Striking a healthy balance between work and play is a struggle for more and more adults in our fast-paced world. A 50-plus hour workweek, 24/7 online availability, and pressure to assume additional responsibilities for downsized staff is becoming the norm at many workplaces. The need to maintain this frantic pace continues long after the workday has officially ended. A number of workers and their families participate in educational and recreational activities, filling up evenings and weekends with classes, lessons, tournaments, workshops, and retreats. This notion that one must not only "work" at work but must "work" at play not only blurs this boundary, but makes it more and more difficult for people to find the time and energy when they are off-the-clock.
An all too common "off-the-clock" struggle for many adults, especially working women, involves the completion of household tasks. Many women return home after a full day of work only to face a household to-do-list every bit as long as their job to-do-list. Although they may be quite skilled at time management, strategic planning, and delegating to others during working hours, these skills rarely transfer over to life at home. Plagued by feelings of guilt or diminished worth, they never allow time for themselves until they have completed these tasks. In most instances, this "alone" time never seems to come and the line between being "on-the-clock" versus "off-the-clock" only grows more blurred over time.
For some individuals, their workday ends and being "off-the-clock" is not a problem. Unfortunately, they may have difficulty recognizing or dealing with negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, fear, or shame. Some people are totally unaware of these feelings, while others become preoccupied or overwhelmed by the persistence and intensity of passing feelings or thoughts throughout the day. The common goal in these instances is to find a means of escape. It is at these times that many people numb themselves with alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, TV, surfing the net, gambling, sex and exercise. There can be a fine line between pleasurable indulgence and self-destructive habitual behavior. Too often this line is crossed, creating or exacerbating underlying addictions, compulsive behaviors, and emotional or physical health problems.
Acknowledging the need for being "off-the-clock" is important for individuals who may not be in the formal workplace either through choice or circumstance. Economic downturns have resulted in record layoffs, extended unemployment, and substantial underemployment, creating numerous stressors. Individuals who are retired, disabled, staying at home to parent children, or providing care for ill loved ones need to find ways to balance their day. A number of them struggle with recognizing underlying triggers and difficult emotions as well. Many do not allow themselves "down" time and often maintain counterproductive patterns and self-destructive habits.
Taking time each day to be "off-the-clock" as well as making optimal, personal choices with that time is not as simple as it sounds.