Tips from the Yin-Yang Librarian: Finding the Work-Life Balance

It has taken me three years as an academic librarian feverishly chasing tenure to remember a few simple things about life. Call me focused, driven, or stubborn. But now that I have remembered these simple principles, I can’t believe I ever forgot them.

The past three years remind me of the Wachowski Brothers’ Matrix movie series. It was as if I were living in a world that was not of my creation; where I was told what my existence would be; and where I felt myself being used up like a living battery that would eventually expire and then be recycled for use by the next in line without any concern for my life force or existence at all. What was worse, I was so deeply programmed into the Matrix that I didn’t realize this was happening to me.

Now you may be asking, what was the turning point? How did you go down the rabbit hole? Why did you decide to take the red pill instead of the blue pill? The answer to all of these questions was simple. My husband and I decided to take our first vacation ever. We enjoyed a restful few days at a bed and breakfast in Asheville, North Carolina. The day after my return to work I had a heart arrhythmia that lasted more than an hour. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move and there was a piercing pain and numbness through my entire body. I couldn’t even call out to alert anyone. The next day my doctor referred me to a cardiologist. Extensive testing determined that I experienced neither a heart attack nor a panic attack, but Premature Super Ventricular Tachycardia (PSVT). The cardiologist made it clear that I would most likely suffer from PSVT for the rest of my life unless I took drastic measures to prevent it and was prescribed blood pressure medicine. Normally I fight doctors, but this time I thought better of it.

From this experience, I took a good long look at my “life” and realized that I had left no room for life in it. There was only work or work-related projects. I had unwittingly given myself over to work at the expense of my personal, mental and emotional needs. How had I let this happen? How could I have forgotten to leave room for myself in my own life? At least the realization had come early in my career.

I now live a very clearly defined work and life existence. I have rediscovered the zen that comes from the balance between yin and yang, work and life. Here are my 6 tips to finding your own balance:

  1. Remember to take deep breaths throughout the day (this produces good endorphins and circulation).
  2. Smile often, even when you feel like crying (this helps remind you that you are a person and not a product).
  3. Do not bring work home with you (the work will still be there when you return and it never ends, trust me).
  4. Don’t you dare check your work email while you are on vacation or on the weekend (this is your time not theirs!).
  5. Set appropriate boundaries for your personal space while at work (play music, use aromatherapy, hang paintings or photos, so forth).
  6. Remember that you have a life and you have a right to it (do not give this human right over to your work).

I have employed all of these strategies in order to rediscover my work-life balance. When I am at work, I focus on work and my pursuit of tenure. When I am on my time living my life, I spend time with family and friends, I volunteer in the community and I do my artwork. I am much happier and healthier because of it.

So heed my words lest you have a situation that alerts you to the imbalance you have created. There is a balance in nature. There must be a balance in life. Find your personal balance. Find your own yin and yang. Once found, remember they must remain separate but that they work in unison to create the whole you.

Yadira V. Payne is a Government Information Librarian and Assistant Professor of Library Science at Augusta State University in Augusta, Georgia.