Emma Pennycard, a Life Balance Coach & Trainer, explains the challenge of balancing life’s demands so that you have time and energy to focus on what really matters to you.
I have always loved to work. I love the sense of purpose, belonging and achievement. Throughout my 20’s I worked hard and played hard. Life was busy, I was a Product Manager in the travel industry, and I worked long hours travelling and in the office.
I got overwhelmed at times and stressed too. I coped with my stress by overworking, over drinking at the weekends, overeating comfort food as I was away a lot, I smoked, and I didn’t believe I had time to exercise! But I didn’t notice my unhealthy habits then I thought that was just part of life.
When I met my husband, and we had our first child I changed my role to one that was office based. I wanted to spend more time with my family, but I still craved the sense of purpose and achievement from work, so I knew I needed to make room for both.
I went back to work 4 days a week so that I could have 3 days with my daughter, but I didn’t adapt my role or responsibilities accordingly and I tried to squeeze in what I used to do in 5 or even 6 days into 4 days.
The time I used to have pre child had now all but vanished as I was either working or with my daughter. I had no time for myself and felt pretty exhausted a lot of the time.
When I had my second child, I gave myself permission to have 12 months off and I enjoyed spending the time with both of my children. I also had time to think about what I really wanted from my life.
This time I went back to work 3 days a week which gave me 4 days to be with my family, I thought that was the answer to getting the balance right. It probably would have been had I known how to adapt my beliefs and behaviours about work. But I didn’t, when I was at work, I wanted to do it all. I had huge expectations of myself that just weren’t possible or certainly not in 3 days a week anyway.
I kidded myself that this was the best of both worlds! I thought I was proving to the world and myself that I could have it all but sadly it was a compromise of both my worlds.
I had a family I loved, I had a job I loved, but I didn’t have a life I loved.
I knew something needed to change and after a lot of soul searching (for almost 2 years!) I left my job in 2019. I re-trained as a coach, I became an addictive behaviour specialist, and I set up BeCoaching & Training.
More importantly during that time I learnt to understand what drives my stress and what drove my unhealthy beliefs and behaviours about work. You see I measure my self-worth by what I achieve. I am driven to achieve tasks, projects, everything on my to do list. I feel worthy when I get a lot done and pretty rubbish when I don’t – or at least I did, I have learnt how to manage those beliefs and behaviours now.
The company I worked for was one of the most people centric out there. They didn’t expect or want me to work the hours I did.
Even in the most supportive environment there are lots of people trying to achieve unrealistic expectations of themselves just like I was.
These people are often the rising stars of an organisation but without support they experience stress and in many cases burnout. They need help to understand what is driving their beliefs and behaviours not just told to change them.
I was triggered by needing and wanting to spend more time on things other than just work and that is what I think life balance is all. It doesn’t only happen to women, or if you have kids. It happens when you realise that living your life prioritising just one thing is no longer enough and that you need and want a balance of things to live your best life.
I am proud to say I have achieved that balance. I have learnt to slow down and do less so that I can achieve more of what matters to me. I have broken most of my unhealthy habits and created healthy ones that serve me so much better.
I am healthier, happier, and more productive and no longer have mum or employee guilt!
If you want more balance in your life start with putting yourself on your to do list. It will give you the time and energy to focus on what matters to you. Don’t live with regrets live your life on purpose.