Balancing all areas of life

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Balancing all areas of life

Today, numerous life plans are conceivable – people have more options than probably any generation in the past. However, with this freedom comes responsibility: we have to actively balance the different areas of life and make small and big decisions time and again.
Balancing all areas of life
What is more important to you? Practising for a French test with your child or finishing that important work assignment? Should I go jogging or call my girlfriend? Are we going to spend Saturday morning as a couple or as a family? We all ask ourselves questions like these all the time. Consciously or unconsciously, we are constantly making decisions about which area of life is more important to us at the moment – work, partnership and family, friends, hobbies or health.

There is more to our existence than just "life" and "work"

In the past, people usually talked about the work/life balance. However, this concept, with its rigid separation of work and private life, is too one-dimensional, as was revealed, among other things, during the pandemic. Digitalization also means that the areas of life are intertwined, making it all the more important to prioritize. The buzzword for this is "life domain balance" and involves harmonizing important areas of life. One of the challenges here is the limited resources – not only money and time, but also energy must be managed.

Three tips for a good balance

  • Draw your areas of life as circles on a piece of paper. How does the resulting picture appear to you? Are there circles whose size you would like to change – and if so, how could this be achieved?
  • If you keep a diary or journal, mark successes or pleasant experiences from the different areas of life each in a different colour, for instance, blue for work, green for family, red for friends, yellow for hobbies and purple for health. Try to ensure that each colour occurs at least once a week.
  • Hold a "family council" and discuss the different life domains. How well do the family members manage to harmonize them? What needs to change for things to improve for everyone?

Teenagers: shifting priorities

Depending on the phase of life you are in, some life domains may be prioritized higher than others. In your adolescence, for example, friends and hobbies become more important. School also sometimes takes a back seat on the list of priorities, much to the chagrin of many parents. Discussions like: "You can use the gaming console today, but first you have to do your chores and get some fresh air," essentially revolve around the question of how to balance the life domains.

Three tips for stressed parents of teens

  • Stay calm and remember your own teenage years: it is normal for the "friends" life domain to gain importance at the expense of the "family" – you too may have found your parents uncool at times.
  • Allow your teenager to gain their own experiences within reason. Sport is a healthier way to live out the desire for borderline experiences than drinking or using other intoxicants.
  • Puberty is often a time of crisis. If they experience mood swings, give your offspring the benefit of the doubt and maintain communication with them. In this way, you can offer a safe haven in the "family" life domain if things are not going so well in other life domains, like school, puppy love or friends.

Young families: avoiding excessive demands

IYoung parents also often find it difficult to balance the different areas of life: a baby takes up a lot of energy and time. The lack of sleep in particular causes permanent exhaustion for many. On top of that, there may also be professional challenges. Friendships, hobbies, and even the couple’s relationship may very well get neglected.

Three tips for exhausted young parents

  • Treat yourself to specific time off with the help of grandparents or a babysitter. Even if this is only possible once a month, such oases in everyday life can help you to recharge your batteries and avoid imbalances.
  • Don't try to be perfect in every life domain. You haven't been able to reach your pre-pregnancy figure yet? You haven't read a book in months? The garden looks like a jungle? Don't allow your perfectionism to drive you mad. Be kind to yourself.
  • Your inner attitude plays a big role, especially in stressful moments. Recognizing that "I chose my situation myself," makes it easier to master difficult phases.

Shooting stars and the self-employed: don't forget other life domains

For shooting stars or even the self-employed, the "work" life domain takes up a lot of space in terms of content and time. This can be very fulfilling. Things only start to get tricky when the "work" life domain overlaps all other areas and there are no resources left for family, friends or hobbies. If work becomes the only source of joy and meaning, professional failure can lead to a burnout. It can be just as tricky if the heavy workload leads to an unhealthy lifestyle with high stress, lots of coffee or alcohol, fast food, little sleep and exercise.

Three tips for stressed-out shooting stars

  • Even when working from home, you don't have to be available 24 hours a day. Deliberately switch off your computer and define times when you definitely don't intend to work.
  • Enter private commitments in your work calendar and treat them like business appointments. Make sure you stay committed, for example by joining a sports club.
  • Take care of your body and treat it to healthy food, sufficient sleep and regular exercise. You will soon notice that you are much more efficient and can concentrate better.

Employers: Take care of your employees

As an employer, you can do a lot to help your employees find a good balance between their different areas of life. In a healthy company culture, employees feel valued and there is open, trusting communication. This makes it possible to talk honestly about challenges, resulting in happier and more stable teams. There are fewer absences, employees are more productive and feel more responsible.

Three tips for responsible employers

  • Create framework conditions that support a balance of the different life domains, e.g. with flexible working hours.
  • Recognize and value the potential of older employees and consider together which retirement solution is best for both sides. There may even be creative options for an individual solution.
  • Set a good example and make sure your different areas of life are well balanced, too.

Retirees: Finding new perspectives

After retirement, many people rediscover old hobbies and friendships, help take care of grandchildren or get involved socially. After all, with the time-consuming area of life called "work" gone, resources are freed up for other issues. This can be welcomed with joy or may initially lead to a crisis. Now is the time to find other tasks and affirmations and to reprioritize the life domains. It is best to think about what is important to you before you retire.

Three tips for the newly retired

  • Think about what work meant to you: recognition, meaningfulness, the sense of being needed? If you miss these feelings, what other ways are there to find them? Where can you get involved, who could you support?
  • Did you value the intellectual challenge most of all in your work? Perhaps senior studies might be an interesting option for you – or you could learn a new language.
  • Create a daily structure for yourself with fixed rituals, set yourself challenges, for example in sports. You can effectively combat possible bouts of depression with exercise, for example, on a morning walk with your partner, with a neighbour, or all by yourself.

There's always a choice

In every phase of life, the following applies: the life domains of work, partnership and family, friends, hobbies and health do not have to be the same size. Everyone has the right to prioritize for themselves which topic they attach which importance to. It is helpful when the size of life domains is aligned with one's own resources, in order to avoid placing excessive demands on yourself. Furthermore, probably the happiest people are those who actively and consciously choose their prioritization. Because there's always a choice – on a small scale as well as on a large scale.

Balance and energy

Once the areas of my life are well balanced for me personally, I will feel good in the long term. I will be creative and satisfied, work efficiently and enjoy my free time. Professionally and privately, I won't let myself get stressed so quickly and will find a solution to problems. When I have enough energy, I am also open to the concerns of others, I can listen actively and cultivate respectful relationships. All this gives me new energy so that my battery recharges itself time and again.

If, on the other hand, the areas of my life lose their balance and I get into a precarious imbalance, everything will become difficult and exhausting. Despite time pressure, I can't complete my work in a focused way. I run around like a hamster in a wheel, yet I never seem to get anywhere. I feel exhausted, stressed, and irritable. Perhaps other people appear to me as further stress factors and I can only perceive their needs to a lesser extent. All this costs me even more energy and I become more and more emotionally exhausted.

In order to avoid a burnout, I need to change something: For small energy lows, a fifteen-minute break or a good chat may help. However, if such "energy crisis situations" become more frequent, I should perhaps question more fundamental things. As a preventative measure, it is important to consciously ask yourself: "In which areas do I want to invest my energy?" "How do I find a good balance?" but also "What or who is good for me?" "What gives me strength?" and "What can I change so that energy guzzling situations occur less often?" The answers to these questions are as individual as we are as people – but it is definitely worth finding them for yourself.

How can I tell whether my life domain balance is in danger of going out of balance?

These are some of the possible warning signs:

  • I constantly feel stressed and as if I never have peace of mind.
  • I am under pressure but cannot concentrate well.
  • I feel overwhelmed and find it difficult to make decisions.
  • I can no longer switch off and sleep badly.
  • Relationships with my partner, family or friends are often neglected.
  • I am irritable and get upset even over small things.
  • I feel physically unwell, for example I have headaches, stomach cramps, back pain.

When do I need to seek professional help?

If you feel you can no longer cope with everyday life, can no longer see any solutions to your challenges and feel an all-encompassing sense of hopelessness or sadness, then you should urgently seek professional help. Possible places to turn to are your family doctor, the crisis intervention centres or the organization "Die dargebotene Hand" (The helping hand) by dialling 143.

What can I do if I see someone else in danger of losing their balance?

By all means try to talk to them and do not remain silent out of a false sense of shame. If you look the other way, the other person will feel even more alone and alienated. In all likelihood, the other person will be pleased about your honest interest. Communicate in the first person: "I've noticed you're not feeling well. What can I do to help?" Be there for the person and offer your support, but do not force it on them. Often it just helps to be able to talk to someone about the situation. This immediately builds the first bridge.

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