Saturday morning coffee with a side of checking emails. Scarfing down lunch so you can get back to your to-do list. Work consuming your thoughts during your weekends, evenings, and downtime.
It’s a reality that many of us know all too well. Healthy home-cooked meals, quality time with loved ones, and exercise other than a walk around the block are all things we could benefit from more of.
But when an important email comes in on a Friday at 4:45 pm, it can be hard to switch off your work brain — especially if going to work means rolling out of bed and walking to your dining room table.
Why is work-life balance so hard to achieve these days?
“We live in a culture where overworking is the norm,” says Trista Chan, Registered Dietitian at HealthOne. “This is particularly true while working from home where the boundaries between work and home are often crossed.”
To understand more about work-life balance from our very own team members, we sat down to speak with Trista as well as Nelani Ratnalingam, a Therapist on our Mental Health team. In this blog, we’ll dive into seven easy and effective ways to improve your work-life balance and hear how our HealthOne practitioners achieve it in their own lives.
What is work-life balance and why is it important?
Disconnecting from work isn’t as easy as uninstalling Microsoft Outlook from your iPhone. Depending on the nature of your job and your responsibilities outside of work, finding and maintaining balance will look different for everyone.
Achieving work-life balance comes down to having clear boundaries about where and how you spend your time. Having a job that you perform well at is important, but it’s equally as important to maintain healthy relationships, passions, interests, and you-time.
Work-life balance is important because, without it, we’re ultimately setting ourselves up to become overly fatigued in the future. “It’s a recipe for burnout, mentally and physically,” says Trista. “Chronic stress and overworking can also wreak havoc on your body.”
Whether you’re struggling to find time to exercise or 60-hour workweeks have become your new norm, these tips will help you make the best of your current situation and feel a little more balanced each day.
In many cases, poor work-life balance can be linked to an underlying core issue, says Nelani, Therapist at HealthOne. Examples can include things like perfectionism, workaholism, and a lack of healthy boundaries.
For instance, some people work in highly demanding jobs that expect them to be available 24/7. On-the-fly phone calls on the weekend and emails at 11 pm are simply a recipe for mental exhaustion. In cases like these, it’s essential to establish clear boundaries with your employer so you can create more harmony in your life.
“Boundaries can lead to healthier relationships and help you avoid feeling violated, manipulated, or mistreated by other people,” Nelani says. A healthy and supportive workplace should encourage you to have downtime and enough hours in the week to recharge. Remember, you need to refill your own cup!
Detox your device.
As we already mentioned, removing your work email from your phone won’t achieve balance on its own – but a detox can be a good place to start.
We use our phones for nearly everything these days, from an alarm first thing in the morning to a night-time meditation or audiobook before bed. Cutting down on how much work you do from your phone can be a great way to get some mental clarity.
If you have platforms you communicate with coworkers on (like Skype, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts), try to limit those apps to the computer or laptop that you use for work. If removing them from your phone isn’t an option, make sure to set clear boundaries with your coworkers about the hours and days you’re available to respond (as well as the times you’re not available!). Seeing an email notification come through can put a real damper on your Sunday morning social media scrolling.
Find ways to organize your time.
Daylight savings isn’t the only thing that makes us check the time and wonder, “How is it already 8 pm?!” There’s a lot on the go for all of us these days. An effective way to manage your time better is by finding new ways to organize it.
Some people rely heavily on the pen-and-paper method. If that’s you, utilizing an agenda or bullet journal can be a great place to start. Even a simple to-do list can help you keep track of what needs to get done that day. Try making a list of your top three work tasks and top three life tasks and gradually build from there.
If you prefer the digital route, there are simple options like the Notes or Google Tasks apps that can help you make to-do lists. Google Calendar is another great tool you can use to schedule your day right down to the minute. Try blocking off things like eating meals, cooking, exercising, and hobbies. Seeing that block in your calendar will make it feel more like an appointment with yourself and less like something you can brush off at the last minute.
Take the guesswork out of exercise.
We can all agree that the endorphin rush after a good sweat session is a feeling like no other. It makes our bodies feel healthier and can even clear our minds, helping us be more productive at work when we do decide to log on for the day. But exercise is something many of us put on the back burner of our lives, especially when work creeps into our personal life.
Our Rehab Clinic offers custom exercise programs to help you meet and succeed at your exercise goals. Do you have a step count goal, a strength goal, or a weight loss goal? Maybe you just want to improve your flexibility or get up and move more. Whatever your exercise goals are, having a skilled professional create a plan for you can be extremely beneficial.
Custom programs are typically followed for 4-8 weeks with both virtual and in-clinic options. They are an exceptional way to make sure you’re adding movement into your week in a way that’s catered to your needs and lifestyle.
Try meal planning.
You won’t be able to exercise well if you aren’t fueling your body properly. For busy people with heavy workloads, it’s easier to reach for another box of Kraft Dinner than it is to cook something healthy and delicious – let alone plan out meals for the entire week.
Trista, our Registered Dietitian, creates customized meal plans for clients to offer more structure when it comes to healthy eating. “Oftentimes, we can get stuck in a rut of low motivation, lack of inspiration, lack of excitement, and poor hunger and fullness cues throughout the day,” she says. “If you’re a busy professional, meal plans can take away the guesswork in terms of what to eat, when to eat, and how to grocery shop.”
Turning to Google to help you plan meals can waste hours of your valuable time, she adds. A dietitian will factor in your unique physiological needs, lifestyle needs (I.e., how many times a week are you able to cook?), food preferences, and dietary restrictions. Letting a professional provide you with a framework for healthy eating can set you on the path to success while also saving you time throughout the week.
Talk to a trusted professional.
Phone detoxes, organizing your time, and optimizing your routine are excellent ways to improve your work-life balance. But in some cases, there can be a larger issue at hand that a mental health professional can help you navigate.
For Nelani, our Therapist, it’s a topic she frequently speaks about with clients during in-person and virtual appointments. Therapy can be an effective tool for learning how to evoke positive change. “We teach clients the importance of setting limits and boundaries with others, how to review and reset their career goals and life goals, how to purposely schedule their personal and social time, and also how to ask for help,” she shares.
Therapists can also provide psychoeducation on why those changes can be beneficial and help people feel more energetic, organized, capable, and have a positive outlook on life, she adds. If you’re struggling with your mental health and find it challenging to maintain a work-life balance, speaking with a therapist can improve your mental wellbeing and help you achieve a better sense of harmony.
Prioritize what brings you joy.
On the journey to an inspired life, we can’t forget the importance of finding simple things each day that bring us joy. It’s so easy to get wound up about that tiny thing we could have done better or the next big project we have to work on. But when we look back on our lives, the things we'll remember the most are the moments of bliss where we reached continuous states of flow.
Whether it’s a restorative Yin yoga practice before bed, setting up a herb garden on your condo balcony, or calling a friend you haven’t spoken to in months – make sure you carve out time for the things that bring you joy. Work is a part of life, but it shouldn’t be your entire life. Balance is key when it comes to inspired living.
At HealthOne, we strive to live the same inspired lives that we recommend to you. We asked Trista and Nelani how they achieve work-life balance in their own lives. Here's what they had to say!
What is your idea of work-life balance?
“For my personal work-life balance, I honestly follow my calendar to the tee. I also schedule non-work time blocks. For example, I schedule workouts and downtime. Those are non-flex times for me! It helps me prioritize “me time” while also ensuring I get all my work done.” - Trista Chan, Registered Dietitian
“Being kind to myself and recognizing I’m doing my best, being patient, and unplugging. Making time for loved ones, friends, family, and living a healthy lifestyle. As a therapist, it’s important to walk the walk and take care of myself so I can be my best self for my clients, too.” - Nelani Ratnalingam, Therapist
Both of these practitioners can help you work towards an inspired life with a better work-life balance.
One Life. Live Inspired.