Play more to stress less, and get more done

February 29, 2016
Photo credit PhotoAlto
Photo credit PhotoAlto

I hear the phrase “Work Hard Play Hard” frequently, and I’ve usually had a knee-jerk reaction to it.  A negative one.  It’s with the word “hard”, a word I try to avoid as much as possible.  I like the word “ease.”  Even just saying "ease" makes me slow down a little, and helps life not to feel so, well, hard.  


I’m beginning to embrace the phrase Work Hard Play Hard, though, as I have brought my own meaning to it, mostly because of the second half, but also because of the balance it indicates.


I love contrast and paradox.  Work and play are usually seen as opposites, though not always.  We all envy those who have figured out how to make a good life by doing both at once for their livelihood.  What I’ve come to like about the phrase is that it makes me think about play, which I have neglected often in my life.  I work hard, oh yes, I do.  But I don’t tend to approach play the same way.  


I think back to grade school and recess.  We all lived for recess.  We’d go out and play, hard, in our precious amount of recess time.  We'd come back in sweaty and dirty, and smiling.  Which actually helped with focus and energy for the return to the school work (despite wishing to stay outside and play forever).  Wise teachers channeled that energy well, and helped us love learning when our minds and bodies were on a wave of positive feelings and endorphins.   


The more I play, take breaks, engage in play of various sorts, the more I find I focus better, dig into the tasks at hand, and get more done in less time.  I find I’m less stressed, more motivated, problem solve better, feel more relaxed and resilient.  I find I smile more and feel more engaged, and simply enjoy the work more.  Knowing a break for play is coming up helps quiet that restless kid inside which allows me to accomplish and deliver what I'm responsible for.  


“Work hard and play hard” to me are about focus and being all in, having the world go away because you’re humming along, absorbed in the task at hand with all of your being, which doesn’t have to be or feel “hard”.  Yet it’s satisfying, to apply all of yourself and see and feel the results of either work or play.  


We need both, they inform each other, support each other, compliment each other, and add to our growth and satisfaction with life.  There are an awful lot of people that work hard (and I’ll add long) and play little, and pay the price in health, relationships and simple enjoyment of life.  


How can you get more play in your life?  What is your definition of play?  What is on your list of options or curiosities when it’s time for play?  Making regular time for play and making a commitment to give this to yourself is an act of self-care, positive time- and self-management, and contributes to our personal and professional development, and makes a difference in all areas of our lives.




I am a life coach and help people reduce stress, create a daily self-care practice, get organized and get more done with ease.  Please contact me for help with stress reduction and other healthy life changes.



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