13 Ways to Help Achieve a Healthy Work - Life Balance
For those of you that haven’t heard already, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Whether it’s ourselves or someone we know, most of us will be touched by mental illness in some way during our life time. Despite the positive direction that the publics perception of mental health is heading, there’s a stigma that still remains. That stigma can cause individuals to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. Worst of all, it may prevent those individuals from seeking the help they need especially in their work place.
In this day in age, many of us will spend a quarter to a third of our lives in the work place. On a daily basis, we will spend more waking hours in our workplace than at home, and experience more exchanges with co-workers than family. Job satisfaction and levels of productivity depend on work life balance, work demands, work support, and work rewards. At the same time, an organization depends on a productive and engaged workforce to stay focused and meet external demands.
I don’t know about you, but I am one of the many individuals that still struggles with finding a healthy work/life balance. With many of us being torn between juggling heavy workloads, managing personal relationships, family responsibilities, and squeezing in time for hobbies, it doesn’t surprise me that more than 1 in 4 Americans describe themselves as “super stressed.” You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that isn’t balanced – or healthy.
In our rush to “get it all done” at the office and at home, it’s easy to forget that as our stress levels spike, our productivity plummets. Stress can zap our concentration, make us irritable or depressed, and even harm both our personal and professional relationships.
While we all need a certain amount of stress to spur us on and help us preform at our best, it is important to know that overtime too much stress can weaken the immune system and make us susceptible to a variety of ailments from colds to backaches to heart disease. [In recent research it has been shown that chronic stress can actually double our risk of having a heart attack.]
The key to managing stress lies in that one magic word: “Balance.” When workers are balanced and happy, they are more productive, take fewer sick days, and are more likely to stay in their job.
Here are some practical steps we can all take, myself included, to help ease the grip that stress has on us and win back the balance in our lives:
- Set manageable goals each day. Being able to meet priorities helps us feel a sense of accomplishment and control.
- Be efficient with your time at work. When we procrastinate, the task often grows in our minds until it seems insurmountable.
- Take five. Taking a break at work isn’t only acceptable, it’s often encouraged by many employers.
- Tune in. Listen to your favorite music at work to foster concentration, reduce stress and anxiety, and stimulate creativity.
- Communicate effectively. Be honest with colleagues or your boss when you feel you’re in a bind.
- Give yourself a break. No one is perfect! Allow yourself to be human and just do the best you can.
- Unplug. The same technology that makes it so easy for workers to do their job flexibly can also burn us out if we use them 24/7.
- Divide and conquer. Make sure responsibilities at home are evenly distributed and clearly outlined – you’ll avoid confusion and problems later.
- Don’t over commit. If you’re overscheduled with activities, learn to say “No.” Shed the urge to be Superwoman/Superman.
- Get support. Chatting with friends and family can be important to your success at home – or at work – and can even improve your health. People with stronger support systems have more aggressive immune responses to illnesses than those who lack such support.
- Stay active. Aside from its well-known physical benefits, regular exercise reduces stress, depression and anxiety, and enables people to better cope with adversity, according to researchers.
- Treat your body right. Being in good shape physically increases your tolerance to stress and reduces sick days. Eat right, exercise and get adequate rest.
- Get help if you need it. Don’t let stress stand in the way of your health and happiness. If you are persistently overwhelmed, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – taking care of yourself is a sign of strength.