Too Much? Too Little? How to Figure Out Balance in Work and Self-Care

Last week I had a regularly scheduled visit to the dentist. I was apprehensive, which from my experience in talking with people about the dentist is more typical than not I’d guess. But the reason for my nervousness wasn’t the common fear of neglect leading to drilling on cavities (or worse), it was actually just the opposite: problems that can arise from being too vigilant.

Perhaps that sounds ridiculous, but it’s actually a thing and not just something singular to me – many people end up having problems because they get carried away with brushing and flossing. Determined to get dental care right, they brush too hard and/or floss rigorously, causing enamel to wear away or causing swelling to occur around the gums.

Ironically, this makes the teeth and gums susceptible to decay just like negligence does. I have been accused by dentists of aggressive brushing. I will admit I’m guilty.

To my ignorant defense, I didn’t know that you could do too much. I mean, who thinks they are doing a disservice to their dental care by going the extra mile and really warding off any lingering plaque? But apparently it’s true. And so my apprehension comes from finding out if my overzealous brushing tendencies have been kept in check over the past 6 months and hoping I’ve managed to escape problems that could arise from the damage done in the past.

Enamel is the hardest substance in the body, but it can be worn away, and it doesn’t grow back. Once it’s gone, that’s it. If it causes a problem, you have to get it fixed (or face the world of pain that ensues from angry nerves in your face).

So it appears that there’s a happy medium. While you by no means should neglect dental care (and I really mean that – do some research on dental care as it pertains to heart and kidney health, among other things), you also can’t go at it in a way that abuses the delicate gum tissue around the teeth or erodes enamel.

Now, if you’ve been reading my posts for a while now, you probably know where this is going: this concept of finding a balance in care applies to just about everything. Less isn’t going to cut it, and more isn’t more.

If you’re not working enough, it’s going to be tough to get ahead and you’ll be stuck in an unrealistic dream fantasy about your goals. If you’re working too much, you could actually be less productive than you think, defeating your whole purpose for working so hard in the first place.

Just like I thought I couldn’t brush too rigorously, work-hungry sentiments like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” are spoken with a sense of pride, as if it’s a good thing. Turns out it’s not, and with a little bit of planning those all-nighters probably could have been avoided. And perhaps this is an appropriate time to mention sleep, which the body must have in order to repair itself due to the stress and environmental hazards it faces each day.

You know that’s essential, right? The sleep thing?

The body doesn’t repair itself under any other circumstances. Not when you’re relaxing or taking it easy, or laying down – only when you’re asleep. You may not be able to repair enamel in your sleep, but your body can repair a lot of other things.

If you’ve ever pushed past the limits of self-care for the sake of work (is there anyone not guilty of doing this before??), you know what happens: you can experience all sorts of indicators like stress and anxiety, fatigue, cloud brain, lack of coordination, agitation…the list goes on. And don’t forget the fact that you lose your ability to be creative and come up with ideas and problem solve.

If you’re doing too much, you’ll need to constantly remind yourself that the best creativity comes from a mind and body that’s balanced. That means having enough ‘you’ time along with your work, and it also means paying attention the basic responsibilities of balancing your human – nutrition, exercise, sleep, etc. Just like the brushing, there’s a limit to what can be done before you actually make things worse instead of better.

Overworking can be a hard habit to break. Watch for thoughts like, “If I can just get this next thing done,” or being excited about “more” of whatever without looking at the whole picture.

There’s the other side of this, too, of course. Sometimes we think we’re doing a lot because we create a lot of busy work around us, or maybe we’re really not putting the work in to make our goals happen. When this is happening, there’s usually a larger reason at the bottom of this. Avoidance can be caused by many things and is often fear-based: fear of failure, success, the unknown, not being accepted, etc. This is usually accompanied by a lot of frustration, especially if you’re smart.

I once avoided buying and installing a computer application that I needed for work because I had no idea what I was doing. I avoided it for a month. I felt paralyzed with fear about the fact that I didn’t know what to do with it. Looking back on it now it seems silly, but at the time I would find anything else to do in order to avoid dealing with that.

That was back when I thought I had to do everything myself.

Now I know better. I can just learn about things or delegate by finding someone to teach me or finding someone do it for me if I really can’t figure it out. And then everything can continue to progress.

So I’ve been through both of these – the taking on of too much and the avoidance that leads to taking on too little, and I can tell you this from my experience: if you want to be successful, balance is essential – a balance of quality in every aspect of work and personal life.

Don’t take my word for it, though – try it for yourself. Your creativity will thank you for it. 🙂

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