By Holly Novak
We’ve endured numerous hardships since early 2020, and I imagine everyone would say their mental health has been impacted, whether minor feelings of being down all the way to severe depression, anxiety and other mental health impacts. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I had the pleasure of interviewing Nataly Kogan this past week who is the author of a wonderful book titled The Awesome Human Project – Break Free from Daily Burnout, Struggle Less, and Thrive More in Work and Life. One of the most powerful statements that Nataly shares is that “you can’t give what you don’t have.” As a recovering perfectionist and extreme extrovert, I have spent most of my life looking for ways to please those around me and assure that I am exceeding all expectations at work, home, church, and with my friends. Over time, I have realized that finding that work life balance is an impossible task, and that if I don’t stop and take the time to care for myself, I cannot care well for those around me.
I have discovered that there is no true “work life balance”. Work is a subset of life, not separate from it- especially since many of us work where we live and live where we work! We integrate our work into our hobbies, family and friends, and our life. Just as we integrate work into our lives, we also must integrate self-care and give ourselves permission to step away and find ways to refresh and find ways to increase our mental, physical, and emotional energy. Nataly also says that “Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s your responsibility to yourself, your work, the people you care about and your community.”
There’s a lot of amazing tips out there (check out Nataly’s book), but here are some things that I have learned personally as I work through my own journey towards self-care and balance. First, I have to have music while I am working. No clue why, but it helps my brain and reduces stress and anxiety throughout the day. Second, I do my hard things at the beginning of the day while my brain is still fresh and save the easy things like email for when my low time comes around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I also get up and walk away from my desk at least once an hour to give my eyes and brain a rest, and I try to walk outside if possible. Exercise is key for me, and I have to get in a good workout at least 3-4 times a week and eat healthy which helps with my stress level and also helps me to think clearly. Finally, I have learned to give myself a break. None of us are perfect - we fail, we say the wrong things, we talk before thinking fully, we send an email to the wrong person, and we forget things! Although it’s not always easy, I have learned to give myself grace and know that I am enough and so are you!
The last thing I will leave you with today is the encouragement to ask others for help when you feel overwhelmed. Don’t let stress and anxiety stand in the way of your health and happiness – life is too short! Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it takes courage and vulnerability and is a clear sign of strength. I hope you join me on this journey to health, happiness and balance!