Statistically, three-quarters of women in the U.S. struggle to find a work-life balance. We live jam-packed days that include family, career, housework, and a fair amount of stress. But no matter how hard we work or how carefully we plan, it can be tricky to live a life that fulfills responsibilities, honors our relationships, and still finds time to rest and play.
Is a work-life balance even possible?
Most parents – heck most people – can relate to trying to find the right work-life balance to manage stress and generally feel like life is worth living. Most days I can strike a good balance by segmenting my life and leaving work at work and home at home.
It isn’t always that neat and tidy.
This week was a tough one. At the end of the week, I had every intention of leaving work at work. But while everyone else was asleep, I was lying in bed on Friday night, panicked about a situation at work. The fight-flight response had kicked into overdrive and I wondered whether I should try a new strategy or just clean up my résumé.
Eventually, I managed to fall asleep. But I still felt agitated the following morning and I didn’t want work to rob me of time I could be spending with my family. Sure, there was plenty of work to do around the house. But sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to slack off and try something new. And so that’s what I did.
Nature helps me remember what’s most important.
Our younger daughter is a flurry of ideas. As a budding horticulturalist, she suggested we visit the conservatory – not a bad idea since we’ve had a delayed spring and snow flurries as recently as a few days ago.
For a small donation, the conservatory allowed us to experience a room full of spring flowers and the smell of Easter lilies, a hot dry “desert” featuring cacti and agave, and a tropical paradise with hanging moss and colorful hibiscus.
We enjoyed the peace and beauty of the conservatory so much that we went through the whole complex twice. We spent time sitting on wooden benches, taking silly selfies, and being filled with the wonder of botanical diversity.
The time spent in this special place gave me the space I needed to talk and laugh with my daughter, learn new facts from a friendly docent, and relax in the glory of God’s creation. Although it didn’t guarantee a work-life balance over the long-term, it was a good start.
Creation makes us better people.
We’re all stressed and overworked and distracted. Every day, we struggle to achieve a work-life balance. But when the worries of the world close in, Matthew 6.28 reminds us to look to the natural world: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow …”
Nature is an overlooked and simple treatment for stress. Research shows that people who live in areas with more green space have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And spending just 5 minutes of activity in natural areas has been shown to improve moods and self-esteem.
I know that I feel far better when I’m taking a walk than when I’m sitting in front of the TV. If a better work-life balance is what you’re looking for, put down your phone, push away the laptop and leave the virtual world behind.
There is a real world full of wonder just outside your door, a world that promises to bring a breath of fresh air and – with any luck – a ray of sunshine.