Why Work-Life Balance Is Overrated

Entrepreneur and business coach Hannah Garrison offers a healthier, happier alternative to the classic catchphrase: holistic balance with a personalized twist.
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Image Credit: Erin Loechner

Our Guest Wellness Editor, everbliss' Uli Beutter Cohen, connects us this week with entrepreneur and business coach Hannah Garrison. Hannah knows a thing or two about juggling an ambitious career alongside a busy family, while also trying to save space for self-care. Below, she makes a case for a new approach to "work-life balance" that's a bit more, well, balanced. 

“How do people have time to do all of this?” I text my bestie at midnight, well past my bedtime. My inbox is crowded with inquires, and my family of four is living out of the unfolded laundry basket. It’s March, and I still have holiday thank you cards to address. I neither showered today nor exercised. The dinner I made was not all that great. 

I never get anywhere near the end of my to-do list. I managed to do a yoga video once a day for 15 days in January, and then that fizzled. Insert perpetual buzzword: work-life balance. Somewhere along the line I internalized a sense that I was failing to achieve this magical balance – and I know I’m not alone.

I tense up when people refer to work-life balance. I imagine some time-tracker app that makes me inventory how much of my day is “work” and how much is “life.” And that’s a really messy business to get into. Journalist and writer Brigid Schulte did it and reported back in this great interview. And guess what? Turns out work-life balance really isn’t very cut and dry. 

These days, very few people leave their lives behind when working, nor do they really leave their work behind, ever. We live in a time of fluidity, and you bet your arse that it can be confusing to the mind, body and soul. Everbliss Health Coach Catherine Chen, Ph.D. nails it when she says, “Perfect is, well, overwhelming.” It can lead you to the road of procrastination, because the thought of getting started is just exhausting. The next thing you know, projects get squashed into the last few days of the week, and you’re finishing tasks at the last minute.” So, if the demands on your time outstrip your resources and the lines between them seem to blur, don’t worry – you’re not alone, and there are ways to live easier, even if you don’t have the time for a mindfulness retreat (though I totally suggest it!).

But first, let’s say this together: forget work-life balance! Let’s just live healthy lives.

The key is to remember that getting more balance is an incredibly personal affair. What works for Oprah and what works for me are not exactly the same (to put it simply). The balance that feels right to you will be very different than that which appears successful for Suzy Your-Has-It-All-College-Mate-On-Facebook. 

Dr. Chen puts it like this: "Get out of your own way. All those people who seem like they're living perfect lives? They're people too. It's the self-destructive thoughts such as ‘I'm not good enough,’ or ‘I'll never be a part of that club’ that get in your way of seeing yourself as a person of value.” Comparison is the thief of all joy. The best thing you can do in terms of balance is to find out what exactly works for you.

For me, and for many successful women with demanding careers, the goal is to find your own blend, and then fiercely protect those boundaries. It so often feels like work is overly pervasive and we must give it our all to succeed. Yet time and time again, my body (and yours?) shows me that I cannot give everything without seriously caring for myself, too. 

Remember Uli, Clementine's Guest Wellness Editor? She makes sure to make time for Subway Book Review aside from her job at everbliss, because it feeds her. That’s part of her individual blend of balance. You might know Sas Petherick, too – My Mindful Year does some of the same for her. And that’s the stuff right there. There is no one formula. 

The basics of balance are a good place to start, and they're as simple as they are powerful. And good news: they are well within your reach, today, no matter how overwhelmed and busy you are. 

  1. Eat okay. Don’t work so hard that you skip meals. Eat small meals, frequently, that include protein, carbs and good fats. During times of high stress, eliminate sugar and alcohol intake, increase fresh leafy greens and drink lots of water.

  2. Sleep enough. Yes, I know, someone told you to get up early and meditate, and then go running, and then save the world. But it’s more important to protect your sleep. That’s when your body and mind get time to rejuvenate. If you don’t sleep well, it’s well worth spending time and/or money to change that. 

  3. Move. I like yoga and the gym, really. But we often just don’t have time to carve out the hour it takes to do dedicated exercise. All I ask is that you move. Walk a few blocks, run after your kids, stretch and adjust your posture regularly. Incorporate movement into your everyday life.

  4. Get help. In addition to doing things for yourself, it’s equally important to learn to ask for help from people who know best. Maybe that means seeing a health coach or therapist or visiting an herbalist for supplements. I love elderberry syrup, digestive bitters and Calm Drops.

Each of us has a sweet spot, and I am willing to bet that you know around where yours is. A little bit of a healthy, basic balance can go a long way to bettering your physical and emotional wellbeing. If you live in that space, say, 80% of the time, you’ll breathe freer, life will feel a bit lighter, work will flow easier and relationships will go a bit deeper. 

Hannah Garrison is an entrepreneur and business coach. She is the founder of Calm-A-Mama, a natural supplement company. Hannah is also a coach on everbliss. She's the mama of two rambunctious kids and makes granola to die for. 

p.s. Speaking of asking for help, here's a clinical therapist's argument for opening up to others about mental health.