One of my favourite YouTube videos must be Mark Gungor’s description of the difference between men’s and women’s brains. In his very entertaining demeanour, he explains how men tend to store their thoughts and experiences in various boxes. These boxes are separated from each other, never touching, ensuring that each subject remains a stand-alone entity. When, for example, they are in their work box, they’re ONLY occupied and focussed on work: that’s all they can think about at that specific time. Don’t even bother jumping to another subject such as family, religion or even fishing… he’s in his work box!
According to Pastor Gungor (yes, you read that right!), women on the other hand, have no boxes… EVERY thought and idea has a link to EVERYTHING else happening in her brain! When a woman is out jogging, she is already planning that evening’s supper… which leads to thoughts about her family whom she’s been meaning to invite for a visit… which leads to empathetic thoughts about her ill cousin… which leads to her making a mental note to send flowers to this cousin… which leads to worrying thoughts about the drought and the fact that her garden at home is withering away… and so it carries on… and on… and on… a never-ending train of thought…!
This hypothesised comical phenomenon is of course a generalized idea. On the odd occasion you might find the opposite: lucky are those women who can put their thoughts and ideas into boxes too. And some men might also be burdened… blessed?… by connecting all their thoughts at once.
Whether you fall into the generalized or opposite group, this ability to organize and arrange thoughts might explain why some people are finding their home environments more stressful than work. At work, it is expected that you focus only on work responsibilities. You are allowed to put all other responsibilities as a life partner, parent, child, sibling and member of society on the back burner. There are less simultaneous demands at work: no hungry children, shopping lists, dirty dishes, ironing, entertaining friends and family, tending to loved ones, maintenance around the house or spending undivided quality time with your partner.
HOWEVER, the things that make life worth living are indeed all the multiple responsibilities and roles that we just cannot live without (and love having in our lives).
So how do we achieve and maintain a healthy work-life balance?
By attempting to minimize stressors when transitioning from our work- to our home lives.
Creating this much-needed balance between different areas of our lives may very well start by aiming to achieve balance inside our bodies and more specifically, inside our nervous systems.
One of the easiest ways to bring this about, is by being aware of your individual needs and addressing those from a sensory perspective:
- “Sensory leaves”, with high thresholds for sensory input, seek out stimulation to meet their optimal level of arousal.
- “Sensory roots”, with low thresholds for sensory input, usually avoid too much stimulation from their environments.
Keep in mind though, that sensory strategies are not a “one size fits all” solution. You need to know and understand your individual sensory profile before you can fulfil your own needs. This can be done by completing your free Sensory Quiz or your full Sensory Matrix™.
Some general ideas to help you cope with the transition between work- and home life may include:
Sensory leaves seeking ↑ sensory input
↑ Listen to music in your car on the way home
↑ Stop by your grocery shop on a daily basis to buy
↑ Spend the first 15 minutes after work at
↑ Go out for supper to new restaurant
↑ Have unplanned games nights with your family
↓ Don’t plan your work outfit the day before
Sensory roots avoiding ↓ sensory input
↓ Switch the radio off on your way home
↓ Have your suppers pre-planned and go shopping
↓ Explain to your family that you need quiet, alone-time for the first 15 minutes after getting home from work
↓ Go out for supper at a familiar, quiet restaurant
↓ Plan games nights with your family
↑ Plan the next day’s work outfit before going to bed
I suppose the question (with no right or wrong answer) that each person needs to answer for themselves, will always remain:
Do you work to live or live to work?
Written by Marieta du Toit, a qualified Occupational Therapist with an interest in sensory integration, neurology and human behaviour in the modern world. She is based in St Francis Bay, where she manages her school-based practice dealing with children, parents, teachers, principals and health profession colleagues. Marieta is a regular blogger and is our Eastern Cape Events Co-ordinator.