Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


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How Do You Find the Time for Work-Life Balance?

Work-Life BalanceIt seems that in these times, more than in our parents’ day, we are trying to be everyone for everybody. The majority of Canadians have reported feeling overloaded with too many roles to juggle – employees, parents, partners, students, friends, siblings, caregivers of older relatives, volunteers…and we keep adding to the list. If we are not mindful of the stress that is inherent in managing each of these roles, it can take a serious toll on our physical and mental health. Technology has only increased expectations, with many employers expecting worker availability around the clock, never mind staying on top of your email and cleaning up your inbox on a regular basis! Staying connected doesn’t allow for as much downtime as we need and we don’t always see the signs of when good stress that motivates us becomes harmful stress that exhausts us. Ask yourself:

  1. Do I feel like I’ve lost control in areas of my life?
  2. Do I often feel guilty that I have neglected some roles at the expense of others?
  3. Do I find it increasingly difficult to focus on the task at hand?
  4. Does it seem like I always feel tired?

I’ve always believed we are unique individuals, sharing similar experiences. Thus, work-life balance has a different meaning for each of us, but the majority of us know when we’re not feeling balanced.

I’ve compiled some suggestions on how to find some ways to achieve that balance, whether at work or at home, that I’d like to share with you.

With wage freezes and budget cuts, I understand that getting your employer’s support can be achieved when you are clear on what YOU need to ensure optimal work-life balance. Take some time to look into the programs, benefits, and policies available to you.

During the daily grind, keep these strategies top of mind to help you balance:

  • Schedule 10-minute breaks every two hours (even a walk to the cafeteria or outside for fresh air). This will increase what you accomplish at the end of each day.
  • The to-do list you prepare for the next day needs to be realistic given the hours to do the tasks.
  • Turn off your email program to avoid distractions while focusing on tasks.
  • Turn off electronic devices when you are not scheduled to work, so there is no distraction during your “downtime”.

Prioritization is a key to balancing our obligations and desires. We want to be a successful employee, have a healthy and dedicated relationship with our partner, be an involved parent to our children and supportive caregiver to our elderly parents, and have time to spend with friends. When we determine what is important to us (eg. spending time reading with our children at the end of the day instead of working overtime to finance the dream house), we can put some things aside to do (or not to do) at a later date. . There are only 24 hours in a day, so if we are working towards our goals of achieving our masters degree while holding on to our 9-5 job, we need to check in with ourselves periodically to set ourselves back on a balanced track.

According to Statistics Canada, employees who considered most of their days to be quite a bit or extremely stressful were over three times more likely to suffer a major depressive episode, compared with those who reported low levels of general stress. I encourage you to take steps to protect your mental and physical health by bringing all aspects of your life into balance.

Do you think you have a good work-life balance? Is it possible in our world today to achieve work-life balance? I look forward to hearing what works for you for balancing work and family in “Comments” below.

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Feeling “SAD”? You are not alone!

WinterThis winter has been a particularly fierce one and with plenty of snow, grey skies and nippy temperatures, when you find yourself daydreaming of an exotic sunny getaway, just know that you are definitely not alone.

While most of us chalk up these feelings to mild cases of the “winter blues”, some of us feel the impact of winter on our mental health more negatively than others, which can be diagnosed as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

As the sun’s rays has become weaker with the shortening of daylight, it can take a toll on mental health and symptoms of SAD begin to take shape, which can include extreme fatigue, sadness, emptiness, anxiety, decreased energy, lack of focus, or weight gain.

During the winter months, the winter blues and SAD could affect your productivity and motivation at in all parts of your life. Here are some ways you can combat these symptoms and make yourself feel better:

  1. Use food as fuel: It’s only too easy to reach for comfort food during the winter months, particularly food that “sticks to your ribs”, as they say. Ensure that your diet consists of vitamin-rich foods so that you can combat illness and unhealthy cravings.
  2. Every bit of exercise helps: Even if you don’t enjoy traditional winter sports, don’t put exercise on the backburner for the winter months. Bundle up and go for a walk, invest in at-home yoga videos or take advantage of indoor pools and gyms. Take a few minutes throughout the day to stretch at work, especially if you have a sedentary job.  The endorphins released while exercising increases your energy for the rest of your day.
  3. Take sun breaks: When the sun breaks through the clouds, try to take advantage! Spend a few minutes outside, soak up the vitamin D and enjoy winter’s small miracles.
  4. Honour your commitments: keep your schedule full and don’t let yourself back out of your plans. When you don’t have anywhere to be, hibernating in bed for 11 hours is only too easy.
  5. Plan ahead: When you have something to look forward to, whether that’s a trip, an event, a meaningful purchase or some other life change, every day that passes brings you a step closer. The winter will not last forever, so give yourself reasons to move forward.  It’s almost over!

How do you combat the winter blahs? Do you have any tips or tricks to making the most of the winter season? I look forward to your comments below!