By Candice Chaloupka, MA, LMHC, MCHC
Work-life balance refers to balancing time for work and other areas of life such as social time, self-care, family, leisure, etc., and without it we become overwhelmed with stress which leads to poor health, poor productivity and in general, unhappiness. Why are we always striving for this balance and never achieving it? Can we ever really have balance? Let’s look at a few things you can do to improve your ability to balance work and a personal life.
How do you spend your time? Are time-sucks, those mindless activities we do, keeping you from spending time with family, friends or activities that would bring more joy or a sense of accomplishment? Social media and watching TV are two of the biggest time sucks.
Do the choices you make throughout the day reflect your priorities? If not, look at what why. Are you saying “yes” to things you do not want to do or really even have time to do? Choose each day the one thing that is most important for you (both personal and professional) and schedule it. Then, when faced with a choice, ask, “will this help or hinder my own goals and priorities?”
Are you setting healthy boundaries? Emails and smartphones have contributed to blurring the lines between personal and professional life. Leave work at work. Do not check emails or answer calls outside of work hours. When you look back on your life what will you regret - not answering emails or the time you missed with family and friends?
How’s your health? Are you getting enough sleep? Lack of sleep impairs concentration, attention, problem solving and judgment making you less efficient and productive. Not to mention it contributes to weight gain, depressed mood, irritability and health issues including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Set a bedtime routine and establish a consistent sleep schedule.
Ask for help! You don’t have to do it on your own. Learn to delegate or simply share with others your priorities and ask them to respect that.
Why is it hard for people to do these things? A myth associated with work-life balance is the belief that other people are more important than you are. When you fly with children and if the oxygen masks drop, you are instructed to put the mask on yourself first – not on the child. This is so you are able to help the child. Apply this safety feature to your life. When you take care of yourself, you have the energy and health you need to help others. When you put others first, at some point you will burn out and won’t be able to help anyone.
Work-life balance is possible, but you have to be willing to put yourself first. Not in a selfish way where no one else matters. Instead, you honor your own needs becoming more productive, relaxed and less stressed so you are better able to serve others.