Work-life balance

Can we find the balance between personal life and work?

There was a time when the boundaries between work and home life were clear. In today’s society, work often takes priority over everything else in our lives. Our desire to succeed professionally can push us to set aside our own well-being. We tend to fall into the trap of thinking that we can be productive all the time or that an eight-hour day at work equals eight hours of being productive. However, this is difficult, if not impossible, for many of us.

An unhealthy work-life balance occurs when work becomes overwhelming and takes precedence over personal life, leading to negative consequences for a person’s well-being.

Work-life-balance refers to maintaining a harmonious relationship between work and personal life and is more than just a buzzword, as it has real consequences for our physical and mental health, our work performance and our personal relationships.

Signs of an unbalanced work-life dynamic can include:

1. Constant overwork:

You regularly work long hours, including weekends and holidays, without enough time for rest, relaxation or personal activities.

2. Neglected personal life:

You sacrifice personal relationships, hobbies and leisure activities because of excessive work demands.

3. Burnout

You experience physical, mental and emotional exhaustion due to chronic stress and work pressure.

4. Lack of personal care:

Not prioritising self-care activities such as exercise, adequate sleep and leisure time leads to deterioration of physical and mental health.

5. Strained relationships:

You find it difficult to maintain healthy relationships with family, friends and loved ones because of work-related commitments.

work-life balance
Maintaining work-life balance is not a simple task and the truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all recipe. A harmonious work-life balance looks different for everyone. It always requires a conscious effort, involving effective time and energy management to meet both professional and personal commitments, while prioritising self-care and well-being.

A good work-life balance has many positive effects, including reduced stress, lower risk of burnout and increased well-being. This benefits both employees and employers.

How to improve work-life balance?

As long as you have a professional life, juggling the demands of your career and personal life is likely to be an ongoing challenge, but if you can learn to both set boundaries and take care of yourself, work-life balance can be achieved.

Set limits

If you don’t set limits, then work or other obligations can leave you with no time for activities and relationships you can enjoy.

Manage your time

🗸 Reduce or delegate activities you don’t like or can’t manage

🗸 Share your concerns and try to find solutions with your employer or colleagues

🗸 Organise your work activities and household tasks efficiently. Plan leisure activities in advance. Make a daily to-do list at home and at work. Having a plan helps keep you focused. When you don’t have a plan, it’s easy to get absorbed in other people’s plans and priorities.

Learn to say no

Whether it’s a colleague asking you to lead an extra project or your child’s teacher asking you to organize a classroom activity, remember that it’s okay to respectfully say no. When you give up accepting tasks out of guilt or a false sense of obligation, you will have more time for activities that are meaningful to you.

Leave work at work

With today’s technology of connecting to anyone, anytime, anywhere, there may not be a boundary between work and home – unless you create one.

🗸 Make a conscious decision to separate work time from personal time.

🗸 Reduce email access. Check your emails no more than three times a day – late morning, early afternoon and late in the day. If you access email first thing in the morning, you tend to focus and respond to other people’s problems rather than being proactive about your own needs.

Take advantage of your options

🗸 Ask your employer about flexible hours, a compressed work week, job sharing, telecommuting. The more control you have over your time, the less stressed you will be.

🗸 Try to reduce your commitments and minimise interruptions. Most people can maintain a maximum level of concentration for up to 90 minutes. After that, the ability to retain information decreases dramatically. When you are interrupted during a task, you need to double or triple your working time to regain full concentration on the work task.

Take care of yourself

A healthy lifestyle is essential for coping with stress and achieving work-life balance.

🗸 Maintain a healthy diet. The Mediterranean diet – which emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables and lean proteins – improves your ability to retain cognition as well as your stamina and well-being.

🗸 Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep increases stress. It’s also important to avoid using electronic devices just before bedtime. The blue light emitted by these devices lowers levels of the sleep hormone melatonin.

🗸 Make time for fun and relaxation. Set aside time each day for an activity you enjoy, such as yoga or reading. Discover activities you can do with your partner, family or friends, such as hiking, dancing or cooking classes.

🗸 S trengthen your support network. It’s important to ask for and accept help from family, friends or co-workers to help with daily tasks. Accepting help with everyday activities can free you from the feeling that you are carrying the whole burden alone and gives you time for yourself.


When to seek expert help

Everyone needs help from time to time. If your life seems too chaotic to manage and you feel worried all the time, talk to a mental health professional. If your employer offers an employee assistance program, take advantage of the services available.

While you may be anxious for your work-life balance to improve, your habits have built up over time and probably won’t change overnight. Creating work-life balance is an ongoing process as family, interests and work life change. It’s important to stay fluid, constantly assess where you are in relation to your goals and priorities and make the necessary changes to ensure you stay on track.

Author: Dr. Iuliana Fecioru – Primary psychiatrist

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