Work-life balance is an essential tool for doing all of the things we need to do without sacrificing our mental and physical health.
You may think of work-life balance as having a hard line between your work and time with family and friends on a scale that seems impossible to balance. Something new can pile on to an area of your life just when you’ve sorted it out. When you view work-life balance like this, it’s hard to ever feel satisfied.
Work-life balance isn’t about having a robotic approach to time management, but rather a human one where you need the flexibility to adjust to any problems that arise in either area, which can involve taking time off and adopting methods to enhance productivity.
What Is Work-Life Balance?
You want to do everything you can, to do the best for your family, work, friends, and yourself. That can be a challenging task to balance and comes from your mental mission to not let anyone down.
Work-life balance doesn’t come from spending specific amounts of time on each one, but from feeling content with the amount of time and energy you dedicate to them. When you spend more time in one area, you will take time out of another. If you take too much time from one area, you risk adding significant stress to your life.
Are you happy about the quality time you are spending at work, at home, and participating in hobbies? Having a work-life balance means feeling content with your sacrifices to spend the right amount of time at work, at home, practicing self-care and mental health days, and engaging in hobbies.
There are ways to help you stress less about maintaining a work-life balance, including:
- Saying “yes” to priorities first
- Delegate where you can
- Making your well-being a priority
When you take the time to prioritize, you can ensure you are doing what’s best for you and your family while still managing work and having time to yourself.
Effects on Your Mental Health
Failing to have the right work-life balance for you can be detrimental to your health by causing extreme stress.
Extreme stress can contribute to symptoms of many mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychosis.
When stress affects your mental health, it also affects your physical health, increasing your risk of insomnia and heart disease.
Mental health is vital to taking care of ourselves, let alone everyone affected by what we do. This is why work-life balance is so important.
Ways to Achieve Work-Life Balance
To stick with your choice, you will want to create firm boundaries. You can only handle so much, and stretching yourself too thin will hurt your performance at work and with your family.
It can be hard to say no when you are asked to do something by your friends, family, or employer, but practicing saying “no” to things that are not a priority is a skill that gets easier with practice.
When you try to take care of your job, family, and friends, your health can get pushed to the back burner. To take care of all the things you need in your work and life, you must take care of yourself. If you are physically unwell, you are more likely not to be mentally well and vice versa.
Ways to keep yourself in good physical and mental health involve:
- Getting Enough Sleep: Adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
- Limiting Your Alcohol Intake: Alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation, but you shouldn’t rely on it to relieve stress.
- Eat Healthy Meals: Eating nutritious meals helps ensure you have the energy to complete your tasks and provides nutrients that benefit your mental health.
- Exercise: Exercise works as a great stress reliever, produces dopamine, and keeps you physically fit.
Having a healthy body is an essential tool in maintaining a work-life balance.
Quality Over Quantity
As mentioned before, balancing the different areas of your life doesn’t mean you’ll get equal time for each. Instead of worrying about the amount of time you are dedicating to your work and home life, focus on the quality of time you spend with each one.
Be mindful of what you are doing at the moment. Practice not letting your mind wander to work on family game night or worrying about your child’s soccer snacks in your cubicle. It’s hard not to let your mind go to other areas you prioritize, but being fully present for those you’re with can help you and your company feel more connected.
Set a Schedule
Planning your day can help you establish the work and home boundaries and goals you should reasonably accomplish throughout the day.
If you have a flexible work schedule, still schedule the hours you plan on working that day. Also, write down any family activities you need to attend and any “me time” you can squeeze in.
If you work from home or are in contact with work matters on your personal devices, it can be hard to not feel like you’re at work constantly.
Work with your process managers to ensure you are only being contacted or expected to work during your scheduled time. Working in one location and putting devices away before interacting with your family and friends can also help you transition from work to home.
Know Your Options
If you’re unsure about your company’s flex-time or hybrid-work options, ask about them.
Using flex-time can help you attend expected and unexpected family events such as sports games, parent-teacher conferences, and healthcare visits without sacrificing your time off or your earnings.
Taking Time to Relax
Everyone needs to relax and wind down from the work day. You can do this by reading, meditating, running, or participating in group activities with family and friends. These activities can help you take your mind off work and recharge it for the days ahead.
Developing a Coverage System
If your type of work allows you to, work with your co-workers to arrange a system where they can cover for you when a home situation arises and be willing to return the favor for them.
Also, ensure that you have trusted friends and family members willing and able to help with child or pet care if you end up working earlier or later than usual.
Maintaining a Work-Life Balance
Finding the balance that works best for you, your family, and your career may take some trial and error. Once you find your balance, expect it to change as your life does, so don’t stress about keeping it perfect.
A work-life balance is vital for your mental health and essential for participating in all aspects of your life.