When your career and home life are somehow off kilter, it can make you feel like you’re not able to give either side the time and attention it deserves. And yet, here’s the tricky thing about finding work-life balance, especially in today’s times: It ebbs and flows.
After all, more people are working from home these days—and if that applies to you, your professional self will inevitably clash with your at-home self. Even if you’re working outside of the home, increasing demands on the job can always carry over to family life. How well you establish flexible boundaries can determine how well you balance the two sides.
You will have to make a conscious effort to find the right balance that works for you and your family at any given time: Not doing so can come at costs to your job, your home life and your health.
The Importance of Work-Life Balance
“Work-life balance” isn’t just a trendy thing to say; science demonstrates its positive effects on your well-being. Imbalances in your work-home life can lead to burnout, which can raise your risk for problems inside and out, including excessive stress, irritability, sad feelings, high blood pressure, sleep problems and heart disease.
And yet, even though the World Health Organization classifies burnout as an “occupational phenomenon,” you can feel burned out in any environment, even at home. Having many responsibilities that add to your plate—from tending to children to experiencing marital strife, health problems or loss of loved ones—can make stress worse.
That’s why work is an important part of the balance—not just to collect a paycheck, but to feel valued and good at something. For many people, professional achievements support self-confidence as well as financial health and independence.
Like yin and yang, work and home life require ongoing effort to achieve the right calibration. Many people need both in their life for their best sense of self.
But the “ideal balance” can vary from person to person.
How to Strike the Right Balance
Consider work-life balance from the perspective of three main areas:
Mental health, including good and bad feelings you have about home and work that are both temporary and persistent.
Physical health, including your approach to taking care of your body.
Spiritual health, including how you feel about social relationships, your environment and your outlook on life.
Because each of these three areas plays a role in both your home and at work, striking a good work-life balance starts with finding harmony between them. To do that, it helps to acknowledge and recognize the competing demands of work and life, establish boundaries that work for you and prioritize self-care rituals. That’s easier than you might think.
Work-Life Balance Tips
Balance Work and Life for Improved Mental Health
- Saying no is okay—both at work (such as passing on extra assignments or overtime) and at home (such as politely declining to volunteer to bake cupcakes for the community bake sale). Remember, you don’t have to do it all!
- Establish boundaries between work and life. Try to block out working and family hours on your calendar and minimize email-checking after-hours and on weekends.
- If you work from home, create a space for work and walk away from that space at the end of the working day. If you work away from home, be intentional about leaving work at work.
- Search for joy in everyday activities and moments: Ask to work on projects where you’ll have fun, learn and grow; and find new outings or activities to do with family.
Balance Work and Life for Improved Physical Health
- Schedule exercise and make it part of the daily routine in addition to home and family obligations (exercise releases mood-boosting chemicals as well as builds stronger muscles and bones!).
- Focus on nutrition at home (such as cooking healthy family meals) and at work (such as packing a balanced lunch and selecting good-for-you snacks).
- Find healthy ways to decompress and cope with triggers and stress instead of unhealthy habits like smoking or alcohol. Try deep breathing exercises, yoga or tai chi.
Balance Work and Life for Improved Spiritual Health
- Rekindle social relationships outside of both family and work life. Connect with old friends over the phone, even if you can’t see them in person.
- Rediscover old hobbies and interests that expand your perspective, such as painting, volunteering or taking a continuing education class.
- If you can’t take a vacation, find a way to take time from your day-to-day responsibilities to find your sense of self: Tour the great outdoors in your own city, experience new traditions, meditate and self-reflect in a journal.
Find What Balance Means to You
Work-life balance isn’t just about unplugging from work—it’s about acknowledging the give and take between home and life and finding a right middle point that works for you and your family. Just know that this middle point can fluctuate, and that’s okay!
Keep in mind, however: Both work and home life are important aspects of your well-being; each can help you feel valued and like you’re making a difference. Many people need both in their life.
Additionally, your needs change as time passes. What works today may not work tomorrow—such is life. Adapt and take note of your feelings; work to be in the moment, and if something seems off-balance, think about what you can do to improve it.
Balance is within reach. You have to work toward it to find the right equilibrium for you.
Have ideas worth sharing about how you found your work-life balance? Share your tips and tricks with a comment below.