Many people think that a perfect work and home life balance is the key to a happy and fulfilling life. In a sense, they’re right - but sometimes we become too focused on achieving this “perfect” balance. This is especially true in uncertain economic times where people are spending more time overworked and dealing with financial stress without taking enough time off to unwind and avoid stress.
Stress isn’t imaginary: it’s a very real issue that can have serious health-related consequences. Stress leads to illness, which leads to absenteeism, which leads to less hours worked, less money and more stress: an endless and vicious cycle. But how do you take the time to lower your stress levels when you’re overworked and there just doesn’t seem to be any time left for yourself?
Here are seven tips to help you out:
Be engaged at home. Make the most of family time, and that doesn’t mean just zoning out in front of the television while your family members happen to be in the same room. Time spent at home with your family should be about quality and not quantity, so try something new and fun like cooking a meal together or playing a board game.
Be engaged at work. It seems like a step backward, but when you’re unmotivated and disengaged from your work it can feel like a stressful and wasteful activity. This way of thinking can lead to poor work performance and feelings of guilt over not having done a good job. Having to be away from your family while working is a fact of life for the majority of Canadians, so put your best effort into it and make it worthwhile.
Let go of the idea of a perfect balance. Think of the most successful person you know, famous or not. Do they have the perfect work-to-life balance, or do they spend more time working on their business, career or ideas in order to make them better? Having a positive work life and meaningful career can have a huge impact on your well-being and happiness, but it can take a bit of extra effort while at work.
Earn your brownie points. If you slack off at work constantly, your co-workers and the higher-ups may not be very willing to give you a break when you really need it. Instead, do your best to be relatively cheerful and upbeat, doing your best as often as possible while you imagine yourself earning points at work. Then when you really, really need a break, cash those points and take it. You’ll be much more likely to get that well-deserved break or time off to lower your stress levels without any guilt or flack from anyone else.
Pay attention to “seasons”. Every business or industry has seasonal fluctuations when times are super busy or more relaxed and laid-back. Identify those times of year with your job: are you more busy before the holidays, or at the end of your fiscal year? Maybe you have reduced business hours during the summer or months that are always slow. Figure out which “seasons” you’ll need to be working longer hours and during which ones you can leave work a bit early and spend more time at home.
Know when you’re needed. Your home life can sometimes be just as demanding as your work life, so identify and prepare for times when you’ll need to put in extra effort at home. It could be around the time a new child is born, or when you might need to start picking the kids up from school or daycare after work. A little extra planning and preparedness can significantly lower your stress levels, and make it easier to know when you can sneak a break or two.
When you take a break, take it. When you do get some time to yourself to just relax, make it count. Turn off your computer and cell phone. Don’t let text messages or e-mails distract you or get you thinking about stressful things like what’s due tomorrow, what errands you have to run this week or what else needs to be done later.