Tips to Balance Work and Mental Health
Usually defined as the ability to get the time to pursue all the aspects of a healthy life, “work-life balance” refers to the act of striking a balance between work and other activities of life, including enjoying eight hours of sleep, regular exercise, preparing exotic dishes for the family and indulging in activities that make you a sound human being.
No matter how easy it may sound, but balancing work and family life can be a big challenge, and in order to overcome it, one needs to chalk out a plan in advance, prioritize things and be punctual. Following these tips might appear to be too overwhelming initially, but it is important to understand that in the long run, a poor professional and personal life balance can result in unhealthy levels of stress, unhappiness and even reduced productivity. In a nutshell, the term “work-life balance” is a concept with different meanings, depending on where, what and who is being referred to. So how does one start balancing work and family in the real world?
Following are some useful and practical family work-life balance tips that you can start practicing today.
- Forget about perfection, strive for progress and improvement: There is nothing great about being that perfect employee, perfect spouse or the perfect parent. However, perfectionism is a trap which can make people set unrealistic goals for themselves. Chasing perfection can increase one’s stress level and take a toll on one’s mental and physical health. One needs to realize that rather than setting unrealistic standards for oneself and those around, completing quality work on time and taking one’s mistakes in stride is usually better than completing the work behind schedule.
- Improve your productivity by working smarter, not harder: Regardless of the job one has or the industry one is employed in, there just never seems to be enough hours in a day to get all the work accomplished. Given the constant work pressure and the unexpected demands from both personal and professional life, one usually prefers to just give in and put in more working hours. However, working long hours can lead to irritation, anxiousness or depression. Rather, try and prioritize things, develop a routine, automate more tasks and cut out less critical tasks.
- Take control of your life, make your own rules: One of the important ways to achieve a professional and personal life balance involves setting one’s own standards in terms of work and personal life. Just because someone is doing something that’s working for them does not mean that it will work for someone else too. For some, it might involve replacing physical meetings with virtual ones, spending more time with family and friends or have the opportunity to work from home. Playing by one’s own rules in one’s life, work and relationships allows one to explore all the options to achieve the perfect work-life balance.
- Prioritize life, not work: In an effort to achieve work-life balance, some of us often resort to work from home. For many of us, work happens to define us. Given the unexpected gaps in employment or the inevitable retirement, one needs to think about other interests in life when work becomes less important. For one to effectively balance work and family life, it is important to prioritize work and cultivate some hobby.
- Eat right, exercise and get adequate rest: Don’t let stress get in the way of your health and happiness. Eat right, exercise and get adequate sleep. Taking care of your health and well-being is important to achieve efficiency in professional life. Eating healthy and nutritious food, getting sufficient exercise and adequate sleep play an important role in making our body and brain work in unison.
- Take a vacation: While some may not realize, taking a vacation or taking some time off work can help boost one’s career, get efficient at work and improve one’s creativity. Given that work demands strain, vacation helps shut off the stressors and pressures of work and instill positive mood.
- Manage stress: Though stress continues to be one of the biggest problems faced by modern workforce, the ability to reduce and control stress is one of the essential factors in successfully managing work-life balance. Small doses of stress can help one perform under pressure and motivate one to do one’s best; however, chronic stress can decrease performance level and cause one to experience mental, physical and behavioral problems in life.
- Remove the negative, be positive: While pessimism does have its place, too much negativity can undermine work, relationships, health and productivity. Change your thinking from negative to positive. Try to be optimistic or have a more positive approach, as that will help one feel more energetic, broaden one’s opportunities, fuel more positive results and improve work-life balance. In addition to being a great productivity tool, optimism can prevent depression, increase one’s social connection and chances of success and help make one more resilient in the face of adversity.
- Don’t be a martyr, learn to say ‘No’ sometimes: In case you are feeling overworked or burned out, learn to say ‘no’ at times. Being a “yes” man or work martyr might feel good at first but over time, the lure typically wears off and often leads to unforeseen consequences along the way. Saying “yes” to everything can have disastrous consequences on both your personal and professional life.
- Avoid overworking, leave work at work: Overworking can lead to mental fatigue, career dissatisfaction and even burnout. Whereas, maintaining a good work-life balance can keep one happier, healthier and more focused at work. Even if one’s key focus is getting a promotion or climbing the corporate ladder, leaving work at work may improve one’s efficiency at work, reduce stress, boost creativity and increase productivity during working hours. It is also good for one’s personal life as it gives one an opportunity to spend quality time with people who really matter.
- Keep your mental health in check: One of the important aspects for protecting one’s mental health is having a healthy “work-life balance.” A poor work-life balance can lead to a plethora of symptoms that can affect one’s physical and mental well-being. Poor mental health can affect employees’ attitude and behavior at work. Given that over-worked and stressed individuals run the risk of jeopardizing their social lives, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential for one’s physical and mental health.
- Sneak out time for exercise: Getting enough exercise not only makes one feel good, but also helps alleviate stress, improve one’s energy level and empower one to deal with work or family-related issues. According to research, individuals who work out regularly had a better work-life balance, were less likely to stress out at their jobs and were smarter and more focused than their counterparts.
- Avoid checking emails after work-hours: As more and more individuals get 24/7 access to emails or opt for a work-from-home option, balancing work and family life may seem like a distant goal. While responding to emails after working hours and on weekends may seem a good idea to increase employee productivity, checking emails constantly after work hours may exhaust an employee and may even prevent him/her from fully disengaging from work, eventually leading to burnout, chronic stress and health problems.
- Setting boundaries outside working hours: In an age of 24/7 connectivity, it is crucial to set one’s own boundaries to ensure that one is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. While one may be receiving emails or phone calls outside working hours, one needs to set oneself a time to switch off. Rather than putting all your time and efforts into your work, prioritize your tasks and ensure that your time is distributed equally among yourself, your friends and your family.
- Time to ease off: Used as a force to drive the inner self to attain the goals, too much of adrenaline can outstrip one of energy, can have negative impact on one’s body and can even become destructive in the long run. While an adrenaline rush can provide one with a burst of energy and help one jump from one task to another, in between these transactions there are chances of failing at certain tasks. Given that adrenaline helps one take critical decisions of life, operating on adrenaline all the time can soon take a toll on one’s body and damage one’s physical and mental health.
- Be yourself: Achieving work-life balance requires internal and external focus. While an internal dialogue may involve questions as to what would give one maximum satisfaction in work and personal life, external focus can involve using external tools or resources to help one meet one’s personal and professional goals. For women especially, much of the problem in striking an effective work-life balance comes from trying to live up to impossible standards and comparing themselves to other women. One of the best ways to achieve a successful work-life balance includes being true to oneself and identifying one’s own strengths and incorporating them into daily life.
- Take time out for yourself: One of the surest ways to achieve work-life balance is to routinely set aside some “me” time for yourself. It could include setting aside time for a walk, writing in a journal or simply reading a book. Given the daily work pressure, it can be tempting to bury oneself into one’s work and social obligations.
- Integrate a regular “no-work day”: In a time of 24/7 access to emails and flexible work schedule or work from home options, any day can be a work day and any time can be a work time. Integrating a regular “no-work day” into your weekly routine can help create more time for family and yourself, and decrease household stress levels. To ensure a regular “no-work day,” agree upon some guidelines, including not checking any emails or work-related phone calls.
- Share your passion: While things may have changed for the better, it’s still difficult for working mothers to balance work and family life. Given the fact that women play a greater role in handling household chores and family responsibilities, maintaining a work-life balance may seem like a challenge. In the act of juggling between home and office fronts, working professionals, especially women, often sideline their hobbies or activities that they once enjoyed. Sidelining their priorities will only strengthen the relationship between a working mother and mental health issues. One of the simplest ways to bring back the activities one once enjoyed include sharing those activities with your children.
- Slow down, take time to prioritize: No matter how much we prioritize our tasks or outsource our work, time always seems to be running out. There never seems to be enough time to work or to play. In our hectic schedule, it can be tough to imagine a world where we need to slow down. For many, slowing down is for losers. Sometimes the best thing to do is to slow down and just enjoy the moment.
Work-life balance can mean different to every individual. While a poor work-life balance can result in unhealthy levels of stress, unhappiness and even reduced productivity, achieving a balance in one’s personal and professional life enables individuals to divide their time efficiently, prioritize their personal and professional activities, manage stress and perform to their best.