The concept of “work-life balance” means something different to everyone. One person might think he’s achieved balance when he can be home early enough to eat dinner with his family every night, while another might feel that having a flexible schedule offers the balance she needs to pursue her personal passions. Work-life balance is about achieving the mix of business and personal life that’s right for you. We’re all unique, and so our personal life needs and preferences vary widely. They might include spending time with your friends and family, exercising, enjoying hobbies, engaging in personal or educational development, spirituality, or an endless array of other things that matter to you. That sense of work-life balance is a perceived state—only you know when your life is or isn’t in equilibrium. When you feel as if one side of your life is using up too much of your energy, typically the work side of things, you can become stressed and anxious. From there, your productivity takes a nosedive, your relationships suffer, and your health is affected, too.
When we don’t feel in control of our time, illness and burnout can quickly follow. In our rush to “get it all done” at the office and at home, it’s easy to forget that it causes our stress levels to spike. Over time, stress weakens our immune systems and makes us susceptible to a variety of ailments including frequent headaches, persistent insomnia, clinical depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, and many more. In fact, research shows that chronic stress can actually double the risk of having a heart attack! And don’t forget about the emotional impact an unhinged work-life balance can have. When you think you’re spending too much of your time and energy on one area of your life at the expense of another, guilt, regret, and frustration often ensue, negatively impacting your personal relationships and your self-esteem.
The key to a harmonious life lies in that magic word: balance. Here are a few practical steps you can take to loosen the grip of stress and restore the equilibrium in your life:
- Set manageable goals at work each day. Being able to meet priorities helps us feel a sense of control, and research shows that the more control we have over our work, the less stressed we get. So be realistic about workloads and deadlines. Make a “to do” list, and take care of the biggest priorities first, and eliminate or reschedule the nonessential ones. And remember to ask for help when you need it.
- Take five. Taking a break at work isn’t only acceptable, it’s often encouraged by many employers. Small breaks at work—or on any project—will help clear your head, improve your ability to deal with stress, and enable you to make good decisions when you jump back in.
- Don’t over commit. Do you feel stressed when you glance at your calendar? If you’re overscheduled with activities, learn to say no. You’re not superman/superwoman, and neither is anyone else.
- Schedule at least one thing to look forward to each day. When you’re doing that thing you look forward to, whether it’s a round of golf, dinner with a friend, or a walk with your spouse, be fully present. Turn off your phone and welcome the happiness that comes with doing things you enjoy.
- Get support. Making time to chat with friends and family is important and it can even improve your health. People with stronger support systems have more robust immune responses to illnesses than those who lack such support.
- Reevaluate your work-life balance often. Changes at work or shifts in commitments at home happen. Take time to actively reflect on the balance between your work and personal life periodically, and then take steps to restore the harmony, if needed.
- Get help if you need it. Don’t let stress stand in the way of your health and happiness. If you’re persistently overwhelmed, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness—taking care of yourself is a sign of strength. Our team of supportive, knowledgeable professionals is always available. Reach out to us
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS, Executive Director at The Better Brain Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 833-964-8483 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.