Why it’s so hard to keep balance in your home life and working life?
Ever increasing work demands around the globe rank as one of the most challenging factors to sustaining positive mental health for the working population. These demands, and consequential over-working syndrome and work related stress responses, often result from work pressures and long working hours. They are partially cultural in that some corporate environments expect so much from an employee, and with cut backs and mergers, there’s always more to do than YOU can master, no matter how talented or how well your time management skills are. Also, you may feel that work is the priority over your personal life. But if you don’t make time for pleasurable experiences, social interaction, foster family relationships or just to exercise and eat well your emotional health and well-being will suffer. According to many health researchers, there is a need to balance work and home life, or work responsibilities and our personal endeavors.
In fact many employees in Melbourne and around the world, experience ‘back to work blues’, struggling with stress, post-holiday let down and uncertainty of the year ahead. Will I have enough time to fit everything in? Will another year past with me not having enough time to enjoy life?
Is a work-balance possible to achieve?
Early in my career as a psychologist, I was given a worksheet for coaching clients called “Get a life, Get a balance”. It included a pie chart to dissect how much time was being spent in different areas of their daily life. The term ‘balance’ never sat well with me. Why? Because it is an impossible pursuit to strive for a perfect, ongoing equilibrium between competing areas in our life. And let’s face it – our lives are very full these days, and our work, our children, our partners, friends and exercise regimes – as well as unexpected emergencies or family or business crisis points – all compete for our time. There are only 24 hours in each day, and you need to sleep for best health and well-being. Trying to get a balance feels like a hamster in a wheel trying to get out.
But while ‘balance’ never sat well with me as a term, I DO like the idea of paying attention to the areas our lives which deserve more effort – and to focus on the activities that are working best for you. It’s all about getting a work-life fit. Fitting in the things that you may be neglecting but are essential for your well-being.
Q: How do you go about carving time out for yourself? Are you working too much? Each start of the year is a great time for stock taking about our lives, our goals and our work-life priorities.
Mental Health Coaching: Some signs of poor work-life balance
If you’re like most workers today, you may find yourself stressed when you feel you need to work long hours to get your responsibilities done. Along with working extended hours, you may feel you get little, if any, free time to really enjoy life, spending time on your hobbies or with friends, loved ones and family members. You may feel you don’t have enough ME time, which is essential for mental health – and over the long term, essential for workplace productivity.
A lack of beyond-work activities like games or hobbies or free time to do the things you really love doing, outside of your office, may also lead to unwanted weight gain and many other health issues. Over time, these factors interact and can leave you with high levels of discontentment and even chronic depression.
Well Being at Work and home: So, what can be done to improve your work-life dynamics and find more pleasure in your life?
For the employee and individuals who are feeling burnt out by their jobs or a lack of work/home life fit:
- Discuss your work-life fit requirements and openly share it with your manager. It may simply be that at lunchtime instead of working-through you will be going for a 20-minute power walk and/ or go to the park to do some mindfulness exercise.
- Do some regular body exercises, try to go to the gym for a weight-bearing workout at least three days a week.
- Use working tricks that ease your tasks, for example, automating some of your tasks using the present technology. This requires an investment of up front time, but is well worth it over the longer run as it WILL save you time in the months to come.
- Talk and share any concerns, barriers to getting a healthy work-life fit, rather than keeping quiet and struggling with the problems
- Be prepared to change habit
Work-life fit is important for ME and YOU…
Everyone is susceptible to burnout and I am no exception. As a psychologist, mum, business owner, wife, daughter and friend I often find myself asking “where has the time gone” or “when will I exercise or have time for me?”. So, mapping out and following a work-life fit that suits me has been essential. I must admit this has not always been easy and I have had periods where my body has got to the point of exhaustion before I stopped and listened. Now on a regular basis, actually daily for me, I reflect on what is imperative for me to fit in. I do this by completing a daily diary entry where I reflect on what has worked for me and what hasn’t. I then try to do more of what makes me have a better work-life fit. For instance, exercise is important for me, especially on counselling days when I sit most of the days with clients. I find either walking to work (when practical), walking in the evening or making sure I power walk during my lunch break.
I have learnt through my work-life fit reflection time, what work and home expectations I can reasonably and effectively take on. I have also learnt to say no.
But every so often I forget my own limits and my body ‘loudly’ reminds me that it is time to STOP.
STOP and work on your work-life fit:
S -Stop what you are doing and take a few deep breathes
T – Take a few minutes to reflect on your current work-life fit
O – Outline what is working and/ or not working for you
P – Pause and give yourself permission to fit something in for yourself: call a friend, go for a walk, smell some roses, have cup of tea etc.
So, I strongly recommend that you take the time out of your ‘busy day’ (busy is the new black) to reflect on your own work-life fit, negotiate this with others around you and then be prepared to change habits to fit in the aspects of your life that are essential to enhance your emotional and physical health and well-being.
Contributor: Nicole Plotkin is the principal psychologist at the Emotional Health Centre, who works with individuals and workplaces to work on wellness: resilience, mental health and stress management.