needs of our jobs.