We live in a busy world. We are expected to work 8 hours a day, sit in traffic for 1-2 hours, drive the kids to hockey practice, watch their piano recitals, then come home to cook dinner and pack lunches for the next day, help the kids with umpteen amounts of homework and find time to take the dog out for a walk. How is it possible to pack all of this in 24 hours? And where does one find time for self-care? It seems impossible.
For many of us, work doesn’t stop when we leave the parking lot. With the wonders of technology we now have the ability to carry work with us everywhere we go. To the bathroom, on vacation, to the mall, everywhere! We can’t catch a break. It is for this reason that many of us feel stressed out, dissatisfied with our jobs, or burned out overall.
Creating a work-life balance involves setting boundaries first and foremost. It is healthy for our minds and bodies to compartmentalize our tasks so that we can be fully present when we do them. If you’re thinking about how you’re going to meet that project deadline while your child is playing the magic tea pot in his very first play, that will take away from enjoying that beautiful moment. Setting boundaries means making time for tasks when it is the right time for them. Just before bed, for instance, may not be the right time to respond to all of your emails. Setting boundaries means finding time to complete your tasks without neglecting what really matters to you.
The first step in setting boundaries is reflecting on your values – what really matters to you. For many of us, some common values are family, health, contribution, success, fun, or education. Each of us has our own set of values and how we rank them can vary from time to time. For instance, at 20 years old you might ranked education as number one, at 30 you might rank success at the top, and at 40 years old, family might be number one. It is ok to adjust these ranking based on what’s important to you at that given time. If, however, family is at the top of your list but you find yourself prioritizing success, you ought to reflect on what to change in order to feel better about devoting your time where it means most to you.
The next step in setting boundaries is recognizing what you have control over vs. what you don’t. For instance, you may not be able to decide your work hours but perhaps you can decide how you wish to spend your lunch break. Here is an opportunity to capitalize on what you are able to do for yourself while adhering to the rules set in place. This hour could be used to enjoy a hot meal, go for a walk, meditate, paint your nails, watch a TV show, or whatever you need to refresh yourself. If staying at your desk makes it hard for you to really take that time, you may want to go someplace else. Another helpful tip: go to the bathroom whenever you need a break – no one will bother you there. Weekends are another way to regain control. If you are not expected to be available for work over the weekend, you may want to fully unplug (go offline) and strictly focus on what matters to you for those two days.
Lastly, to truly leave work at work, it can be helpful to practice an end-of-day ritual. This ritual can be unique to whatever you need to let go of the built-up stress from your work day. Some examples are:
- A 10 minute breathing exercise before you drive off to head home.
- Going for a walk to relax your mind and body.
- Listening to something soothing during your walk, drive, or transit ride home.
- Taking a moment to reflect on what you were grateful at the end of the work day rather than replaying what your colleague said that made you want to want to pull your hair out.
Overall, creating a work-life balance really involves restructuring your day to find time for what matters to you.
Shezlina Haji, MA, has extensive experience in the area of emotional regulation, personal growth, plus many more. For more information on Shezlina and her work, click here to link to her full bio page. Living Well Counselling Calgary Alberta