Stress and Work/Life Balance

I’m currently working for a film festival and during the first night of the fest, I was waiting for things to download and upload. A lot of things have been on my mind lately, and I’ve been trying to make sense of what I’m doing with my life. Being awake at 3 AM in the morning in an empty office is an environment that lends itself surprisingly well to moments of extreme clarity, and I was able to put a lot of my thoughts down on paper. Below is the post that I wrote that night. I’ve edited it for grammar and such, but didn’t change the tense. So if you want to figure out where my head was at two weeks ago, read on. Hopefully it makes sense and maybe helps you out if you’re stressed too. 

So, lately I’ve been busy with my job. I’m working for a film festival right now, a film festival that started tonight.

Needless to say things are busy.

However, I’ve also been unbelievably stressed for the past couple of weeks over things that are completely unrelated to work. To be honest, 80% of my stress recently hasn’t been because of work. It’s mostly been because of other things ON TOP OF work. I’m good at my job, and I know what I can control vs. what is out of my hands. It’s all the other stuff that makes me nervous.

It’s made me think a lot about the whole idea of “work/life balance”.

Lately people have been telling me that I need to work on mine. Or, rather, they’ve been telling me not to work too hard and to take breaks.

The thing is, I’m not overworking myself! It is true that my job is taking up most of my time right now. When I’m not at the office or working on festival stuff at home I’m either at the gym or in bed. My mental energy is completely spent on my job right now and that’s actually why I’ve been stressing out.

I wish so much that I could be working more on my other things.

People say I’m working too much, and I’m over here absolutely positive that I’m not working enough!

It’s been making me really take a look at what I spend my time doing and what I want to spend my time doing. I look at people my age who are getting married, having kids, dating, heck even just having sex or going out! All are things I don’t want to spend time doing. In fact, the reason I am not dating or going on dates is because I would rather spend that time doing other things. On the other hand, I see people my age who are making amazing things and doing awesome stuff in their careers (not just a job a CAREER, this completely subjective distinction has been important to me for some reason) and I feel like an overwhelming failure. I feel like I should be working on side projects more when I know that right now it’s all I can do to stay motivated, on task and on top of my to-do list at what I’m getting paid to do.

I guess I’m trying to say that work/life balance depends on what you want your life to be like. And, sometimes, work/life balance goes straight to crap.

Everyone’s balance looks different. “Having it all” is an incredibly narrow minded way to view success. There is only one wining hand, and that hand is EVERYTHING. That’s an incredibly unrealistic goal.

Lately I’ve wanted a change of pace, and have sort of been creatively frustrated. I’ve never stayed in one job for as long as I have stayed at this one, and it’s definitely something that I’m working on adjusting to. But, instead of focusing on what I can do to express myself creatively, I’ve been thinking about how other people have turned their inner crises to into amazing pieces of work. Which of course leads me to think, “Oh no, I’m blowing it”. It leads me to think that not only am I being a creative person wrong, I’m even stressing out wrong because I’m not producing anything from all this strife and angst that’s running rampant. It makes me think I’m just being lazy!

Nah. Enough.

I’m sitting in an empty office right now and I’ve had a revelation.

I finally realized that the reason I feel stressed all the time is because in the last few months I’ve convinced myself that I’ve knowingly continued to not live the life I want to be living. The reality is much more complicated. Recently I was so overwhelmed that I spent an entire weekend watching The Flash. I was too exhausted to try to start on the mountain of goals I have to accomplish, so I just didn’t.

Some people feel exhilarated looking at a blank page, other people feel panic. Some people see possibilities and other people feel pressure.

I’ve realized that I’m in the latter camp.

I’ve noticed that doing little tiny things, writing this post for instance, reading one chapter in one of the books I’ve far too ambitiously checked out from the library, remembering to pack my lunch, actually waking up and going to the gym (I had to switch my schedule back to morning workouts because the gym literally too crowded to get a locker at after work), writing for 5 minutes right before I go to bed. These are all little things that I can do to make myself quell that inner panic. They are all things that I don’t HAVE to do, but they are things that are actually self-care. Just as much self-care as remembering that the I won’t be sleeping much this festival, and it is okay to take advantage of a day in bed if I want to.

The week before a major work event is not the time to decide and act upon what it is exactly I want to do with my life.

I’m doing okay.

I’m realizing that this post is sort of all over the place, but I hope it makes sense to at least one other person besides me.

To recap my crazy train of thought:

  • Work/life balance is different for everyone. Don’t assume someone hasn’t achieved it because it is different from yours. Sometimes work is that person’s life and you have to be okay with that because it’s not your life.
  • Baby steps are a big deal.
  • People deal with stress differently and get stressed out by different things and that is okay. No one is stressing out wrong.
  • I’m doing okay.