Finding Balance in an Unbalanced Environment

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Since moving to Spain I’ve noticed one thing in particular. People don’t live to work. Work doesn’t consume every other aspect of live. There’s more balance. It’s just one aspect of it. In the beginning it didn’t make much sense to me. Culturally, in Ireland, we’re much different. Work is often the biggest element of our lives. It supersedes everything else,

For the last year or so that I lived at home, I felt under constant pressure. Although many good things were happening, the pressure to be productive and work increased. I was being pulled in a thousand directions. I felt like I needed to be working all the time, even on my days off. And this isn’t unusual. Many people in Ireland exist in this way.

We’re not very good at finding the balance between work and life. Some of this is down to individual choices, but mostly it’s down to societal expectations. Ireland is an extremely capitalist country. So we’ve been made to feel guilt, or pressure, when we are not being productive, Many of us still show up to work when we’re unwell. We can’t even take much-needed rest. This is how bad our balancing abilities are. Work is more important than our health is the message our society delivers.

And of course there’s nuance. We need money to live. There are bills to pay, mortgages to maintain. We should work, but it shouldn’t consume us. Here in Spain, people live around work. They do things on the weekdays, which is not something I often experiences back home. My life back home only really began on the weekend. Not many people wanted to do things during the week because so much of socialising revolves around alcohol. But here, people go to events, dinner, have games nights, every night of the week. Because there is a cultural belief that, while work is important, it isn’t the most important.

What effect has this had on me? I don’t feel under as much pressure to be productive. I feel less stressed, and I don’t experience stress as often. Because of the cultural differences I’m drinking less, so I’m also experiencing less anxiety. So much of our mental wellbeing is dependant on environment. My mental health is better here, because the environment is more suitable. There’s less pressure to be a productive machine. There’s more room to be.

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