Special to Palmetto Counseling’s Blog | February 22, 2018 9:39 AM EDT
This issue features an article by Gloria Martinez

As Americans work longer hours and blur the line between work and home, the idea of achieving a work-life balance may seem like nothing more than a pipedream. The trouble with this way of thinking is that busy Americans don’t have enough time or energy to devote to their families or themselves if they are failing to achieve a work-life balance. As a result, their relationships suffer, they become burned out, and in some cases, the struggle to manage the overwhelming stress leads to mental health or substance use disorders. If you’re looking for a better way to balance work life and home life to improve your health, our tips will help get you started.

Commit to Exercising

Yes, you know exercise is important for health, but there is a good chance that it is something that you often don’t make time for or is something that you cut first from your schedule on particularly busy days. However, skipping regular exercise is one of the fastest ways to sabotage your work-life balance. Exercise improves your memory and your capacity for learning something new. It relieves stress, lightens your mood, and relieves chronic pain (which often results from stress). Try walking during your lunch break, doing yoga while listening to a webinar, or asking your partners to have a walking meeting instead of a sit-down meeting.

Make Priorities

It’s nearly impossible to achieve a work-life balance when you feel like everything from making dinner to turning in a report on time takes equal priority. The only way to achieve balance is to evaluate your personal and professional lives and determine what is most important to you. Those priorities will be the things that mean the most to you personally and professionally and should be the only things that you divide your time between because other things are not as worthy of your time. Dividing your attention among too many things means that none of them is receiving the proper amount of attention anyway, and making priorities will help you devote more attention to those that deserve your time.

Pencil in lunch breaks away from your desk to get a break. Leave your phone in your car so you are not distracted during family dinners. Schedule a workout so you view it as part of your calendar just as you would a business meeting. By setting aside time for your family, friends, and yourself, you will get the break you need to boost your mental and physical health.

Of course, you need to make committing to exercise one of your priorities. There’s a reason that flight attendants tell parents to put on their oxygen masks first: if you can’t function, you can’t help your children. This fact applies to the role your health plays in work-life balance; if you are not in good mental and physical health, your personal and professional lives will suffer. Indeed, exercise is the best thing you can do to maintain good mental and physical health while attempting to achieve a work-life balance. When you take care of yourself, you are better able to handle the stress of a busy day and accomplish your priorities.

Make a Sanctuary in Your Home

Consider where you live. If you have a long, draining commute to and from work every day, the money you save living in the suburbs might not be worth it. Consider that it might be time to move to into the city to be closer to your job. City life also offers a lot of advantages that suburban life might not, including being closer to museums, sporting events, and health and wellness practices that could give you and your family a big boost to your overall wellness.

That said, if you’re content to stay put, there’s plenty that can be done to your current home to improve your work-life balance. For example, whether you work from home full time, part time, or just after hours to get through email and wrap up projects, you need to set some boundaries. If your home office also is where your children do their homework, you are not helping yourself achieve the balance you need. Make a designated space for work inside your home and make it a point to work only inside that space.

Next, optimize your living space to reduce your overall stress. Start by designating a personal sanctuary in your home. Be sure this room remains is a work-free zone where you can go to unplug, unwind, and reduce stress. Paint the walls your favorite color. Add plants because nature has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress. Add comfortable furniture or at least one comfortable chair. Add a music player if you love to listen to music. Give yourself space to do yoga if that will relax and recenter you. Most importantly: this work-free, stress-reducing place needs to be yours and needs to be a place that you visit at least once a day, even if it’s for only five minutes.

Achieving a work-life balance is necessary for your mental and physical health. If you commit to exercising, make priorities, and create a sanctuary in your home, you will have more energy, more time, and the ability to handle the demands of your professional and personal lives.

About the author

Gloria Martinez started WomenLed.org to celebrate the advancements women have made and inspire women to become entrepreneurs and seek promotions in the workplace.

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