We have all heard of the term ‘work-life balance’, but how do we achieve it? Whilst some of you have continued to work throughout this lockdown, many of us have not. Now that multiple venues and workplaces have begun to open, it is challenging to find this balance again after so many months of not having to worry about it.
There is also the instant added pressure that many of us are facing due to months off or limited working hours over the lockdown period. With those of us who also suffer or have suffered from mental illness and anxiety, we must reduce the amount of added stress to our daily lives. I can tell you all that as someone who has had both and still suffers from anxiety, a work-life balance couldn’t be more important.
I understand that everyone has their definition of what a work-life balance is, but whatever yours is, it is completely achievable. I am a firm believer that we can do anything we want in life if we put our absolute everything into it. Things don’t always come easy so it’s all about finding a process that will positively push yourself.
I am still learning how to get the work-life balance I so desperately crave but I have put together a few ways that have helped me along the way and I hope, will be helpful to some of you as well.
Before I divulge my ideas however, I think it’s imperative to understand the harmful effects of having no balance:
1. Overworking can contribute to added stress, fatigue, and feeling ‘burnt out’ – This isn’t to say we shouldn’t work hard, but instead, try to be mindful and realistic about the number of tasks you can complete in one day. Overworking is not worth declining health.
2. Neglecting other aspects of your life can negatively impact relationships – Whether it’s a partner, kids or friendship, remember to make time for them. Placing all your focus on work can drive people away if you forget or refuse to take the time to connect with them and have fun. Even if you’re unable to give an entire day of downtime, just allowing 20-30 minutes to eat dinner together can do the trick.
3. You begin to dislike your job – Your current role might be your dream one but if you’re overworked or putting too much pressure on yourself, you might start resenting your job. This is likely to be more common if you’re constantly feeling fed up after a day at work or not having a decent sleeping routine because of it.
4. ‘You’ time becomes non-existent – I believe that alone time is so important for your mental health and a great opportunity for focusing on things you enjoy. If you’re like me and enjoy the little things each night like taking a hot bath or reading a book, you’ll know that you’re overworked when you no longer have the time to be alone with those comforts.
5. FOMO – Be careful with what you are willing to sacrifice in your personal life for your career. Do you feel like you’re missing out on more important things? If so, it might be time to re-evaluate your priorities.
These are just a few of the extremely negative impacts that overworking can have so how do we change this? How do we find the ideal work-life balance? Here are some ideas that could help:
1. Speak up and learn to say ‘NO’ – As daunting it might seem, I strongly advise telling your boss or manager if you feel their demands and expectations are unreasonable or too much. Remember though, to do this with the utmost respect and a calm attitude. They’re far more likely to listen and take on board how you’re feeling if you use this approach. Employers should always be made aware of any issues to prevent the situation from reoccurring.
2. Make and stick to set work hours – Whatever your job, stick to the hours set for you or that you set for yourself. If a task can wait until the following day, leave it. Everyone needs time to recuperate and relax.
3. Leave work at work – If you can, avoid bringing your work home with you. Learn to separate the personal with the professional because when the two combine, it can be difficult to find boundaries. If you work from home, try to make one room your dedicated workspace. This means you can close the door on it and keep the rest of your home, work free.
4. Prioritise your time – No matter how many tasks are on your to-do list, prioritise the urgent and important ones. You’ll be surprised how many tasks aren’t as vital as you thought they were.
5. Take your breaks – I hear of too many people who skip their lunch or 15-minute breaks before they know it, they’ve done a full day’s work with not even 5 minutes of fresh air. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take these breaks. Not only does it give your brain a break but it gives you a chance to breathe and be present. Even if your break is delayed by a task, TAKE IT.
6. Check-in with yourself – I recommend doing this at least once a week. It’s natural and easy to bury yourself in work but try and take the time to check in with yourself, focus on your health, and have some space. Re-evaluate your goals both mentally and professionally and spend some time thinking about how you can achieve them.
7. Make time to have fun – As well as using personal time to reflect, use the opportunity to do an activity you enjoy each week. This could be anything from a dinner with friends, going to the gym, a movie night or a phone call with a friend.
8. Sleep, sleep, and sleep – A good night’s sleep could not be more essential. Make sure you’re getting at least 7-8 hours a night. The last thing you need is to wake up cranky because you didn’t go to bed until 4am.
9. Maintain an exercise regime – Doing this has numerous benefits for your mental wellbeing, especially with getting rid of negative feelings. Whether you exercise before work or after work, maintain that routine. At the same time, however, make sure you listen to your body. Not every workout has to be intense. Stretching in front of the TV for twenty minutes can help your mental wellbeing just as much as a thirty-minute cardio session.
10. Build a support system – Find co-workers that you can depend on and turn to for help and at home, have trusted family and friends that bring you happiness. A strong support system is something everybody needs.