Work-life balance is a buzz word, and yet 66% of full-time employees in America consider themselves to have failed to strike a balance when it comes to their work and personal lives. While this struggle has gone on throughout the long history of capitalism, it’s currently being exemplified in a specific life hack that sums up the utter failure of Americans to balance their lives: meal replacements.
Why Meal Replacements Are a Problem
Simply put, meal replacements enable American workers to essentially “skip meals,” highlighting a growing epidemic in the modern workplace.
Whether you think meal replacements like Soylent and Huel are nutritionally sound or not is beside the point. The bigger issue at stake here is the simple fact that modern employees feel stressed out enough to take advantage of an option that allows them to literally cut out the need to eat.
With struggles like workplace anxiety and class warfare already crippling the workforce, the last thing the American culture needs is the ability to focus on work without even taking a break to eat lunch.
The rise of meal replacements stands in stark contrast to classic mid-20th-century imagery like Fred Flinstone bursting out of work at the end of the day, ready to retreat to his personal life for some well-deserved R&R. This image has been replaced by the (ludicrously unrealistic) image of the hyper-productive employee who is so busy being awesomely efficient that they don’t even have a moment to do more than add water to some powder, gulp down their faux meal, and then get back to work.
This is beyond unhealthy, as it further encourages the workaholic mindset that Americans already struggle with by default. Instead, the focus should be on a return to a proper work-life balance that considers friends, family, and yes, even food, as a legitimate, valuable part of living day-to-day life.
Tips for Encouraging Greater Work-Life Balance
If you’re an employee, listen carefully: it’s important to slow down and take the time to find work-life balance. If you’re an employer, listen even more carefully: it’s absolutely essential that you encourage your employees to slow down from time to time. Here are a few suggestions for small, easy ways to find work-life balance without the need to completely overhaul your work or personal lifestyles.
When you’re tempted with that meal replacement, remember the old maxim that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Sitting down to a fried egg and a piece of toast, a parfait, or even a bowl of cereal can do wonders for your mental state as you start the day.
Eating a good breakfast provides a routine and a ritual that allows you to get the most out of each morning. It helps you stay grounded and prevents your mind from running away with work-related thoughts before you even leave the house.
Exercise is an excellent way to combat the stress and anxiety of the workplace. The simple act of hitting the gym, going for a run, or even walking the dog pumps up your endorphins, improves your mood, and helps you focus.
Mindfulness is a mental state that is achieved by focusing on the here and now. Having an awareness of the present moment, along with its thoughts, feelings, and sensations can do wonders in helping you appreciate where you are, whether it’s at work, at home, or anywhere else.
Greed is an epidemic on a national scale, and the greed of our culture is constantly attempting to trickle down into our individual lives. That’s why it’s important to take steps to fight back. Embracing minimalism can be a great way to find that sense of mindfulness and inner peace by detaching from our slavish devotion to materialism.
Focusing on things that bring you genuine happiness and purpose can provide a greater sense of appreciation for life outside of the four walls of your cubicle or that bullpen at the office.
Take Lunch Breaks
Read the title carefully. Eating lunch alone isn’t enough, it’s also important to take a proper, full lunch break. According to one study, 20% of North American workers worry that their bosses won’t think they’re hardworking enough if they take a lunch break. On top of that, 38% of workers felt they weren’t encouraged to take a lunch break in the first place.
These kinds of management trends can quickly and easily lead to the adoption of meal replacements and the lack of balance that follows. Employers, in particular, should take the time to promote lunch breaks in order to help their employees maintain their sanity.
Part of the trick to finding good work-life balance — for employees and employers alike — is firmly taking time for yourself. Don’t hesitate to unplug from electronics at the end of the workday. If you allow the emails, apps, and notifications to follow you home, you’re never going to truly be off the clock. On top of that, disconnecting from the blue light and electronics can help you get better sleep as well.
Bucking the Trends
No matter how you choose to go about it, it’s worth making an effort to restore some work-life balance into your life. Sure, hang onto those meal replacements for times when you’re in a pinch, but don’t let them feed the dangerous mentality that you should always be working. Whether you’re sitting down to breakfast, taking a lunch break, or utilizing any other form of work-life balance, fight the trend to work yourself to death. You’ll appreciate the effort in the long run.