I was interviewed by Forbes Contributor, Rachel Ritlop, where I speak about finding a healthy balance between work and life.

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Though on the cusp of being a millennial, Apryl Zarate Schlueter knows the struggle many millennials face all too well. She spent years seeking her purpose and job hopping through various industries, from engineering, IT consulting, teaching, and higher-education administration and finance. After trying on many different professions, she finally realized her true passion as a happiness and productivity expert who helps overcommitted people with big dreams have more fun while getting stuff done. She is the author of Finding Success in Balance: My Journey to The Cheerful Mind.

Schlueter shares her insights on how she came to find what balance means for her, and how others can too:

Rachel Ritlop: What got you interested in trying to find a healthy balance between work and life?

Apryl Zarate Schlueter: It’s been my personal mission my entire adult life. I’m a very ambitious person by nature, so my career is something that’s always going to be a big part of my life. But in terms of life outside of work, I knew without a doubt that if I absolutely had to pick one, I would always choose my family, health, or happiness over a job, so I was constantly in search of a career that would not force me to sacrifice those things. Yet, as I navigated through various roles in a number of different industries, I was always having to sacrifice something important to me. A few years ago, my health finally took a hit after hitting my burnout point, and finally gave me the space to conquer this idea of “work-life balance” once and for all.

Ritlop: What does work-life balance mean to you?

Schlueter: I will start by saying that one of the most important things I want people to understand about work-life balance is that there is no one clear definition of what work-life balance is. It varies from person to person. That said, “balance” for me is aligning my life with the things I truly want and value, and not living a life defined by society. And as I discovered I’m most happy when I’m having a lot of fun, continually accomplishing new and exciting things, and doing the things I love without sacrifice, that is when I feel most balanced. I also acknowledge that balance is an ongoing process, as we change and evolve over time. Therefore, my definition of balance as a young professional was not the same as my definition of balance as a mother of two young kids, and will definitely be different when I finally retire.

Ritlop: Why do you think millennial employees are so stressed today?

Schlueter: I believe the stress comes from a number of things, but here are what I feel are the main contributors: First, the pressure to perform at a high level started at a very young age for millennials. I think some may missed out on a fun and exploratory childhood because they were already preparing for college right out of the womb. In addition, with the advances of technology over time, life moves at an insanely fast speed, and the bar keeps rising. We have to constantly condition ourselves to keep up with the times, so there’s very little opportunity to rest. Also, we are in an age of information overload. With all of the noise, it’s very easy to get distracted, and it can further kill productivity because there are just too many things to do, and too many options.

Ritlop: Why do you think US workers are so stressed today?

Schlueter: I would echo b and c in from the previous question, but I’d also mention that our country’s work culture doesn’t seem to value wellness and happiness as much as it could. Some companies are starting to prioritize this and there is definitely improvement, but I feel budgets on these initiatives could still benefit from more increases. Also, employees don’t typically utilize the vacation benefits that are given to them by their employers; which means many people are not giving themselves the time they need to de-stress and recharge.

Ritlop: How can people manage stress and avoid burnout?

Schlueter: I believe it’s essential to constantly check-in and be self-aware of stress levels. Many people just go through the motions and don’t pay attention to any signals their bodies give them, which is why so many people experience burnout. They don’t realize they’re burning out until it’s too late. If there is awareness, then one can start identifying appropriate strategies to remedy the situation. Meditation, exercise, sleeping 7-8 hours per night, staying hydrated, and practicing gratitude are all examples of great practices that can help ease stress.

Ritlop: How can people identify their priorities or values?

Schlueter: There are a number of tools and exercises I use to help my clients identify their priorities and values, but one of the simplest ways is to first, think of a time that made you happy. What was it about that particular event that brought you joy? Then, think of a time that caused you frustration. What specifically caused conflict in that moment? Your responses will give you some insight as to what values are important to you.

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