Most of us have heard that it is important to have a healthy work-life balance – making sure you do what you need to do to get your work done, but still leave enough time (and energy) for your friends, family, and self.
Sometimes finding that balance is easier said than done. Are you overly stressed and anxious about work? Do you bring your work (and that stress and anxiety) home with you? Do you have a hard time saying “no” to your boss or colleagues when they put extra work on you? Do you feel like you can’t take time off from work (personal, medical, vacation, etc.)? Are you pushing yourself too hard at work and making lots of money, but not giving yourself the lifestyle you are looking for? Are you feeling burnt out so when you do have free time, you are too tired to enjoy it? We can’t get time back, so how you spend your time is important.
Here are some tips on how to first establish and then maintain a healthy work-life balance:
1. Determine your values and priorities. Values are beliefs you hold true, such as honesty, loyalty, open-mindedness, etc. Priorities are the way you act to uphold your values. For example, if gratitude is one of your values, having a gratitude journal and writing in it every day might be a priority. Priorities may also include tangible aspects of your life that are important to you, such as family and friendships. Take time to reflect on what is really important to you. Nurture your priorities and values, but be careful not to nurture one aspect too much so it takes away from the others. It’s all about balance.
Is your current job a good fit for you and in alignment with your values? If not, you can either find a new job that is more aligned with your values or stick it out and figure out how to change or adapt to certain aspects of your current job.
2. Set goals. Your goals should reflect your values and priorities. Be specific! Work goals can reflect income, cognitive stimulation, having a supportive team, a specific role, etc. Personal lifestyle goals are about how you spend your time outside of work. Keep in mind that your values, priorities, and goals are always shifting, and that’s OK! As long as they are all in alignment with each other.
3. Radical acceptance of reality. What is in your control and what is not? There are things about your job you can and cannot change. Where can you make adjustments so your job is more bearable? Can you have a conversation with someone higher up about the hours you put in? Can you negotiate changes in your time, schedule, salary, role, etc.? Are you open to negotiating? Do you have a voice at your job? Do you give yourself a voice? Are you being expected to work extra hours or are you putting that on yourself? Sometimes people feel like they can’t say “no” even though they already have a lot on their plate. But think about who is the person that is forcing you to take on more. Is it really your boss or is it you and your fear of saying no? Acknowledge your own and other people’s contributions to what is.
4. Communicate your expectations. When employees feel unheard (whether it’s from you being afraid to speak up or you have spoken up, but your boss doesn’t want feedback), it can lead to feeling unappreciated, lower self-esteem and self-confidence, and burnout. It’s important to express expectations and desires clearly. For example, “These are my needs to have a better work environment, better performance, and longevity here.” This applies to people at any level, even those higher up in the corporate ladder.
5. Set boundaries at work. Decide what you need to do to have a healthier work-life balance, write them down, and if you need to, discuss them with your boss. If you’ve been leaving work at 8pm and you miss family dinner every night, start leaving at 6pm. If you eat lunch at your desk every day, start eating lunch somewhere else, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Set your boundaries and stick to them. Boundaries promote work performance, sustainability, longevity in the workplace, mental/ physical wellbeing, and healthy working relationships with others.
6. Scale back. Is there a way you can scale back and ensure the quality of your work doesn’t suffer? When you put in extra hours at work, people start to take that for granted, even if it’s unintentional. Where can you start scaling back and shifting (not just dropping things entirely) so your work is more sustainable? If you are asked to take on more than you can handle, say, “that’s more than one person can handle,” or “can we have multiple deadlines along the way instead of everything being due at once so soon?” Rather than saying “no” outright, offer suggestions on how to make things more manageable and take things at a more reasonable pace.
7. Delegate responsibilities. If you’re in a position to be able to do that, take advantage. Spread out the extra work on your plate so everyone has a bite-sized amount of extra work instead of one person (you) doing it all. You have to figure out what’s in your wheelhouse, what is actually expected of you, and what you can let go of. If you own your own business, can you hire to delegate?
8. Nurture yourself during the work day. Force little pauses throughout the day. Even if you only have a couple of minutes here and there, you can incorporate breathing exercises. You don’t even have to leave your desk: look away from your computer, take deep, intentional breaths. Stretch (seated or standing). Take a sip of water.
Can you take longer opportunities during the day to disconnect from work? Take a walk, do mid-day yoga, spend time in nature. When you are stressed and overworked, you are not as productive. Your concentration suffers and you become less productive, so you have to work longer hours than you need to. When you disconnect from work throughout the day, it leads to higher productivity because you are refreshed, energized, and have more mental clarity.
9. Maintain good relationships with colleagues. Whether you work in-person or remotely, camaraderie is important. Having that connection can help you feel less overwhelmed and bring joy and laughter to the workplace. If you can be open with your colleagues or friends at work, complaining with each other can help you feel like you’re not alone. After all, “misery loves company.”
10. Bring joy to your work day and workplace. Whatever that looks like – it can be tiny, it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture – can help you get through the day. Put flowers or photos of loved ones on your desk, bring baked goods to colleagues, share a joke of the day, or wear colorful socks.
11. Maintain a good social network outside of work. Having a strong social connection gives you an outlet or release for your stress and anxiety. Your friends can be your sounding board to help provide perspective. Even if you feel like you don’t have time, incorporate social gatherings into your schedule. It will bring joy to your life and help you remember that life exists outside of work.
12. Set healthy boundaries at home. Prioritize your home life with self-care routines and making time for your partner and family. If you are always stressed from work, remember that you are bringing your aggravated self to your relationships. What version of yourself do you want to give to your friends and family? What version of yourself do you want to give to yourself? Make efforts to live a positive, healthy life.
You Deserve a Healthy Work-Life Balance
We can’t ever get our time back, so it’s important that we prioritize our personal life and what’s truly important. If you are finding it difficult to identify your values, communicate your needs at work, and/or set healthy boundaries, talking to a therapist can help you establish and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Dr. Violante offers online therapy to adults living in New York, Florida, and all PsyPact enrolled states (listed below). Contact her online or call (754) 333-1484 to request a HIPAA compliant teletherapy session.
Offering Online Therapy in 39 States
I am a licensed psychologist in the states of Florida and New York. Additionally, I have Authority to Practice Interjurisdictional Telepsychology (APIT) from the PSYPACT Commission. I provide telehealth (online video therapy) to adults living in the 39 participating PSYPACT states listed below. For a list of current PSYPACT participating states, please visit the PSYPACT website at: https://www.psypact.org/psypactmap.
PsyPact enrolled states:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming