Thursday, February 16, 2006

Life out of balance

If I had to pick one word to best sum up my life over the past couple of months, it would be "unbalanced."

I used to work out almost every afternoon. I used to get up 20 minutes earlier every morning, just so I could squeeze in a quick yoga workout to start the day. I used to spend at least one weekday night working on creative stuff---music, crafts. I used to take off at least one weekend day, not doing any work (and sometimes not even turning on my computer), just to recharge my batteries. I used to be able to read (for fun!) for a few minutes after getting into bed, before falling asleep.

I used to have time for lunch, at least occasionally.

Lately, I have allowed my job to completely take over my life. The last time I did yoga was over break---I'm too exhausted to get up even 20 minutes earlier because I crawl into bed so late, which means no time to read. I can't remember the last time I took a day off of work, including weekends. Nor can I remember the last time I did something even remotely related to a hobby. The only thing I've continued to do is work out, but I've dropped back to every other day, and there are lots of days when the only time I have to work out is right before bed (which I do, but it's not ideal).

What's been my "reward"? I've already been sick twice since the new year, and I never get sick. I come home completely exhausted, mentally and physically. Earlier this week, I was so mentally exhausted that I really could not think or concentrate---or function. Clearly this is not sustainable nor healthy!

Last night, I resolved to do better. This week from hell ending should help a bit, but I can't use busy weeks as an excuse not to take care of myself. I've recommitted myself to doing yoga every weekday morning. (This morning was the first one back on the yoga track, and it's already made a difference---I feel calmer and less overwhelmed.) After this week, I'll get back my afternoon workout slot, which should help immensely. And this weekend, I am taking one full day off, and spending the other day doing only a couple hours of smaller, enjoyable work tasks---putting together some conference slides, writing documentation, making up long-term research plans (lists! charts! yippie!). I plan to spend part of the weekend reacquainting myself with a few craft projects, so that I can get back into the habit of working on them regularly.

The lesson I learned, again, this week is that I need this other stuff in my life---yoga, creative time, time away from work---so that I can continue to sustain my work life. I guess we all need these reminders from time to time, especially in this job where it's so easy to let the job take over.


ScienceWoman said...

we really are on the same page this week. I hope you can make your (re)formed resolutions stick.

Jane said...

hee hee, yep, I just read your post, ScienceWoman, and left a comment. Hope your week gets less crazy soon!

Laura said...

Add me to the list of unbalanced people. Everything has fallen away except work and dissertating.

What Now? said...

Oof, Jane, I hear you on this one. And the scary thing is that, as I look back over the last few years, I realize that I've been unbalanced since I started this job. And this makes me wonder, is it even possible (or possible for me, at least) to approach balance in this job? I can't figure out how to manage this.

So, may I ask what you do in your 20 minutes of yoga in the morning? I've tried yoga at various points but have never developed a yoga "habit," as it were.

Jane said...

WN, it was actually your posting on your mosaics class experience that got me thinking about how much I missed doing things outside of my job, and from which this particular post came. So, thanks! :)

As far as the yoga thing, I found it really hard to get into the "habit" too: I tried DVDs/videos, but they were either too long or too "not-real-yoga" for me to stick to. What finally worked is that I went to the library and found a few books (one of them was something like "30 Essential Yoga Poses"), practiced the poses enough to learn them, and modified the sample practices at the end of the books to fit into the time I did have--20 minutes right after waking up. I wrote up maybe 10 short programs on index cards, and I just pick an index card each morning and do the practice on that card. For some strange reason, this system just works for me. (Although I think it is time to mix up the routines a bit, so today I'm going to make up some new index cards with new combinations of poses.)

What Now? said...

Jane, I think your index card idea is a great one for a yoga "habit," and I think I'll copy it. Thanks! (And isn't this one of the great things about the blogosphere? I give you an idea, and then you give me an idea. Now that's community!

Nuthatch said...

I've been in the same boat. I had to buy a little sign and put it right on my desk: "Never confuse having a career with having a life."

ZXQ said... an Associate Professor in CS at Berkeley, I can tell you that you learned the wrong "lesson". The real "lesson" is that you need to learn to let go of the "other stuff" in your life. As the years have gone by, the time I spend on all those things I once considered "balance" has slowly diminished to nothing. Don't worry; eventually the pain fades, and "balance" comes to mean the balance between your life (i.e. working) and sustenance activities (sleeping, commuting, shopping, showering—I don't include eating because I do nearly all of that while working). "Balance" here means doing as much of the former and as little of the latter as possible. As any acrobat can tell you, "balance" is not the ability to stand up straight—any five-year-old can do that—but the ability to remain standing while tilted at an impossibly skewed angle. The sooner you let go of things outside of work, the sooner you'll forget them and become content.