We live in a society where the pressure to be “always on,” always accessible, and always performing can be immense. Ours is a culture in which, all too often, our sense of purpose, meaning, and value derive almost exclusively from the work we do.
Thus, when we take time off, or when we embrace a lifestyle that prioritizes work-life balance, we can sometimes feel uncomfortable, and perhaps even a bit guilty or ashamed. The reality, though, is that maintaining a healthy work-life balance isn’t just a happy aspiration or an intermittent luxury. Rather, it’s a necessity for your mental wellbeing.
Why Balance Matters
For many of us, the work we do each day can provide a profound sense of fulfillment. If we go to bed exhausted at the end of a long and productive day, we feel as if we’ve actually achieved something, as if we have some tangible way to prove we’ve spent the hours of the day well and industriously.
The problem is that for every work goal achieved, there are often battalions more that immediately arise to take its place. If your sense of achievement and worth is measured by the number of to-do items you can check off your list each workday, that’s going to leave very little room for anything else in life.
You’re in essence consigning yourself to life on the hamster wheel, endlessly running but not really getting anywhere. There’s no better way to set yourself up for anxiety and depression.
The good news is that there are ways to escape the cycle before workplace stress can cascade into burnout. The key is to stop trying to be all things to all people, learn to set–and protect–boundaries between your personal and professional life, and endeavor to find meaning, fulfillment, and self-worth outside of your work.
Set Appropriate Boundaries
In our post-pandemic era, many of us are finding ourselves continuing to work from home at least some of the time. In some cases, this can be a positive thing. After all, a hybrid schedule can significantly reduce overall commuting times while also making it easier to balance the responsibilities of both work and home.
There’s a downside, however, in that having a home office can increase the expectation that you’re always going to be accessible. In essence, a home office means that the workday never truly ends, that you’re never truly “out” of the office. That’s a problem, because no one can, or should be expected to be on call 24/7. Your mind, as well as your body, just weren’t built for that.
So the first thing you’re going to need to do when you’re cultivating a healthy work-life balance is to set clear limits on when you are available and when you’re not. Have a specific and firm cut-off time to signify the end of each workday.
Once the golden hour has arrived, put the electronics away. No checking work emails or texts. No logging into the company portal. Nothing work-related until the start of the next workday. Just family time and you time.
Creating the Right Setup
Whether you’re working on campus, working from home, or some combination of the two, it’s important to do all you can to create an environment that helps you achieve the balance you need.
If you live near a lake or green space, take time each day to get outside and enjoy them. If you’re considering relocating, then look for a community that offers ample opportunity to spend time in nature. Even just 30 minutes in a quiet park can help you calm your mind, refocus your attention, and recharge your energy.
Another important element of having the right setup to achieve a healthy work-life balance is ensuring that you have the technology you need to perform your work efficiently and reliably during your designated working hours.
If you’re working from home, this often means you should have a stable, high-speed internet connection and the equipment you need to be able to communicate and collaborate with your coworkers. When you have the right tools in place for your home office, you’re going to be able to get more done during your official workday, which will make it easier to disconnect and relax when your workday is done.
Being able to formally shut down at the end of a productive workday not only means that you will have healthier and more respectful boundaries with your colleagues, but also that you can turn your full attention to your loved ones when the workday is done. This, in turn, will enhance your personal relationships because, every day, you will be able to demonstrate to them that they matter. There is perhaps no better way to find contentment and meaning outside of your work than that.
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential to your mental wellbeing. However, it is not always easy in a culture that celebrates the inveterate workaholic. Nevertheless, if you want to build a truly happy, healthy life and avoid burnout, then setting boundaries and seeking fulfillment and joy outside of work is key. When you do this, you’re paving the way to wellness and success both in and out of the office.
Photo is from Pixabay
Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.