Creating Work-Life Balance
Our busy modern lives seem to demand so much from us these days. Everyone is juggling multiple tasks between our work and home lives. Technology seems to make us all available 24/7. And for many of us, it seems more impossible than ever to carve out quality downtime and not feel as if we are falling behind or never able to catch up and get it all done.
Finding the balance, between work, the general demands of life, and real-time for yourself seems on most days like an unattainable goal. One in four Americans describes themselves as “super stressed.” And it’s understandable with all that we take on, starting with long hours at work, and what seems to be an expectation of 24-hour accessibility via our electronic devices. Even just keeping our home life well managed, from chores and meals to grocery shopping, cleaning and laundry can be a lot to manage on its own. The blurred line between work and home can stop us from ever feeling like we get a real break.
With all this added stress comes additional issues, including disrupted or poor sleep. We operate on not enough hours of rest and are expected to deliver a quality work product. Lack of proper rest can also kill our productivity and ability to concentrate. It can make us irritable and even depressed. And it can begin to take a real toll, on everything from our interpersonal relationships to our own health.
The bottom line is that we can’t take good care of anyone or anything until we learn to take good care of ourselves first! This is a subject so many of us wrestle with because it can seem almost selfish! You may dream of a long hot soak in the bath or an escape to a dark movie theater with a delicious tub of popcorn. But most of us tend to put ourselves and our needs at the bottom of our list.
With a new year upon us, NOW is the time to begin a healthy new practice of making time for ourselves. Practicing “self-care” is very important to both our physical and our mental health. We need to find and create a balance so that our lives are not compromised by taking on too much. By identifying areas where we need to make a change, and putting a practice in place every day, we can begin to restore our energy, health, and improve our productivity, our relationships, and our well-being!
How do you start?
First, begin at work by setting manageable and realistic goals each day. By keeping a reasonable to do list, and prioritizing tasks, you can begin to better manage your workday and your time. Use your “to-do” list to delegate tasks and ask for help with projects where you need it.
Also, be more efficient in your work. Review your “to-do” list for the bigger tasks and break them up into smaller projects so you can begin to tackle them and not get overwhelmed. You will get a sense of accomplishment this way by getting started on projects that previously seemed daunting. Also, be mindful of how you spend your time. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a break for fresh air or a quick walk but avoid things that may truly waste time (phone calls with colleagues that go on too long or surfing online and losing time via social media).
Do make time to take short breaks or go for a walk to clear your head, improve your decision-making abilities and lower your stress. If your company offers a nap space, use it! A few minutes of shut-eye can dramatically improve your cognitive function. Or find a space to meditate! Learning to meditate can have a similar, stress-lowering effect, by learning how to slow your breathing and clear your mind.
Listening to music at work can also foster concentration and reduce stress and anxiety. Just be sure to keep it low or wear headphones as to not disturb others.
Communication – Make sure you are effectively and honestly communicating with your co-workers on everything from project status to issues that may come up. Keeping stress or work worries to yourself only exacerbates things. Plus, communicating honestly will make you a more respected team player, provided you deliver your information and opinions in a calm and productive way! Suggest alternatives if issues arrive and participate positively in identifying solutions and problem-solving.
The same techniques from work can also apply to your commitments at home as well!
Efficiency – divide up responsibilities at home so that you don’t carry the entire burden. From cleaning to shopping to food preparation, it will also lower stress and resentment down the road.
Tasks – keep an ongoing to-do list with priorities and let go of things you don’t need to bother with! Also, learning to say “no” to invites you don’t want to participate in, or functions you don’t have time to attend or support is important to finding that healthy balance.
Downtime – do make time to meet with friends to catch up and share stories. It’s been proven that people with dedicated support systems even have improved immune systems over those who don’t have friends and contacts to rely on or catch up with.
Unplug – it’s important to take a break from your electronic devices, including your phone and your laptop. Our devices can interfere with quality time with friends and family, and it’s important for our mental health as well to get a real break from the attention these devices demand. Learn how to be in and enjoy the moment – stop texting while at dinner with friends or at your child’s sporting event.
Health – Make time for healthy activities, from spending time outside, walking or joining a gym. Regular exercise can dramatically improve your sleep and reduce stress. Also, making sure you are getting proper nutrition, eating right and avoiding smoking, alcohol or drugs as stress coping mechanisms. They will only lessen your body’s natural ability to manage stress and will lead to other more serious health issues. And make it a goal each day to go to bed at a proper time to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Deep restorative sleep is needed for the brain and body to function optimally!
Finally, DO seek additional professional help if you need it! Don’t hesitate to seek out a physician or therapist if you are consistently feeling overwhelmed. Therapy is a needed, practical and healthy way to get in touch with how you are feeling. With the help of a therapist, you can uncover other issues that may be plaguing you and learn techniques for better coping and managing your stress. Learning these skills can put you on the path to living a more fulfilled and happier life!