Finding a balance between your personal and professional life can be challenging for a variety of reasons. Constant access to emails that never seem to slow down; pressure to work long hours in the hopes of getting that big raise or promotion; and not wanting to let down our co-workers make it hard to preserve a healthy work/life balance.
Taking the time to find this balance is key in maintaining good mental health, avoiding burnout and being able to thrive professionally and personally. Stress, burnout and anxiety can all be caused, at least partially, by a lack of balance between personal and professional life, and all have negative impacts on mental wellness. Here are some tips on how you can make a healthy work/ life balance a reality for you:
Learn to say no: It can be difficult to find a way to tell your boss that you have too much on your plate and that you aren’t able to take on more tasks. But spreading yourself too thin is certain to have a negative impact on your wellbeing. Explain to him/her that while you’re enthusiastic about the work that your team is doing, you also need to be mindful of the quality of your work. Working excessively long hours doesn’t pay off in the long term, and you could even start to resent your job, your manager and even your co-workers.
Establish clear boundaries: Do you find yourself leaving the office, only to keep receiving work emails late into the evening and over the weekend? Unplugging is an important part of recharging after a long day or week of work. If possible, do not respond to emails when you are not at work. This will set a precedent that your personal time is not to be encroached on. If that fails, your job may not realize that the constant stream of emails is taking a toll on your well-being, and they may not unless you say something. Talk to your team about this, and work on ways to limit off-hours emails, so that everyone can enjoy their time outside of work, and come in each day refreshed and ready to do great work.
Understand that there will be exceptions: Even the best laid out plans and policies don’t always work out perfectly, and sometimes work emergencies happen. Have a conversation with your manager and set mutual expectations for emergency off-hours communication whether it’s a text message when something is urgent or sending emails with high importance when action needs to be taken right away. Sometimes you’ll have to work longer hours to get the job done, but don’t make it a normal behaviour, or it will become an expectation others have of you that you’ll be the one to stay late or work weekends, which no one wants.
Take a personal day: Sometimes you just need a day to do nothing. Most full-time employees don’t use all of their time off from work because they are worried about falling behind, being passed over for promotions or looking lazy compared to co-workers. In reality, taking a personal day helps you to do better work. Taking time off also helps you to physically take a step back from your work and can be fun! Just one day out of the office could mean a long weekend with family or friends, or a short trip you’ve been wanting to go on. Even a “stay-cation” can help to alleviate the stress and pressures associated with work. Taking time to do what you want to do is always a good idea.
Overall, there is always a way to put yourself first, while being committed to your job. Even if it doesn’t work out every time, striving towards a healthy work/ life balance is an important part of maintaining holistic wellness, and protecting yourself from future mental health challenges.