How to Establish a Healthy Work-Life Balance
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If there is one common theme I have picked up from working in different offices with different people, scrolling on Instagram, and chatting with others on Twitter, it’s that most of us have a very difficult time maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Whether you work in a very demanding job with long hours and stressful days, or you’re a freelancer who works in your pjs from the comfort of your own home, there’s a good chance you find it difficult to draw the line. Or you can draw the line sometimes but feel incredibly guilty about it
So let’s talk about it.
I want to provide you with ways to determine if your work-life balance is a bit out of whack, tips to follow to draw the line when needed, and advice on how to best go forward with less guilt and more respect for yourself.
I created a few polls on Instagram and asked everyone a series of questions.
To sum up the results, most people are stressed the majority of the time, most people feel they don’t have enough time in the day, most people have experienced burnout, and 50% of people felt that they didn’t have confidence in their professional abilities, can’t prioritise their workload well, and don’t believe they always have their best interests at heart.
Interestingly enough, most of the people only manage to go on a holiday once or twice a year, and don’t take a lot of time off of work.
Now I really wish the simple solution was that we all need to go on holidays more, but I think there is a much deeper problem than not having enough ~fun in the sun~.
Determining Your Work-Life Balance Sitch
From talking to other humans and just generally experiencing life, I have found that, in general, people struggle with time management, setting the right priorities, and don’t take enough time for relaxation.
If you experience any of the below problems, there’s a good chance you may not be balancing everything all that well:
- constant stress
- breakdowns fairly often
- physical symptoms, such as a weak immune system, headaches and migraines, etc.
- life isn’t all that enjoyable
- difficulty completing everything in one day
- sleeping problems
- your partner is straight-up telling you
Of course there can be other reasons you’re experiencing some of the above issues. However, it?ll be quite easy to know if work is stressing you out too much, or you feel like you never have enough time to get things done.
For me personally, I know I’ve taken on too much when I start to go completely nuts: I won’t make time to relax, and my fiance will have to sit me down and tell me to stop because he can see me on the precipice of an emotional breakdown. And that’s when I know I need to take a day and calm myself down. Just like Taylor tells me to.
If you’re experiencing something similar, there are a lot of ways you can try to find the right balance. I know it?s easier said than done, but if you’re not all that interested in spending the rest of your life being completely overworked and overwhelmed with day to day life, then it’s time to make some changes.
I’ve come up with some practical tips to help with balancing your life out so that you can become less stressed on a daily basis, and feel like you have your shit together. Because there’s not much worse than knowing your life is out of control.
Tips to Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Manage Your Priorities Monthly
It’s a great idea to have a look at the month ahead and develop a small list of focuses.
Are you trying to lose weight? Maybe you want to make your health a main priority and not participate in your book club for a little while. Are you planning a wedding? Maybe you need to focus on booking some vendors instead of socializing with your friends 4 times a week. Are you in your busy season at work? Maybe you need to keep your side-hustle on the DL for a few weeks until you have more time to devote to it.
Regardless of what is going on in your life, if you establish a few important priorities, you can clear your mind from the rest and remove a lot of stress you’re carrying with you.
Set Daily and Weekly Goals
I take 10 minutes a week to map out what my week is going to look like. I plan my workouts, my food shop days, when I’ll clean, when I’ll cook. I know when to expect busy days and therefore try to plan out a day where I can relax and not have to work.
Use this same philosophy on a daily basis as well. I write down everything I want to accomplish within reason. I used to put so much on my to-do list that when I didn’t have the time to finish it, I’d get so stressed and think I’d have a fail of a day. I learned to write down 1 or 2 MUST DO tasks, and let the rest be second priority tasks. It would allow me to approach those tasks with a much calmer mindset therefore giving me the ability to feel more accomplished, and at peace with my work day.
Using your monthly priorities and daily and weekly goals, make sure you’re using the time you set aside well. If you’re a morning person and tend to get a lot done in the morning, schedule your hardest tasks for that time of day, and vice versa! If you’re an evening person. Listen to your body and use it to your advantage.
If you find yourself mindlessly scrolling on social media when you should be listening in on a meeting, maybe you need to be more strict with yourself when you’re at work. Or maybe you’ve been peer pressured into staying up late binge watching all of the Game of Thrones episodes (honestly, it is probably worth it) but it?s caused you to slack off on your exercise routine.
Developing better time management skills can only help to improve your day to day life and decrease the risk of becoming overwhelmed later on.
Make Time for Things That Fuel You
Passions are what get us through the day, amirite?!
I work a 9-5 (or, rather, an 8-4, sometimes a 7-3). I don’t enjoy it. I get no enjoyment from the time I’m at work except when the group chat is lit or my fiance and I go for lunch.
I recently took time off from the blog as my priorities shifted and I needed to devote some time to other things in my life. I quickly realized I had nothing to get me through the day. I was spending less time on something that made me happy and more time on the things that make me incredibly unhappy. So I spotted a few weekends that were open and decided to spend that time to work on the blog, to fuel my fire.
Because I needed it.
I needed to do rewarding work to keep me going. Even though it meant working more throughout the week, it brought purpose to my life. It fueled me. Make time for your passions.
Prioritize Your Sleep
Know that monthly list of priorities I mentioned above? Well sleep should always be on it. Sure there may be a few days you won’t get a good night?s sleep, but if you’re sacrificing a huge amount of sleep every night, it can make you less energetic, weaken your immune system, make it harder to lose weight, harder to stay concentrated, and overall, less effective in your day to day tasks. Sleep is one of the most important aspects of your life and should be taken very seriously if you want to keep your sanity.
Instead of viewing exercise as another thing on the to-do list, view it as an everyday version of self-care and stress relief. You don’t have to go to the gym and do an intense training session every day.
You can go for a walk in the morning, you can do a little bit of yoga before bed, even a 10 minute HIIT session can provide amazing benefits. Whatever your version of exercise is, view it as a habit instead of an imposition.
You never regret a workout.
Unplug and Take Care of Yourself
Self-care anyone? One common theme I found from people I’ve talked to is that their version of self-care is to unplug when they get home and just enjoy life. And I’ve got to admit, this is beautiful. Having days off of social media, or even turning your phone off altogether can be an incredible way to recharge your batteries.
Whatever you love to do, make time for it every single week. And even try to schedule in little bits every day, something you can always rely on. Whether this is meditation, a morning or evening walk, cooking or baking, or dancing around the kitchen in your underwear. Honestly, just make time for the little joys of life throughout your day and week.
Take a Holiday
I understand not everyone is in a position to fund multiple holidays throughout the year, I’m definitely not. However, if you make this a yearly priority, you can try to slowly save up for one.
Even if it only means taking a long weekend and going to a neighboring country, getting physically away from your day to day activities and seeing a new place can have amazing benefits. Again, establish your priorities. Maybe you’re not a huge traveler, so plan a staycation. Or just take a week off of work and relax at home. Just learn to put your mind and body first and take care of yourself.
If you’re desperate for a holiday (me, me, me), start a savings pot and donate as much to it as you can. Five pounds here and there can add up so quickly.
Learn to Say ‘No’
If you’re a people pleaser, maybe a huge part of your lack of a healthy work-life balance comes from saying ‘yes’ to everyone.
You go to everyone’s birthday parties – and even their kids. You get invited to work events you always feel you need to attend, your friend wants to go shopping and you feel like you need to support her, your friends are constantly texting you begging for your time and attention.
Whatever it is, learn to say no every once in awhile. You don’t need to devote your life to other people. You need to learn to put yourself first, and know when it’s okay to do so.
Having a bad day? Cancel your dinner plans and go home to sit on the couch. THAT IS FINE.
Just got dumped? Call into work if you cannot face it. Of course, it could be a good distraction, but it’s also completely okay if you just can’t do it. It’s fine. Really don’t want to go to your boss’ Chinese New Year Party (yes no joke, this was real life)? Don’t go. It’s completely fine.
Learn to respect yourself and your time. You only get one chance to live this life, it’s not fair to spend all your time living it for other people.
The Importance of Achieving a Healthy Balance
Besides the obvious assumption you’d like to enjoy your life and not spend it stressed to the max all the time, there are many valuable reasons why it’s important to establish a healthy work-life balance.
In my opinion, the absolute most important is mental health. Some people just don’t get stressed. There are people out there who are just chill, take life as it comes, and get on with it. And they are incredibly lucky folk.
However, for the rest of us who get overwhelmed even by ~spilt milk~, our mental health can be drastically affected by the stress that comes with trying to keep on top of everything all of the time. It eats at you little by little, and eventually, you experience burnout – the point of exhaustion where you just can’t anymore.
And that’s a horrible place to be. From my research, almost all of you have experienced this before.
Other than that, a huge amount of stress can manifest itself in physical ways as well. Over a year ago, I put so much stress on myself that I ended up with Bell’s Palsy (facial paralysis caused by damaged nerves). Thankfully, it was the slap in the face I needed to shift my priorities and put my mental health above all.
Taking the time to live a balanced life can actually increase productivity. No one can work 24 hours a day. We all need time to relax and recharge. Working on a full night’s sleep versus very little sleep can do wonders for our productivity, but this needs to be applied in all facets as well.
Life is not meant to be spent working your ass off constantly. It’s meant to be enjoyed. If you find that you’re just a ball of stress and you never feel happy throughout the day due to everything you’re juggling, something needs to change.
How to Go Forward
The only way to move forward is to respect yourself enough to make a change. You must put your mental and physical health first and make a plan.
Whether this means saying no to social events you’re not that interested in, meeting up with friends more – or even less – often throughout the week, or even turning your phone off every once in awhile and completely unplug for it all. However, you choose to practice self-care, it’s important you understand you’re doing this because of the love you have for yourself. And you don’t ever need to justify that to anyone.
Make promises to yourself you will schedule one holiday a year and figure out what you need to do to afford it and make it work, and stick towards that goal.
Take a day off and treat yourself to a spa day, or sit down and read a book.
The best way to avoid the guilt that comes with unplugging, taking time off, or telling someone ‘no’ is knowing that it is what is best for you at that current moment. Our bodies are incredible machines. If you listen hard enough, it will tell you what it needs. It is your responsibility to take note and act on those cues.
It sure as hell ain’t easy, but it’s the best way to finally establish a healthy routine that allows you to go to work, take care of all those boring adult responsibilities, and not be completely overwhelmed by it all.
Making a point to put yourself first so that you can get the most out of life as you possibly can is a powerful and incredible decision to make.
So if you’re not currently happy with the work-life balance you got, what are you going to do to change it?
Read more from Sam on her blog, Knackered by Chaos
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