One of the hottest topics in today’s mental health world is establishing and practicing work-life balance, navigating work stress, and managing anxiety. The hustle culture in America and other Westernized societies easily praises people for working longer hours, which often comes at the expense of leisure time, relaxation, socialization, and other healthy habits. Here are 5 tips for building a stronger work-life balance
1. Take breaks throughout the day
A shocking number of individuals do not take a complete lunch break during the day. Many states have laws regarding meal breaks and the state of Illinois reads that employees are entitled to a lunch break of at least 20 minutes if they work for 7 ½ hours (or more). Most work days are between eight to nine hours and have lunch breaks written into their contract, despite some rarely utilizing it. In addition to lunch breaks, it’s helpful to take mini breaks throughout the day to improve concentration, focus, and productivity.
2. Set limits and boundaries
Creating limits for yourself can establish a more definitive line between your work and personal life. Limits can include not answering emails on the weekend, turning your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode two hours before you go to bed, drafting an ‘Out of Office’ email when going on vacation, or having a definitive start time for work. Work limits and boundaries can allow you to utilize more time outside of work and attend to other important aspects, such as friendships and personal health.
3. Build your life outside of work
So many wonderful aspects of life exist outside of work - friendships, family, self-care, going out to eat, exercising, traveling, and more. Creating a goal such as meeting a friend at least once a week for a meal, committing to going to an exercise class once a week, or making it a point to call a family member on the weekend can boost your mood and fuel all aspects of your life that don’t revolve around work.
4. Confide in a coworker or boss
If you feel your levels of stress, anxiety, or time at work continue to elevate with little to no relief, consider talking with a trusted coworker or your boss. You may be surprised to find that a number of your coworkers feel similarly or have tips to share that work for them. Additionally, having an honest conversation with your supervisor or boss allows them to know how you feel and navigate the situation together. Although it may be difficult to address your boss honestly, being vulnerable about your situation while emphasizing that you want to be a strong employee shows strong initiative and commitment to your personal and professional goals.
5. Create a to-do list and set goals
Forming a to-do list in regard to what’s on your agenda for the day can help you organize your time and figure out what’s most important to get done first. Establishing multiple to-do lists, such as what’s most important to get done today, for this week, or for this month can further prioritize your tasks and organize your time.
Finding a balance between work and time to recharge and partake in other activities takes time and practice. These tips can be a start to altering your work-life balance, and our therapists are available to dig deeper and come up with others when you’re ready.
Written by Carolyn Simon, MS, LPC