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Live To Work or Work To Live?

Having a successful career that is rewarding both financially and in other ways is a must for many people.  Some people choose to postpone having a family in order to concentrate on furthering their career, and others may choose to study or retrain for a different career while still working full-time in their present job.  When we meet someone for the first time, it is often the case that one of the first questions we ask of each other is "what do you do for a living?"  Work can in some ways define us, and our business card can perhaps say something about us before we even meet the person it was given to.


Work gives us so much, and can contribute to our self-worth, self-esteem and sense of purpose.  It gives us the motivation to get out of bed each morning and provides structure for our day.  Some people may even state that they "live to work", yet in this blog post I would like to examine that phrase, and also the flipside; 'working to live'.  It constantly strikes me when I work with clients struggling with mild to moderate mental health issues that their situations often have a lot to do with balance or - more often - the lack of it.  While work may provide stimulation, drive and a sense of achievement, as human beings it is clear that we also need time to rest and to pursue leisure activities.


Some people have, for various reasons, no option but to work long hours and sometimes at more than one job.  Providing for a dependent family for example can be a demanding task, and for people in this situation working to live can be as detrimental to their mental and physical wellbeing as living to work.  In both scenarios, there is all work and no play.  Sleepless nights, migraine headaches and the ill-effects of stress can all rear their heads when work takes over.  Burning the candle at both ends for a short-time is certainly possible, yet this cannot continue forever.


In discussions with clients about the above dilemmas, often we discover that two things can be of use here.  The first (for those who work long hours but not necessarily just to put bread on the table), is to think about priorities.  Some managers I have spoken with excel at prioritising tasks in their day jobs, yet when it comes to managing personal wellbeing and balance in life outside of work they do not seem as proficient.  The consequences of a stressful work life are well-documented, and can include insomnia, tension and even heart attack.  For many it is not that they need to learn a new skill, but rather that they need to repurpose the existing skill of deciding what is crucial and what can wait.  If a client is struggling financially and is feeling weighed down by the demands of their job(s), often when we look at family expenditure and where savings can be made we find that some things can be forsaken so that the client can work a little less.  After all, what fun is a film and take away pizza when mum or dad is too exhausted to enjoy the treat?  With one of two less shifts and more rest, the family board game played together can be a refreshing change, and once bought can be enjoyed again and again for no additional cost.


Whether you feel you 'live to work' or 'work to live', could you envisage a future where work is one part of your week, and not the whole point of your week?



Rob Oglesby MBACP (Accred) B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy


Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email.  More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at www.ashwoodtherapy.com


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Live To Work or Work To Live? | Ashwood Therapy Blog