October 10th is World Mental health day, and this week is National Work-Life balance week. So, we wanted to discuss how your work-life balance has such a major impact on your mental health and give you ways to keep the balance equal (as much as possible!).
A work-life balance is about dividing and prioritising your time spent on your work demands and your personal life. It’s about setting limits, understanding your daily routine, and ensuring it aligns with your goals and what is important to you.
Having a work-life balance is becoming more of a global priority now that society has evolved from the dynamic of one parent working and one parent staying at home with the kids. In most families, both parents now have to work, but the usual 9 – 5 working hours is no longer a set work structure. We are all expected to be a lot more flexible. However, this can affect our lives, making it unpredictable and harder to keep the balance, which can have a negative effect on our mental health.
Did you know that we all have 168 hours in a week?
The average person spends one-third of their life sleeping, so that’s around 56 hours. That leaves 112 hours. Students in education probably spend about 25 hours studying and the average working week for a full-time job is 40 hours. This will leave individuals with between 72 -87 hours left.
To make things easier, we’ll round it off to 80 hours. But, the big question is, how do you spend these 80 hours?
Well, as human beings, we are really good at wasting time. For example, on average, people spend 6-7 hours a day on their phones. This could be mindlessly scrolling through social media, watching silly videos, and engaging in pointless conversation.
In fact, a friend of ours recently deleted his Twitter account because he found himself stressed out whilst arguing with people he’d never met. It was a big jump to hit that delete button, but he finds that he’s a much calmer person nowadays.
Another massive time stealer is being disorganised or ineffective in your daily life. For example, not having a plan leads to unnecessary stress. Sometimes, the symptom of this is down to procrastination. Mark always jokes that he is really good at procrastination, but he never gets around to it these days.
Joking aside though, what is it about having a deadline and leaving everything until the last minute? It’s another common human trait of ours.
We also waste a lot of time worrying about unnecessary things. But did you know that over 90% of things we worry about, never actually happen?
Today’s roads are busier than ever and travelling to your place of work or study is time-consuming. However, whether you travel by foot, public transport or drive, you can still make good use of your time. Perhaps you could switch off the media and choose to listen to an inspirational podcast instead. Future Toolbox has just started one, so listen to us. Perhaps?
Many people say there simply aren’t enough hours in a day. Ask yourself, how many of those hours do you waste?
Factor time in for things you enjoy. Don’t be like the lady who felt guilty about taking a spa day – self-care is not selfish; it should be encouraged!
Whether you are at school, college, university, have a job or are a stay-at-home parent, a work-life balance is necessary. Think about what you need for your work-life balance to be in a state of equilibrium. We all need to put the effort in to prioritise our time to protect and improve our mental health, making us feel fulfilled.
Without this balance in your life, it can negatively affect your mental and physical health, your productivity and focus, as well as your relationship with family, friends, colleagues etc.
So, what can you do to increase your work-life balance?
Ask yourself, are you prioritising your work before yourself?
We mentioned earlier that the average working week is 40 hours, but some people work many more.
You will burn out and make yourself ill if you don’t take time out for yourself. A great phrase that sums it up is, ‘All work and no play, can make you sad and grey!’
Firstly, you need to accept that there is no ‘perfect’ work-life balance and that everyone’s balance is different; only you can get yours into an equilibrium state.
Here are some suggestions to help you on the way:
- Make sure you take time for you! Do something you enjoy and do it often. Be creative! We love drawing, painting, and writing. These are brilliant ways to switch off but also let your imagination run wild. Another great one is having a relaxing bath (but don’t take your phone with you, have a break from it).
- We recommend that you eat nice healthy food and drink plenty of water (most of the time) to have a balanced diet. But sometimes, just eat that biscuit. Go on, treat yourself!
- Be active! The benefits of daily exercise have a noticeable impact on your health as well as productivity. It is a way of completely switching off from work, school, or university, and it can help you destress and sleep better. You don’t have to go to the gym for hours on end – you don’t even have to go at all! Instead, go outside and take a 20-minute walk (or run) each day. Enjoy the world around you, and you will notice the difference it makes. Get a change of scenery and be at one with nature!
- Take breaks; this is a great way to recharge your batteries and prepare you for what lies ahead. However, overworking can lead to burnout, and it is definitely safe to say that your work-life balance is not equal if you get to this stage. So, make sure you take your allotted breaks and make sure you get enough sleep each night. Additionally, if you are working, make sure you take your annual leave each year. This allows yourself to switch off completely from work as it can help you destress.
- Seeking support can help give you the tools you need to cope and increase your work-life balance. Talking to your boss, teacher, family or friends can make you feel less alone and making them aware of your situation can be a weight lifted as you are no longer suffering in silence; they may have some easy fixes to help you straight away. If your work, school or university has a guidance counsellor, book a meeting with them to see what support they can give you.
- Prioritising can hugely improve your work-life balance. Prioritising starts by simply understanding that there are way too many things you want to do and that you cannot fit all of them into one day, or even in one week. Prioritising creates a clear picture of what you need to change, give up or add to your life. It is about understanding your activity limits on a daily basis. So, create a plan and make sure to prioritise time each week for your family and friends, for yourself and exercise. Improve your prioritising skills and see how you benefit from this.
- Delegating work is another work-life balance tool. It is something you can use to deal with growing tasks and not having enough time to manage everything. Managing time is the same as task management, and both are the basics of work-life management. Remember that there is only so much you can do in a day. You cannot be responsible for absolutely everything, so ask for help.
So…what will you focus on first to increase your work-life balance?
To find out more on this topic…
Listen to our ‘B is for Balance’ Podcast episode!
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