2016 was a horrible year for me personally. I made the decision to leave an emotionally abusive marriage of 13 years and suddenly found myself in the middle of a ton of drama and stress as a result.
In my state, married couples must live separate and apart for one year prior to filing for divorce, which meant I was left in this horrible limbo.
I walked away from that relationship with no financial help, and as a freelance writer of eight years at that time, was scared to death of what this would mean for my son and my business.
I decided to do a major overhaul of my physical and mental health as part of my healing from the PTSD diagnosis I ended up with as a result of my marriage.
At a time in my life when I needed to keep the words hitting the digital paper to ensure the bills were paid, I had to stop myself from drowning in work and put forth some serious boundaries.
You see, because of cerebral palsy, I’m fairly functional, but I don’t drive. That means working from home is not a luxury, but a necessity.
But when my home was such a volatile place – making it less than ideal to work, and even harder to relax, I had to take control.
My mental health already suffers a great deal because of my physical limitations and chronic pain. Though I knew my marriage needed to end, I never expected to endure the depth of depression and anxiety I faced.
Now that I’m almost two years out from my divorce and my ex-husband and I are amicable enough to co-parent our son, I can say I learned a major life lesson – and I’m thankful to have come through to the other side of this.
What Does Work-Life Balance Look Like?
Before my separation and divorce, I don’t think there was much balance in my life.
I used my work as an excuse to withdraw from what was going on in my personal life and often had to leave home with my mom or friends to escape work.
It felt like work was home, and my home was work. There was no way for me to rest or relax.
In an effort to reach my own balance for self-care, the first thing I did was paint a picture of what that work-life balance looked like for me.
It helped me decide what boundaries I needed to set with myself, clients, and others in my life to create and maintain the balance.
I started by writing out what I want my day to look like now.
Then, I brainstormed ways to make it happen.
(Please remember what works for me may not be the answer for you.)
My New Daily Routine
My Work Day
I live in a different apartment now, but I still lack an office with a door that closes.
I have moved operations from my living room at my old place, to my dining room at the new one – but I have a much nicer desk that’s optimized for work.
Now, instead of getting up and going straight to work, I take time to get dressed (PJs are awesome and all, but depressing for me to wear all day) and eat breakfast before starting my day. That in itself lifts my mood considerably.
Instead of answering emails right as I see them hit my email box, I reserve answering emails for once I have finished an article.
I also no longer respond to emails from clients after 5 p.m. or on the weekends. If I work on the weekend, it’s because I want to or because I took the day off in the middle of the week to tend to an appointment.
As far as my clients are concerned, there is no work that takes place on Saturdays or Sundays – and I keep it that way most of the time.
At 5 p.m. or shortly thereafter, I shut my computer down for the day. I do not allow myself to go past 6 p.m., no matter how many words I have left to go for the day.
I walk away and sit on the opposite side of the dining room (at an actual table) to eat my dinner once it’s ready.
For me, it’s important to close the proverbial door every day so I can switch gears to the things that help me relax, like my physical therapy stretch routine to improve my physical health, reading and journaling to address the mental health, and sometimes binge-watching on Netflix or Hulu to break away from real life for a few minutes.
On weekends, I do what I can to leave the house, and if I feel like staying home, I still avoid my desk. I’ve found that if I don’t, I’m tempted to try to “get ahead” for next week.
Self-Care Takes Practice
Regardless of how bleak things become, I’ve found that it’s crucial to my health and success to make small attempts to regain control of what little in my life I have control over – even if it means taking less work and moving a little slower than my usual pace to get it done.
It means leaning on a network of people I know and trust to help me get through it – both the actual work and the emotional toll of any major stressors in my life – and it means setting boundaries with my clients.
If it weren’t for this, and the professional help I received (reach out if you need help finding resources to address your mental health!) I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today.
I have learned that life is going to throw you some major curveballs to force you to shake things up and reevaluate. It may feel like the worst thing ever in the thick of it, but you just have to keep pushing forward.
You don’t have to do it alone… and taking care of yourself is paramount.
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