Balance, Schmalance

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By Kelly Hockenberry, Columnist, The Times

“Work life balance”

It is a concept that garners A LOT of press, particularly around the start of the school year. However, with all the buzz, I have yet to discover a definitive formula for success. When I was a high schooler (back in the time of the covered wagon), you were defined by your intellect OR your athletic prowess. Not to say that you couldn’t be both…but you didn’t have the pressure to be the best at everything. If you were smart, good for you! If you could catch a football but couldn’t add, good for you!

That isn’t the way of the world in 2018. Now, you must be smart AND athletic AND have 10,000 followers on Instagram. No wonder there’s no “balance.” How are you supposed to fit in all of that stuff in one 24 hour period? Impossible.

In my counseling sessions, I have been spending a good deal of time talking with my teenage clients about the pressures they feel in school. And, it’s no laughing matter. Kids are stressed. That’s not to say that a certain amount of anxiety isn’t beneficial. It is essential for optimal performance. The rush of adrenaline that we experience before a big test or an important game gives us the energy to tackle tricky situations. The problem arises when the flood of hormones (including cortisol) from the adrenal glands doesn’t subside. The toxic effect of chronic stress can result in serious health conditions like anxiety disorders, insomnia, and weakened immune systems.

Not good, right?

It sounds scary and rightfully so. Hence, the onslaught of suggestions in the media for how to deal with the issue. Here’s the bottom line: if it feels like too much, it probably IS TOO MUCH.

I find that kids today don’t think that they have the option to say “no” to extra-curriculars. The reality is, as parents, we tell them that academics come first, but then we sign them up for travel teams on top of their AP course work and regular school activities. YOU try telling a coach:

“sorry, I have an essay and a big Chemistry test (that I don’t understand) tomorrow so I can’t make it to practice today.”

It doesn’t happen. Here’s the more likely scenario: you scream at your kids to get their work done AND get to bed at a reasonable time so they don’t get sick. The two things are mutually exclusive. The tougher option is to have a heart-to-heart with your child about their limitations. It is OK to pick one thing and do it well and enjoy the process. The sooner we abandon the notion that you can’t be successful unless you can DO IT ALL, the happier we will be.

Is “less is more” the answer to “work life balance”? I’m thinking it might be. After all, the fewer things on either side of the scale, the easier it is to make level.

What are your thoughts? Please feel free to share in the Comment section below.

Happy Weekend

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