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As an adult, it can be hard to find balance in a life that demands both work and rest. We’ve all heard the old adage, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” and there’s definitely truth to it.

Too much time at the grind dulls our edges. But, one could say the same about leisure.

Binge-watching every rom-com we lay eyes on does not necessarily mean we’re living our best life. When work and play are running haywire in your life, here are a few things you can do to set them straight.

Look at the big picture

It’s called self-distancing, and in a 2014 study, “Self-Distancing: Theory, Research, and Current Directions” published in Advances In Experimental Psychology, authors Ethan Kross and Ozlem Ayduk found that getting a little psychological distance from a difficult situation is an excellent way to move through it. When people reflect on what’s going wrong in their life while immersed in their negative feelings they’re doomed to fail. Why? Because they’re so focused on emotion they can’t see reason. Kross and Ayduk hypothesize that people need a way to “take a step back” from their experience so they can work through it more effectively.

Consider how it affects others

Thinking about how our actions affect those we work and play with is integral to reestablishing balance. In his classic best-seller, “How To Win Friends and Influence People,” author Dale Carnegie wrote, “If out of reading this book you get just one thing — an increased tendency to think always in terms of other people’s point of view, and see things from their angle … it may easily prove to be one of the building blocks of your career.” Consider the source: Dale Carnegie literally wrote the book on self-improvement, leadership and interpersonal skills. If he’s telling us to think about how others think and feel, maybe we should listen — not because it makes good business sense — it’s just good sense.

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Focus on what’s most important

As human beings we’re hardwired to move forward. Life is linear, so stepping back instinctively feels like we’re losing ground. But, sometimes stepping back is the only way to move forward. So how do we do this? By focusing on what’s important and eliminating what’s not. In Marie Kondo’s best-selling book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Kondo calls this act of decluttering our life the “KonMari Method.” In essence, Kondo believes that what we surround ourselves with, both physical and emotional, should “spark joy.” If it doesn’t, then we need to lose it like a bad habit and move on.

Make amends

Another emotion that comes in our DNA is the desire to make amends. When we’ve spent too long at the office or too much time surfing the web, we need to acknowledge how our actions have hurt the ones we love. According to Michael McCullough, the principal investigator of the 2014 study, “Conciliatory Gestures Promote Human Forgiveness and Reduce Anger,” published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, when people make a sincere attempt to apologize, they are usually forgiven. Whether we give an apology, make a peace offering, or bake a cake, it doesn’t matter how we show we’re sorry. It matters that we’re sorry.

It’s incredibly difficult to see the big picture, think about the consequences of our actions and repair what’s wrong when we’re engrossed in our own world. Ultimately, our ability to reflect whenever we feel our lives are out of whack can make the difference between a meaningful life and a life of wasted potential. The ability to think about and learn from our mistakes is a gift — why not use it?

This story was originally published in Bangor Metro’s October 2019 issue. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.