Improve Your Work-Life Balance

Aiming for a more balanced life can help your body and mind. One place many of us need better balance is between work and the rest of our lives. Another is finding ways to take better care of ourselves while maintaining our commitments to work and family.

Having better balance and reducing stress are important ways to improve our mental and physical health. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It’s critical to overall health and quality of lifeleaving site icon

Work on Work-Life Balance

How do you know if you need better work-life balance? Think about how things are going outside of work. How are you eating and sleeping? Do you feel tired a lot or have nagging pains? How are your relationships with your friends and family? Are you feeling lonely, anxious or depressed?

And how are things at work? Do you feel the same way you used to about your job? Do you feel like you can handle your workload and get things done well? Are you working more and more hours, often cutting into personal time?

Occasionally working extra hours or worrying about a big project outside of work is common and may not be a problem. But if your work is causing lasting stress or otherwise affecting your life outside of work more often than not, it’s time to work on gaining better balance.

If your work is causing so much stress that it begins to harm your health or relationships, take a look at what is behind the stress. Explore ways to handle your workload and stress better:

  • Plan a set schedule for your work hours. If you’re working from home, make a dedicated place for work. If possible, try not to work in the room where you sleep.
  • Be honest with yourself and your manager about what you can get done each day. Set manageable goals so you can finish work at a reasonable time. And focus on what you accomplished instead of what still needs to be done.
  • Try to cut distractions. Focus on work so you can get tasks done and stop working at a consistent time. Taking breaks can help you refocus.
  • Take time for yourself, and take your days off.
  • Consider whether your job and career are still a good fit for you. Is it time to make a change?
Take Care of Yourself

Whether it’s work or other commitments that are causing you stress, self-care plays a major role in improving your mental health. That looks different for everyone, but some self-care basics can help you achieve better balance.

Exercising regularly, eating healthy foods and sleeping enough are good places to start. You can also try:

  • Taking time to relax. Explore new ways to de-stress. A wellness program or app may help. Consider meditation and breathing exercises. Plan regular times for these and other methods for relaxing.
  • Setting realistic goals for yourself. Decide what you must do and what you can put off. Try saying “no” to some tasks.
  • Being grateful. Remind yourself of the good things in your life. Write them down.
  • Curbing negative thoughts. Be compassionate with yourself, like you would be with a loved one.
  • Staying connected. Reach out to your friends or family members. They can offer help and emotional support.
Tackle Home Issues

Making some changes at home can also improve your work-life balance and lower your stress levels. Struggling to manage relationships and family duties contributes to 1 in 4 people saying they’re “super stressed,” leaving site icon says Mental Health America.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Don’t try to do it all. Try to divide the duties between family members so responsibilities at home are equally shared. Then make sure everyone knows who is doing what.
  • Stay in touch with friends and family. Having a good support system can help you manage stress and even stay healthier.
  • Don’t over commit. If your calendar makes you feel anxious, build in more down time.
  • Put down your phone. Don’t make a habit of continually checking email or other work communications after hours.
  • Remember to take care of yourself. Taking time to eat right, get enough sleep and stay active can help lower your stress and keep you from getting sick. That helps you at work and at home.
  • Reach out for help. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed for a long time, it may be a good idea to see a mental health professional. Ask your health care provider to help you get started.

Don’t let work or other responsibilities stand in the way of protecting your mental and physical health. It’s OK to set boundaries and goals that help you take better care of yourself.

Sources: Caring for Your Mental Health, leaving site icon National Institute of Mental Health, 2021; 8 Tips for Work-Life Balanceleaving site icon Cleveland Clinic, 2022; Work Life Balance, leaving site icon Mental Health America
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