We live in a society of extremes; extreme dieting, lifestyle, work habits and social life. We are saturated with the concept of ‘balance’ but how many of us really adhere to the practice?
I have always found it slightly odd that our society supports and demands a work/life balance, yet our culture (I refer here to capitalism) demands the complete opposite. Work hard, play harder. You want that promotion? You need to put in the extra hours. But what about the hours we already work and why do we need to add more to validify our status? And when we do eventually ‘burn out’ (because we will, given the pace we are expected to keep), what then?
This is not limited to the workplace, but it is potentially the arena with the highest expectation and most commitment. I have never seen such a tired and over worked culture than corporate London. Tiredness is the go-to emotion for its citizens and this is offset with all-night pub visits and copious amount of alcohol (and other substances) to ooze out the complexities of the day. It is with little wonder that our mental health wanes and negativity seeps through ever crevice and crack of the city.
When I moved to London five years ago, I was both surprised and concerned to discover that my mental health was in fact far more fragile than I had previously thought. I put this down to moving to a new city, navigating my way through a culture which I didn’t identify with and not having a job, and subsequently no finances.
Five years in and I still need to check in regularly with my mental and physical health. The grime of the city gets into my bones and the concept of ‘balance’ seems further and further away. Why doesn’t London support its citizens and demand a work/life and mental health balance? As a city it expects so much (a consequence of living in an urban jungle with 9 million people) and the subsequent competitiveness of it leaves little room for balance and taking time off.
Yet, as the wellness moves forward and more and more people immerse and embrace the concept of wellness, our corporate culture will have to adapt or change. But change within an already very enclosed structure is difficult, and therefore I would suggest making changes in yourself.
Over the past 12 months I have openly embraced the concept of self-love and self-care, and before you roll your eyes (just as I would have once done) I would suggest trying it first. Mediation, yoga, exercise, workshops, dance classes, mountaineering groups, the great thing about London is that it’s seething with likeminded people, people with a diverse range of interests and tastes.
Balance is not as simple as repeating positive mantras to yourself and peppering your life with candles and natural oils might soothe your body and soul initially, but more concrete affirmative actions need to be put into place to enforce a balanced lifestyle.
I read and listen to health practitioners, CEO’s, government officials and big-time corporates who preach the need for balance, but I don’t see it. Balance isn’t integrated into our city or lifestyle, saying we need a balanced lifestyle is not the same as actively enforcing it.
I call on the city of London and its citizens to demand balance, or at least find it where they can. Here’s to a ‘balanced’ 2020!