Does it sometimes feel like work-life balance is more work-work balance at this time of year? Rather than being burnt out by the end of the holidays, use these 8 easy ways to include self-care habits into your day.
Why self-care leads to balance
Work-life balance doesn’t just happen. Even though it’s the framework around which I build my studio policies, schedule & commitments, there are times in the year that work tends to take over.
Angela Watson, Truth for Teachers
Habits are what create your lifestyle. There’s no such thing as creating work-life balance once and for all. Your habits of self-care will determine your level of self-care. It’s about daily choices.
Self-care, or habits, ensure that we take time for ourselves so that we have enough to give. To give to our students, piano parents, & families.
8 ways to create work-life balance
We all have different routines, times we are alert & responsibilities. So, having a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. Instead, we need to give ourselves the flexibility to choose the approach that works for us.
Part of having a flexible work-life balance is creating routines that can shift or change over time. My routine during vacations is different than during the school year. That’s true for most of us. However, my routine has changed over the years as well. As different things become more or less important, as responsibilities change, my work-life balance has also changed. It doesn’t make it better or worse. It just is.
There are 8 ways you can begin to create this balance, regardless of life circumstances, priorities & time. You don’t have to even use all 8 ideas to see the benefits! So, give yourself grace. And, like me, take time to review this each year since chances are things will fall through the cracks at times.
After kids, I became much more of a morning person. All that early rising means that if I want to get something done, it needs to be in the AM.
While I value that time, that doesn’t mean this routine has stayed the same. Over the years, my routine has included:
- Exercise or stretching when I first wake up.
- Completing Duolingo goals as my kids are getting dressed for the day.
- Reading professional development books at breakfast.
- Drinking a healthy smoothie with protein powder to keep me full.
- Journalling about either the previous day or goals.
- Walking my kids to school & enjoying being outside on the walk home.
Whatever you choose, choose activities that make you feel great as you head into your day.
I have worked through lunch in the past. At one point that was the reality of working for an unsupportive school. But, nowadays it’s because I love what I do. I really do get lost in my work which is why I have a “Lunchtime!” alarm on my phone.
Some options for a midday break are:
- Get out of the office to have a sit-down lunch.
- Watch one episode of a show you love.
- Read a bit from a “just for fun” book.
- Go for a walk.
- Take a nap.
- Stretch or exercise.
Since afternoon are when my energy tends to wane, I choose activities that let me disconnect from work for a bit.
I lost a LOT of sleep when our twins were babies. Which makes my nighttime routine is so important to my work-life balance. Especially since I am not a night-owl by any stretch of the imagination.
To help make that transition between day to night, you could:
- Write down anything that needs to be done the next day
- Read from a “just for fun” book
- Snuggle with a pet or loved one
- Listen to music
- Slow stretches
- Take a bath
- Dim the lights
- Turn off all notifications & put anything with a screen away
Part of getting a good night of sleep is what happens before closing your eyes. Having a routine that your body & mind recognize as “getting ready for bed” helps make that happen.
Rest or sleep routines
This might seem the same as above, but it’s not. This is about the act of falling asleep or resting.
For your rest routine, maybe you:
- Set an alarm for a certain amount of time
- Nap in an area separate from your bedroom
- Close your eyes & quiet your mind
A rest routine may be less about getting sleep & more about just taking a mental break from the day.
For your sleep routine, maybe you:
- Turn down the heat (or have the thermostat set lower)
- Use sunblock curtains to make sure the room stays dark
- Cocoon inside blankets .. or throw them off depending on your mood
- Pray (if you are religious) or repeat a phrase/word (if you’re not)
Making time for your brain to refresh is incredibly important to your overall work-life balance!
When I taught in my students’ homes, I used the time between my last student & home to mentally decompress. See, I had learnt the hard way that it’s incredibly important to make separations from teaching & home life. Especially on days when things didn’t go so well.
Making a separation from your work & personal lives means that the stress from one doesn’t care over to the other. Rather than having a brutal day, the negativity can be contained in just one part. And, wouldn’t you rather have a bad moment, than a bad day?
Ways you can mentally decompress are:
- Listen to podcasts
- Write or record reflections bout your teaching day
- Sing to music
- Talk with a friend or family member (so long as it doesn’t become a complain-fest)
Or, use one of the ways listed below!
Being physically active is incredibly important to our overall well-being.
That being said, this is one of the ones I struggle with the most. What can I say? I would much rather be snuggled on the couch with a good book or playing video games with my husband. So, much like I trick my students into learning, I try to take away the barriers to me being active.
Going for walks has always been the one physical activity that I’ve enjoyed. But, trying to get into running was a nightmare that didn’t last long.
Whatever physical activities you choose, choose something that’s fun for you. And, if the fun factor dies out over time? Choose something else!
Hobbies & creative activities
When we were expecting our twins, my mom gave me some incredible advice: Do things together as a couple because it’s all too easy to become just “mommy” & “daddy”. This advice holds true for teachers & studio owners.
If you want work-life balance … you need to make regular time for life.
Over the years, I have done all sorts of things including dancing Argentinian tango, knitting/crocheting, plus making preserves. Each of those was at a different stage of my life & met a different need.
Nowadays, composing & improvising tend to be part of my nighttime routine. It’s a creative outlet that is different from anything I do during the day. And, it helps me get ideas out of my head … so I can sleep at night.
Regardless of what you choose, just remember that you don’t have to stick with something forever.
In “Parks & Recreation” (the show), Donna & Tom celebrate “Treat Yo’ Self Day” every October 13th.
Perhaps a full day of indulgences isn’t in the cards. And, that’s okay!
Once a month, I go in for a massage to manage chronic pain. That might not sound like an indulgence. But, it is because my whole job at that moment is to breathe & relax. That’s it!
What is a way you can indulge yourself?
Work-life balance over the holiday
When my routine changes over the holidays it can be more difficult to make those times for myself, especially with a house full of family members. But I’m learning to just say, “I’m going to take a nap (or whatever my routine is). See you in a bit.” Thankfully, everyone knows & understands it’s nothing about them. I just need to recharge a little.
I’m sure you can relate.
Over the holidays, let go of having the same schedule & routines. But, make time for those “selfish” moments that help you feel balanced.
Self-care habits for work-life balance
Creating a work-life balance isn’t about overhauling your entire life … at least not all at once. It is about the small decisions day in & day out that make the difference.
Even the smallest blocks of self-care have made a big difference in my work-life balance. Remember it’s better to have:
- 15-minutes of daily exercise than none at all because the class was too much hassle to get to.
- 5-minutes of meditation or enjoying a moment is better than rushing through your day without noticing the way the sun glistens off the snowflakes.
- 5-minutes to journal or jot down your concerns so you don’t carry them into the next day.
- 15-minutes to play through the music YOU love rather than find music for students.
- Buy a small indulgence once a month to treat yourself.
A note on indulgences. These don’t have to be expensive. In university, I would go to the used book store & purchase a new book from the $1 section once a month (or if I felt like I needed a little indulgence in my life). It could just as easily be a cup of your favourite coffee or tea. Or, maybe it’s a fun shade of nail polish. Whatever you choose, it’s something that makes YOU feel special … not something that breaks the bank.
Which one of these 8 ideas resonated the most for you? Let me know in the comments below!
Note: This article was originally published on December 21, 2018. It has since been updated with new ideas & stories.