January has landed…in full force! It’s cold outside, seemingly permanently dark, and summer seems oh so far away.

Many of us at this time of year are exhausted from the Christmas period, and it becomes difficult to see ourselves escaping from the repetitive cycle of work, eat and sleep…summer holidays are a distant haze and thus so is the opportunity to break the monotony of the daily grind.

We live in a world where technology means we are constantly contactable (see my blog post about digital dieting), and, as a result, never switch off from work – and this is why January can become so very dreary. We are totally exhausted and cannot find an escape.

National statistics in the US demonstrate that an increasing number of people around the globe feel like their work-life balance is getting worse and stress levels are increasing. What’s more, psychologist Ellen Ernst Kossek explains that managing this balancing game is increasingly important for how productive our working hours are. We are less competent at our jobs if we feel burnt out, depleted and unable to craft a life that works within and outside of our jobs.

This week we had the privilege of speaking to Ian Morris, the man behind Wellington College’s wellbeing curriculum and author of Teaching Happiness and Wellbeing in Schools: Learning to Ride Elephants. One of the core ideas that he discusses is to do with encouraging children to find activities they love to do and then showing them how to remain engaged with these activities.

Morris’s book explains ‘flow states’. This describes times when the skills that we have perfectly meet the challenge of an activity, resulting in complete immersion in what we are doing. For me, I know I can spend hours doing puzzles…it works my brain, keeps my hands active, and I find that hours can pass without my mind straying from the activity at hand.

Morris definitely has something to teach adults here. As adults in the working world, we barely even remember those activities that we really enjoy, let alone make time for them in our busy schedules.

The US academic Matt Might has written a blog on maintaining a work-life balance, which includes tips on how to set and enforce boundaries, avoid over-commitment and…to keep hobbies!

Might says that even if you love your work, jobs still cause stress. Hobbies outside work enable you to let go of stress before it becomes overwhelming.

“Nobody on their deathbed regretted not spending more time in the office”.


For me personally, I have found that creating a division between work and play by devoting time to entirely non-work related hobbies has immensely benefitted my mental health. As Sally knows, I am a huge preacher of balance – an external balance of work and non-work activities creates mental balance, enabling you to wholly remove yourself from the stressful parts of your life.

So whether you love sports, art, puzzles, yoga, films, or anything else that keeps your mind active and away from work, make some time for them – as much time as is right for you. Create real breaks from work with things you enjoy and, trust me, these winter months will seem far less dreary!

Have an activity-filled, work-free weekend!

By Ilana Mann