Work – life balance – Can you really get it right?

Something we have all thought about, but not so easy to achieve. You have probably given this more thought in recent times due to the current pandemic.

Have you ever felt like you are tied to your desk, the day passes you by, and before you know it lunch has gone, dinner time passed and another bedtime is fast approaching. While everyone can manage this lifestyle for short periods of time, if this has become your normal routine then maybe it is time to put the brakes on and review your time management.

Stress is one of the biggest killers in current times, it results in high blood pressure, weight gain, emotional distress and much more. So having a work life balance which helps reduce stress is vital. “Well now” I hear you saying – “we all know this? Don’t we?”, and it is easier said than done. To be honest 6 months ago I would have asked the same thing. Then after some serious health issues, I realised my job would continue if I was not able to continue or even worse.. , someone else would step in, take over and things would keep on moving forward! Don’t get me wrong I love my work and some would say I live for it, but I don’t want to die for it! So I began to reflect on my routine, I put a plan in place and made an effort to take breaks, go for a walk at lunch break, get up from the desk at intervals and move around the house. These are small changes but they have proved invaluable in terms of regaining my mental stability which was suffering as a result of my work life balance. Not only this but small as they were I found that standing, moving around and just stretching helped my concentration, so I find my work didn’t suffer and in fact things have been running rather smoothly with stress levels dropping by the day.

If you are the type of person who is happy working continually into the night, then great, good for you! If not then keep reading to get some pointers on giving your mental health and wellbeing a boost in the right direction as well as your career.

  1. For me a big thing was to learn to say NO, now obviously I don’t mean just refuse to do anything, that definitely won’t impress your employer; but it is also important to remember that you are not expected to work 24/7, so if you are constantly finding yourself agreeing to do just another little thing, stop and consider how often you do this. Take time to think, ask can it be done a different day, think about a deadline if there is one attached, and without making excuses (there is no need) either give a time when you can obliged, or ask can it be given to someone else as you are currently busy. Remember it isn’t going to impress anyone if you take the job and then cannot do it, so be clear, polite but assertive. The Mental health Foundation in 2019, uncovered worrying statistics showing that people are spending longer hours in work, neglecting other aspects of life due to work, and as a result stress and anxiety are on the rise. Your Employer should offer support, so open up, speak with them about your concerns and begin to take time for you.
  2. Leaving work at work used to be a lot easier before we all started to work at home, so it is an idea when working at home to have an office, or space in the home where you keep “work” under wraps. It is important that you can walk away, close a door and leave this space behind, otherwise your home is not your home. Try to have a focus after you finish work, go for a walk, prepare a meal with a loved one, do some gardening (weather permitting, we are in Ireland after all!), but do remember the value of spending time relaxing, breath deeply when you walk away from the work place door, close the laptop lid down, closing the diary physically can help you make a mental note that this is the end of a work day, and the beginning of your personal space.
  3. One thing that really made a difference for me, was taking the emails off my phone. Stepping away from emails, was a major step in helping me move out of work and into home life. Now I have to admit this was a self inflicted stress, it was myself who put the emails onto the phone, it was not a requirement of work, and nobody expected me to engage, but when they are there, you just peep in, you hear or see a notification, and so on.. and thus one day rolls into another.. and stress levels rise and so on.. So very importantly no after hours emails, no weekend emails, no midnight emails. and no peeping in just before you go to sleep just in case. They will be there when you login again, and rest assured whoever sent the email is relaxing somewhere, not waiting on your reply.

The moral behind this section – it really boils down to you taking back control of your own life and your own actions. In most instances you will find that your employer is not an ogre, standing over you waiting to see you trip up, or miss a beat. In most instances stress related to work is self inflicted, and poor time management, and in this current climate this is something which is becoming a much bigger issue, so take back your life, close the door on work when you have your hours completed, and remember there is more to life than striving for success, we all need some enjoyment, to laugh, and to let our hair down. Find a way to allow some time for you otherwise what is the point.

Further reading:

https://www.mentalhealthireland.ie/training/workplace-training/

Published by Dr M

An Early Years Specialist in the areas of Education, Psychology, and Research, I am passionate about curriculum development and the benefits of IT in Early years for promoting creative thought, autonomy, and innovative teaching and learning. Throughout my career I have also been involved in raising awareness of the importance of outdoor play, the provision of training and development in Adult Education; improved Parental involvement, and also Psychological development and behavioural analysis particularly in children under 6yrs. As a Counsellor and Psychotherapist, I work with parents, schools, and preschools as consultant and mentor offering support and advice, training, and quality assurance with the aim of encouraging standardisation and recognition amongst the Early Years profession.

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