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If you’re under pressure at work, gunning for a big promotion, or if you’ve set high expectations for yourself, taking a step back and restoring the balance in your work and home life isn’t always easy — but it is essential.
In this section, we’ll explore the impact being too tied to your work can have on your mental health, along with some solutions that will help you strike a better balance.
Job/Career & Home Life Sections
What’s the impact of poor work/life balance?
Naturally, there will be times when you’re needed more at work — it might be a particularly busy time of year for the business, or perhaps there’s a huge opportunity coming up that your team needs your help preparing for.
Knowing about these busy periods and being able to prepare yourself for them isn’t a bad thing. But when you begin to feel as though your work is taking over your life, it’s important to be able to reflect on how this might affect your life outside of work.
Some of the consequences of having a poor work/life balance include:
If you’re living with arthritis, fatigue (both mentally and physically) can already be an issue. And when you start increasing your working hours, you can only expect your fatigue to worsen.
Being fatigued can have a huge impact on your life inside and outside of work. When you’re tired, you’re likely to be less productive at work, and your ability to think clearly can also be affected.
In work, this could have an impact on your professional reputation, or lead to costly (and potentially dangerous) mistakes.
Outside of work, fatigue (and the additional stress it might cause) can present itself as:
That’s why it’s key to make sure you can listen to your body and know when it’s time to take a step back. We’ll explore this solution in more detail in the next section.
There has been research that demonstrates a link between stress and poor health.
When we’re stressed, it can have adverse effects on the immune system, making it easier to pick up bugs and viruses, and worsening the symptoms you experience from any medical condition.
Missing out on social events and time with family
Being tied to your work can be a challenge if you’re also trying to maintain your social life and spend time with friends and family.
If you’re working longer days, or more days throughout the week, you’re likely to miss out on family events and celebrations with friends — either because you’re at work, or you’re too fatigued from working so much to attend.
This can make it difficult to maintain and nurture relationships with those closest to you. Missing out on events and social gatherings can also impact your mental health, causing you to feel left out and withdrawn from your social group.
It’s the age-old issue — if you keep saying yes, they’ll keep asking! If you regularly work extra hours or extra shifts, the expectation will be that you’ll continue to do so. Over time, it can become increasingly difficult to start saying no.
There’s also a chance that your employer will see it as an opportunity to give you more responsibility at work. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as you’ll be progressing in your career, but a step up like this often comes with added stress, which can be difficult to manage alongside your condition.
How to improve your work/life balance
Juggling your work and home life is a common challenge for those in employment, and particularly tricky if you’re living with a health condition such as arthritis.
In the section below, we’ll explore some possible solutions you can put into place to help achieve the work-life balance that’s best for you.
If you haven’t set boundaries for your work, you’re more likely to struggle with finding time for the fun stuff outside of work. Here are some tips for putting limits into place for yourself.
Take control of your time
When you feel like things are getting on top of you, it’s a good idea to manage your time in terms of priorities. Tell yourself that it’s important to do what needs to be done, and leave the other tasks for a time when you’re more mentally and physically able to take them on.
At work, this might mean cutting out the activities that cause you anxiety or are made more difficult by your condition. It might also mean delegating the tasks you don’t feel you can handle yourself. Whatever the case, it’s important to share your concerns with your employer and teammates so that you can land on a solution that suits everyone.
Outside of work, it’s equally important to be honest with yourself about what you can manage. Try to be as efficient as possible when planning your household tasks — like running multiple errands at a time or doing a load of laundry every day. That way you’ll be able to stay on top of things without having to worry about doing all your household tasks on your day off.
Keeping a calendar of events and a list of the things you need to do each day/week (at work and at home) will help you to stay focussed and avoid being distracted by the plans and priorities of others.
Learn to say no
Time is precious, and it’s important that it’s spent mostly on the activities that are meaningful to you.
Whether you’ve got a co-worker asking for help organising the office party, or your child’s teacher asking you to dedicate time to helping out with the school play, remember that it’s okay to say no. When it comes to supporting others, it’s important to check in with your own body first and see if it’s something you realistically want to (and can) do.
Leave work at work
With today’s technology, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to disconnect from work and draw the boundary between work life and home life. That’s why it’s important to make the conscious effort to put the boundary in place.
Separate yourself from your inbox
Our email inbox can be the biggest thing to sabotage our productivity. If you find yourself regularly checking your emails, you can often become distracted by responding to other people’s needs and challenges before your own. In doing this, you’re helping other people’s task lists become shorter while yours continues to grow.
Try to limit yourself to checking your email inbox no more than three times a day. Set aside dedicated time mid-morning, early afternoon and late in the day. With dedicated blocks of time carved out to help others, you’re more likely to have time left in the day to get through your own tasks.
Don’t be afraid to ask
If you feel that you would benefit from some form of flexibility at work, speak to your employer about your options. Working flexible hours, having a compressed working week, job sharing, or working remotely can be viable options giving you more control over the way you work, and helping to reduce stress.
Take regular breaks
This is important from both a mental and a physical perspective. Mentally, we can only maintain high levels of concentration for around 90 minutes at a time, so it’s important to take breaks throughout the day to avoid becoming mentally fatigued.
Taking regular breaks is equally important for us physically, especially if you’re living with a condition such as arthritis. Staying in the same position for extended lengths of time can cause joints to seize and muscles to become sore, so be sure to get up, stretch and move around often throughout the day. For more information on maintaining good posture at work, click here.
Take care of yourself
A key part of achieving a better work/life balance and being able to cope with stress is taking care of yourself. Try following some of these helpful tips:
A balanced diet will give you all the nutrients you need, helping you feel better physically and mentally.
Disruptions to your sleep schedule, or not getting enough sleep, is a big contributing factor to high stress levels. If you struggle falling asleep, try to cut out screen time up to 2 hours before bed. If staying asleep is the issue, try engaging in more physical activity during the day.
Relax and have fun
There’s more to life than work, so remember to keep some time free in your day to do something you enjoy. This might be a mindfulness activity, like yoga, walking, reading or journaling. Better yet, explore activities you can enjoy with your partner, friends or family, like eating out, taking a cookery class, or going dancing.
Lean on your support network
Surrounding yourself with good people – friends, family and co-workers – will always make your life easier. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or like everything is mounting up and becoming a little bit too much, be sure to reach out to your circle of friends for extra support, and be honest about what you need.
When in doubt, speak to a professional
There’s no shame in needing a bit of extra help from time to time. If it feels like life is getting a little too chaotic and you’re stressing about trying to keep up, reach out and speak to a professional, such as a counsellor or mental health support worker. A lot of companies now offer employee assistance programmes that provide access to these services, so be sure to speak to your employer and see if they can help.
As you reach new milestones in your life and your career, your work/life balance and the solutions you’ve put in place to maintain it will often shift around. Make sure to keep reflecting on the balance you’ve struck so that you can make changes when necessary, before things become too overwhelming.
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