​Summer Holidays – A Time to Take Stock and Gain some Balance

It’s finally summer and most of us are fortunate enough to either be on holiday already or on the cusp of one. Taking a break provides us with the space and time to take stock of where we are. The contrast between long unstructured days, afternoon siestas and our frenzied work week can be quite stark. When we start to relax, many of us start to question why we pack so much in and push ourselves so hard the rest of the year.

It’s fair to say that many of us derive our self-worth from our careers. A lot of people don’t even question the ‘rat race’, they just take their place on the treadmill and get on with it. If we don’t have a strong sense of self, we are more likely to become fixated on work – if we do well, we might feel ok but if we don’t, a sense of failure and low self-worth can prevail. However, ironically it’s often when we’re doing particularly well that anxiety can assail us – how to we maintain that lofty position, will it be found out that actually I’m not “all that” really. Hence, the catch 22 – damned if we do well, damned if we don’t.

I’ve worked with many clients to help them try and achieve more of a work-life balance. For one client it was to draw some boundaries around her weekend and to stop taking work home to complete on Saturdays and Sundays. It was challenging for her to break this habit which she had built up through a decade of her working life. However, when she finally got there, she was astonished to find that not only did her productivity not suffer, her Monday-Friday working week became more fruitful. This client is a creative and by taking a step away from the grind for two days she was able to spend some time nurturing herself: doing meditation, visiting galleries, taking walks. This investment in herself allowed her creativity to flow more freely through her work. Conversely, when she worked all weekend, she’d drag herself to work drained and resentful on Monday mornings.

It’s important to draw a line between being passionate about one’s job, where you’re investing a lot of energy in what you do but equally getting a lot from it, and a situation where one is simply worried and anxious about it constantly, fuelled by a feeling that without it you’d be worthless. In the latter case, I think it hints at low self-esteem. I’d strongly encourage anyone who can identify with that to work with a good therapist to unpick this and to start building their self-esteem up from within themselves rather than placing their self-worth on the external validation provided by work.