Being able to recognize a separation between a job and living a fulfilling life is essential to improving one’s wellbeing — both physically and mentally. Work-life balance is not something everyone can accomplish and often requires something significant to alter their mindset and perception of what is important. Psychologists are able to work with clients to recognize how it is important to live a life that includes time for family, friends, work, exercise, leisure, and adequate sleep.
Those who lack work-life balance often bring work home, struggle with insomnia, cancel plans because of their other obligations, and tend to have a short temper. Concentrating the majority of energy on work can also cause people to suffer from severe tension headaches, upset stomachs, and an increase of caffeine and alcohol use.
Therapy can help restore someone's work-life balance. Therapists who specialize in balancing work and life encourage clients to look at their situation, identify any stressors, and formulate a plan to prioritize their time. By making certain modifications, someone is more likely to feel energetic, capable, organized, and have a positive outlook on life. Clients learn that the fundamentals to successfully balancing work and a personal life are based on being satisfied and happy with employment, making healthy decisions, managing time, and practicing self-awareness. A good work-life balance means creating harmony between different aspects of life. Essentially, this means any benefits gained from each aspect can support and strengthen the others.
A licensed therapist can teach clients the importance of setting limits and boundaries with others, how to review and reset life and career goals, how to purposely schedule both personal and social time, and how to ask for help. Therapists may also incorporate one’s partner’s perspective on certain goals and boundaries. They may have to alleviate ongoing arguments and help both partners figure out what matters most and how to incorporate those things into their lives.
While it’s true that the demands of one’s personal life tend to interfere with work in this society, there is a common attitude that seems to imply that work and life are opposites. Work is an important part of life. Work that is meaningful and enjoyable can create a sense of wellbeing as well as financial support. In fact, its positive affects contribute to good mental health.
Work provides someone with an activity and a daily structure, a sense of meaning and purpose, a sense of community, and financial independence. But taken to the extreme, work can deplete someone’s life and lead to stress and burnout. Isolated working conditions, psychological demands, lack of rewards for effort, job insecurity, and a lack of control in the job can cause stress and worsen mental health issues.
Stress is the biggest factor in causing disruption in life, and if possible should be avoided. A small amount of stress can be helpful and cause increased alertness, energy and productivity. But living on adrenaline can only be effective for a short time. If the pressure goes on for too long or becomes greater than one’s ability to cope, it drains physical and mental resources and causes a state of emotional and physical exhaustion. Long-term stress affects concentration, mood, and personal relationships, and is detrimental to how someone performs at work. It also weakens the immune system and causes numerous health concerns to arise later in life.
With this in mind, setting boundaries between work and home and knowing what the limitations are is important to one’s wellbeing.
Recognizing a work-life imbalance exists can be difficult. Our ability to justify and rationalize what we should be doing can cloud our judgment. By practicing a handful of techniques, it is possible for everyone to achieve a work-life balance.
Tips for Work-Life Balance
- Set manageable goals each day and create a “To Do” list to stay on task.
- Be efficient with your time at work and don’t procrastinate or get preoccupied with spending too much time doing busy work.
- Ask for flexibility in scheduling. It allows for increased productivity.
- Take small breaks throughout the day to clear the mind and reduce stress.
- Tune in. Studies show that listening to music at work fosters concentration, reduces stress and anxiety, and stimulates creativity.
- Communicate effectively and be honest when someone can help or when a project or task becomes overwhelming.
- Give yourself a break. No one is perfect and all people can do is their best.
- Unplug. The same technology that makes it so easy for workers to do their jobs flexibly can also cause burnout when used all of the time.
- Divide responsibilities at home and evenly distribute tasks to avoid getting behind.
- Learn to say “NO” when feeling stressed or exhausted.
- Make time for friends and family to create a strong support system when life spirals out of control.
- Stay active and treat the body right. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a healthy diet boost the immune system and are proven to reduce stress, symptoms of depression, and anxiety.