While it’s completely normal to experience stress in your job from time to time, feeling that way every day is not normal. If you feel stressed out in your work environment, even on the good days, you may be experiencing burnout or working in a toxic environment. Even if you love your job there are steps you can take to make sure you maintain a work and life balance.
Tips for Work and Life Balance
There are a few ways you can make your work atmosphere a little easier on yourself. Here are some ideas for getting through the day when you can’t wait for the day to be over:
“Balance” doesn’t mean “equal.” There are times when either work or your personal life takes more weight, depending on what’s going on at the moment. It is an ebb and flow situation and goes back and forth. You are still balancing things. When you have to worry is when one side takes over your life for a long, extended period and pushes you to a breaking point.
Allow yourself a 10-minute break about every 90 minutes and get out of the environment for a bit. Even if it is just doing something different, going to the restroom, or walking to the water cooler for a drink. Even better, go for a walk outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Take your lunch break away from your desk. Listen to an audiobook, it will allow you to escape your environment for a bit and get your mindset back on track.
Create a Soothing Environment
If you have a desk, cubicle, or office that is all yours, make it a soothing environment. Listen to soothing background music as you work, keep your favorite mug nearby, add photos of your family and pets, add colors that bring you joy. Plants add life to an office. Making your space more comforting will help reduce your stress.
Schedule Important Personal Activities.
Put them on your calendar just like a big meeting. Things such as doctor appointments, dentist visits, school activities for your children, date nights with a spouse and more can quickly fall by the wayside if they aren’t purposefully scheduled. Block out your calendar for important personal events, and you’ll find they happen as they should. It can be tough to remember in the middle of a stressful day, but they’re just as important as any meeting.
If customers or colleagues think it’s OK to call you at 10 p.m. if they need something, they will. Set boundaries around when you are, and aren’t, available. Doing so will help you relax when you’re off the clock and avoid burnout. It also helps others to know what to expect.
Take Up a Hobby
Having something you enjoy to do when you’re not in the office will help you keep your mind off work when you’re not there and will put you in a stronger frame of mind when you have to go back. Pick something fun that you enjoy.
Turn off Technology
We now live in an “always on” culture with smartphones and other technology. However, you have power over your devices. Be intentional about turning them off and taking technology breaks. It will help you tremendously by keeping you more focused during your productive periods.
So often we hold on to work stress even when we’re not at the office. Or we work longer hours than we really need to, creating more stress. Find a balance in your life, not only in the time you spend at the office but in your mindset. Find a way to “turn off” the office when you’re not there. When you leave the office at the end of the day, signal your brain that it’s time to stop thinking about work by turning on the radio, calling a friend, or planning a great meal for dinner.
I have a friend that had a commute to and from work. She identified a certain location on her commute to be where she changed what she thought about. When she hit that spot going home, she shifted her thoughts from work to family, fun, future plans, etc. As she was going to work, when she came to that spot she began thinking about what she would do first when she got to the office. After a week or so of consciously doing this, it became a habit and it happened without thinking about it.
Physical activity helps reduce stress, relieve tension, and makes you happier. Getting a little activity into each day will make the stressful part of your day easier to manage. Go for a walk, take a yoga class, do stretches at your desk, or simply go into the stairwell of your office building and walk up and down the stairs.
The exercise doesn’t have to happen at work. Plan time at home to work in some exercise. The more you exercise the better you will feel about your life in general.
Know Your Own Energy Cycle
Everyone has a natural energy cycle throughout the day. You can probably pinpoint times when you usually feel more focused and productive, as well as times where you want to take a nap instead of spending another minute at the computer.
If possible, schedule your tasks according to your energy. Do lower-energy administrative tasks when you’re in a lull, and more important work when you’re energized.
Schedule Vacation Time
It is important to take extended breaks from work. Did you know that over 55% of Americans did not use all their vacation time last year? Remember, vacation time doesn’t have to involve a week-long tropical getaway (although that’s a great way to recharge). Even a day away from the office can be enough to leave you feeling re-focused and refreshed. Research shows that employees who plan to use all their time off are significantly more likely to actually use that time off. It is important to your mental and physical health to take vacations from work.
Stressful job environments are all too common, but you don’t have to burn out or leave the job. There are ways to take care of your physical and mental health and have a better work and life balance.