Written by: Nadia Prando, M.A. Clinical Psychology.
The rise and influence of social media have distorted the meaning of work-life balance in our lives; it makes us believe that happiness is directly linked to professional success. Having a successful career often leads us to deprioritize our own wellbeing when in fact, it is crucial to our physical and mental health.
Maintaining the equilibrium
Work-life balance is a state of equilibrium where you are able to equally prioritize the demands from your health and work. If you work late hours and are constantly taking on more responsibilities both at work and home, you’ll soon experience burnout and will likely be unable to function efficiently. Think of yourself as a bucket filled with energy. Your work, personal life, and other responsibilities consume this energy while activities such as spending time with family and friends, exercising, and taking up hobbies are ones that fill you up with energy.
What you should do to find balance
Firstly, reflect on the activities that drain your energy and make a note of the ones that make you feel more energized. Then, create a list of what matters most to you. Knowing your values is essential to prioritize your needs. For instance, if family is important to you, then spending time with your family should be a priority. If health is important to you, exercising regularly and eating healthy should be your priorities.
Secondly, create a routine where you mix the activities that lift your energy with the ones that seem draining. For example, if meeting your friends makes you feel energized, make it a point to talk or meet them on weekends or after work a couple of days each week.
As you create a balanced routine for yourself, here are some ideas and thoughts to reflect on:
1. Know that there’s no perfect work-life balance
Accept that life and people are not perfect, and because of that, there isn’t a perfect work-life balance. Be realistic; some days, you may have to work late and won’t be able to relax, but you can think about doing something special or relaxing on the weekend to help you get back in the groove for the next week. Other days, work may be easy, but home and personal life may demand more from you. Try to relax, find some time to go out, exercise, and clear your mind.
2. It’s important to take breaks
We need to take breaks when feeling tired, stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed. Be aware of how you generally react if you’re feeling any of these emotions, and keep an eye out for those behaviours – these signals will guide you when you need to take a break. For instance, if you’re at home all day and the kids are making you angry, then that’s a signal to take a break. Maybe ask for help, and do something that reenergizes you – like reading, walking, taking a long bath, etc.
3. Find a job you love
Many people believe that having a job only helps you pay the bills. If you spend a majority of your time at work, it doesn’t make sense to have a job that causes you more stress than fulfillment. Choose a role that interests you and that offers you the feeling of being proud of yourself.
4. Your health is a priority
If you prioritize your health, you will naturally be able to ask for a break, set limits, ask for help, and add therapy to your schedule. When you do that, you become a better employee because you know when you are stressed and when you need to take care of yourself. This means that you will give yourself the care that you need and you won’t suffer from burnouts.
5. Set boundaries between your work and personal life
After a typical workday, do you keep thinking about things that need to be completed, or are you able to disconnect? During the pandemic, many people have been working from home. If you have been working from home too, are you able to clearly define when it’s work time and when it isn’t? It’s a healthy practice to separate work and personal time and not end up in bed checking emails. Avoid treating work as the be-all and end-all of your life. Your health is equally, if not more important, so prioritize it.
If you notice yourself getting stressed to the point where anxiety or depression become a part of your life, then it’s time to reach out to a mental health professional to help you learn how to set boundaries. Finally, keep reflecting on yourself, your needs, and your values – this will help you balance your personal and professional life and take care of your wellbeing.