TWAP067: 3 Work and Life Balance Secrets You Will Want To Know

work and life balance
How many spoons do you have in your drawer?
Musings of an Aspie writer, Cynthia Kim, illustrated the spoon theory of disability by talking about a silverware drawer.
Each spoon in the drawer represents your energy.
As an Aspie, you may have limited capacity relating to social communication, using language, physical activity, sensory challenges, or executive function.
Using too many spoons, representing your mental, physical and emotional resources, results in exhaustion and burnout.
When talking about work and life balance in the autism community, I imagine the topic is as varied as there are people.
But I would imagine the following scenario, expressed by one of the Thrive with Aspergers Facebook community members (with his permission) is not uncommon –
“ I have a battle waging in my head right now. The strong need for a regular income vs. the strong desire to be myself. It seems there is a black/white choice – either I have a regular income from a job I don’t really want, or I be myself, which means I want nothing to do with the job. My most peaceful mind comes from creating art, but my most regular income comes from keeping the job that constantly pushes my buttons. I now have a wife and 3 kids to support…am I stuck in the job until I retire? I love my wife and kids, and putting them and myself in financial risk drives me insane, but so does the job. Anyone else deal with these issues?"
While I don’t have simple answers, I do know that work and life balance is something everyone has to make a priority.

3 Tips For A Balanced Lifestyle

1. Understand Your Unique Neurology

First, have you received an autism diagnosis? If not, you may want to listen to this episode.
If you know you’re on the autism spectrum, it’s important to know what aspects of life you’re good at, and where you struggle.
In her article, “How to build a career if you have Aspergers“, Penelope Trunk shows awareness of her brain preferences. She talks about what she can do, and what she needs help with:
For example – she does not engage in small talk, but she knows that since she often does not conform to rules she cannot detect, she ends up being a great business coach for others. She has no “filter” when she talks to people – that’s gotten her fired from jobs, but her honest and direct feedback is what her business coaching clients are looking for.
Dr. Valerie Gaus, author of Living Well on the Autism Spectrum, spend the first part of the book talks about differences autism presents in dealing with everyday life. These differences include both strengths and vulnerabilities.
Buy Dr. Gaus’ book (or check it out from the library) and study the first part of the book to see what differences you most strongly identify with.
Do you have social differences that can make the work environment draining or difficult?
Do you have emotional differences that you’ll need to learn to deal with to make work successful?
Do you have sensory or movement differences that affect how you interact with your environment?
The autism brain is unique and different than the non-autism brain.
Action Steps:
Interested in finding out more?
See the research articles below for more detail.
It may help to get counseling with a therapist who understands autism spectrum..
I have sought out counseling over the years. It’s helped me develop tools and strategies for better managing my life.

What’s Your Career Personality?

Years ago, I was working in a hospital as a mental health counselor.
I had a young child, but I was working nursing shifts, which meant 3 pm to 11:30 pm with alternating weekends.
It was hard for me to be away from my family.
I wanted to figure out a better work land ife balance. I hoped to find career options that would help me provide for my family, but still be able to see them.
So I went through some career testing.
The process helped clarify things for me.
I found out, for example, that I’m attracted to business management positions.
But even though I’m attracted to management, I don’t like giving negative feedback. Or firing people.
Sure enough, when I’ve taken those jobs a couple of times, that was my biggest struggle.
I’ve found that I’m more comfortable in a team as an individual contributor.
What about you?
Have you ever gone through career testing?
You can do a Google search on free career tests. For example, I found 123Test.
It was a quick and very easy test based on the Holland personality codes.
When I had graduated college, I took a couple of community college classes as pre-requisites for a counseling program.
I wanted to be sure I was heading into a career I would enjoy, so I went through a lot of testing, for $5, at the community college counseling center! (Tells you how old I am!)
That testing confirmed that I had both the interest and the ability to do well in the counseling field, and here it proved to be right!
Action Steps:
Learn about yourself and your career personality.
Check out this list of personality and career tests that can help you start learning about yourself and possible good career fits.
Here are a couple free personality and career tests to help you get started.
Here’s an article I wrote about free strengths test sites.
If your current job is not a good fit for you, start thinking about whether there are better jobs in your company.
And if not in your company, think about other companies.
If you’d like career coaching, check out Barbara Bissonnette. She’s a certified career coach who specializes in working with autism spectrum adults.
You can listen to a couple of interviews I conducted with her here and here.

Educate Yourself About Work Accommodations

If you’re struggling with aspects of your job or work environment, check out the Job Accommodation Network.
Talk to a JAN consultant either via phone or live chat for advice.
Here are questions they can answer:
  • What is your disability or limitation?
  • Are you currently employed or seeking information about employment or self-employment?
  • Do you feel that you are being discriminated against because of your disability?
  • Do you want to know your rights under the ADA and how to file a complaint?

Work and Life Balance: Putting It All Together

Would you try to fly a car?
Nope.
Cars are for roads!
That example may be simplistic, but it’s my analogy for knowing your neurology.
For example, I know I cannot be an accountant, or a mathematician, or an astronomer.
I could try, but I know that, given my experience in remedial college math, it would not be a good idea.
But I’m a better writer and podcaster!
Knowing how you process information, how you handle your emotions, and how you think will help you better understand your current life work balance situation.
Start reading Musing of An Aspie’s blog to better understand your neurology. Dr. Valerie Gaus’ book, Living Well on the Autism Spectrum, is also a great resource.
Once you better understand your neurological tendencies, move on to better understanding your career personality and profile. Maybe your current career is a good fit. Maybe it isn’t! Take your time to understand these things.
Finally, check out the JAN website to see if a free consultant can help you identify modifications to your job that will help you function better at work.
When you take the above action steps, you’ll decrease stress at work.
When you decrease stress at work, your stress levels outside of work will decrease, and work and life balance becomes much easier.
Do you have more questions about work and life balance?
Join the Thrive with Aspergers community by contacting me. We can crowdsource answers to your questions!

 

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I'm Steve Borgman. I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

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