When Life Disrupts Your Work-Life Balance

Welcome to episode 68 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss situations where life disrupts our careful Work-Life Balance arrangement.

Original Recording Date: 02-16-2020

Topics – Balancing Life Against Work

0:55 – Intro: A Different Take on Work Life Balance

  • Previous episodes on work / life balance
    • Episode 3 – career advancement and work / life balance
    • Episode 47 – You, Your Health, and The Datacenter (part 2 of an interview with Keiran Shelden)
      • John got to meet Keiran in person recently.

3:36 – Crisis…Finds a Way

  • Providing emotional support for personal relationships

    • Providing emotional support requires effort.
    • Sometimes providing this support means the relationship changes.
    • What does providing support for others take out of you?
    • We should acknowledge the effort and be aware of it since it can add to our own stress.
  • Loss

    • Death
      • Both Nick and John have lost fathers in the last couple of years. Listen as each of them shares the story.
        • Regret, guilt, process of mourning
        • Nick had anxiety, difficulty focusing, and trouble sleeping after finding out the news.
    • Romantic Loss
      • Perhaps the ending was unhappy, but maybe there is a mourning for the good times.
    • Personal Relationship Loss
      • A sudden change in relationship is a loss (i.e. moving away from a close friend).
    • Finance
      • A friend, family member, or we ourselves may face a financial crisis.
      • It could come from a number of things that have nothing to do with being financially unwise.
    • We need to acknowledge that each of these has an impact, re-examine, and re-align priorities as a result.

12:38 – Wear and Tear

  • Constant low-level stress can be overlooked as a destructive force.
    • Few people have a career that will NOT spike stress levels at one time or another.
    • Low-level stress can loom (i.e. impending deadline, personal loss, etc.) and build to the point where it affects your mental state, clouds your thinking, and can affect emotional and physical health.
  • Beware of hyperfocus.
    • Stress can be caused by things we cannot control.
    • People often focus only on what they can control and start cutting out things that might help like social interaction, etc.

17:10 – Proactive / Reactive Self-Care

  • Mindfulness

    • "Put your mask on first before assisting others." – Flight Attendant
      • Are you checking in with yourself and keeping yourself healthy when providing support for others?
      • Nick is not so great at this one (potential area of improvement).
      • There is a "healthy" threshold here each of us know not to cross, but we often do if we feel the situation merits it.
      • A short term sprint may be ok, but then take time to step back.
    • A crisis playbook
      • Companies tend to have these.
      • It makes sense to create our own for a personal crisis (people you call for support, what to do if the crisis is personal / work related / financial, etc.).
        • Continue to keep this up to date so it can be used when the need arises.
      • Interesting article – 5 Tips for Dealing With a Personal Crisis or Health Issue While Running a Business
        • Avoid time wasters
          • John gives a nice example here.
        • Consider postponing
          • What can be delayed without an extreme impact to get it off your plate?
    • Check in on wear and tear
      • Check in to see if you are under low-level, long term stress. Are we paying enough attention to notice this is happening?
        • Someone who knows you well may be able to spot it easier than you.
        • John sometimes gets into imaginary arguments. Does that happen to you?
        • How is this affecting me? Am I having a physical reaction?
        • Find a few minutes during the day to be alone, be quiet, decompress, and self-evaluate. It is not fair to always rely on others.
          • Can you schedule this time so it will actually happen?
          • This is not a passive time to watch tv, listen to a podcast, etc. but an active, reflective session.
  • Support from extended personal network

    • Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us. If you don’t want someone to provide solutions, tell them in advance you are just looking for a listening ear and some sympathy.
    • Have someone play the conversation back to you to make sure they have understood.
    • Are you avoiding social interaction and isolating yourself?
      • In times of high stress, Nick tends to cut social things first.
      • John suggests we decide what is wasted time and what is essential to self-care. Interacting with others is absolutely beneficial.
  • 3rd party support

    • Pastoral care
      • Most folks in ministry have some experience in counseling and would hold the conversation in confidence.
    • Professional emotional care (i.e. a counselor, psychiatrist, etc.)
    • Pro tip from John – make it a neutral 3rd party who may not know you well (i.e. outside of the situation, outside of your family, etc.). You cannot always expect a friend to bear the burden and provide all the support.
  • Work support

    • If personal life needs to be prioritized over work, talk to your manager. Hopefully you have a good rapport with your manager.
      • Use your best judgement here.
      • Nick and John give examples from having these type of conversations with their manager.
        • Ask about this kind of thing to discover a potential employer’s culture before taking the job. See Episode 65 for some great advice on this from Mike Burkhart.
    • Ask co-workers for support also when merited.
  • Physical health

    • Heavy stress can lead to sluggishness and lack of energy. These are the times we need to get more activity to release the stress and gain additional energy.
      • Don’t consider this a time waster.
      • Sometimes what you need is a break from the thinking and from the emotional stuff.
      • Exercise will help re-center you and get you in touch with what is going on in your body.
    • Are we eating poorly under stress?
      • Be mindful of what you’re putting into your body. Don’t eat for comfort.
    • Are we getting enough sleep?
      • Nick doesn’t do a great job protecting his sleep.
      • Check out Michael Breus and his work in sleep psychology. Follow him on LinkedIn to see a lot of fantastic articles on sleep and the affects of not getting enough of it. He also wrote The Power of When, which Nick recommended in our book review episode (Bonus 09).
    • Stay hydrated!
      • This one is easy to overlook.

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