When times are tough and money is tight, it may seem harder and harder to achieve balance in one’s life, but that’s when leisure hours become even more important.
Struggling through long working hours can grind anyone down, especially when each day ends by going home to additional stress—mounting bills, maintenance projects, community commitments, pressing family matters and more.
This is exactly when adjusting your work-to-leisure ratio becomes of utmost importance.
New research has shown that interspersing leisure activities with work activities can actually make employees more productive. They accomplish their goals more easily than those who concentrate only on work.
Refreshed workers tend to be happier, too—more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to fall ill and require sick days.
Not surprisingly, many major corporations are now encouraging employees to work smarter, not harder, while insisting that they take more frequent breaks and make use of their accumulated vacation leave.
This move toward balancing work and leisure is actually not as new as it might seem. During the 4thcentury, the calendar of the Roman Empire included a whopping 175 holidays a year.
In the 9thcentury, King Alfred the Great of England described a balanced lifestyle this way: “Eight hours work, eight hours sleep, eight hours play, make a just and healthy day.”
In agrarian societies, farmers may have worked from dawn till dusk during planting and harvesting season, but between times they had lots of opportunity for recreational hunting and fishing, festivals and social gatherings, too.
According to David B. Posen, MD, pacing is one of the keys to achieving your best work-to-leisure ratio. It requires monitoring your stress and energy levels, then taking periodic time-outs.
Examples of stress-reducing time-outs include power naps, meditation, daydreaming, social interludes, short walks, refreshment breaks, listening to music or a shift to low-concentration tasks.
Dr. Posen admits that there is no “normal range” representing the perfect balance of work and leisure. However, he does say this of patients:
“I become concerned when work is over 60% and/or when self (leisure time) is less than 10%. We all require time to meet our own needs (self-care, self-nurturing, etc.) and when that is neglected, trouble usually follows.”
Self-directed activities such as exercise or recreation, relaxation, socializing, entertainment and hobbies can be the key to better balance.
It may also help to remember that the word “leisure” comes from the Latin term “licere,” meaning “permission.” By intermittently giving ourselves permission to relax, even work becomes more enjoyable.
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