Americans (really) need to find more effective ways to manage a healthier work-life balance. According to a recent study of full-time workers conducted by Gallup, roughly two thirds of all respondents experienced some form of workplace burnout, ranging from sometimes to all of the time.1 Worst of all, this job stress doesn’t just end when you go home for the day. It can affect your overall wellbeing, leading to further strain on your health, personal and professional relationships and ability to return to work.
Some of the most common causes of job fatigue include a long or difficult commute, taking job responsibilities home, an unreasonable workload and a lack of support. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with personal and professional demands tugging at you when you have a full-time job. Since most people don’t have a choice as to whether or not to work, practicing self-care is more important than ever. Use these four methods to improve your work-life balance.
1. Make Exercise a Priority
It’s easy to get into the flawed mindset that you’re too busy to take care of yourself. But with daily exercise, you can actually help yourself mentally slow down, relieve stress and anxiety and improve your physical fitness. When you’re over-stressed, your nervous system suffers, and your “fight or flight” response heightens. This process increases the stress hormone cortisol. Regular exercise fights this response by releasing endorphins, serotonin and dopamine into your body, making you feel happier. Exercise also helps you improve concentration and efficiency, which can positively affect you on the job.2
If you really can’t find an hour in the evening or before work to break a sweat, use your lunch hour to power through a quick exercise. Just taking a brisk walk outside while breathing some fresh air can help you clear your head and energize your body. Plus, you’ll give yourself the much-needed time away from your desk and your work — another crucial step for recharging your mind and body as discussed below.
2. Break Away
Aim to take a break from your computer roughly every hour during the work day, whether it’s just to stretch out your legs or to grab a glass of water. A short break every hour helps prevent eye strain and can improve circulation and concentration. Or even better, take a coffee break out of the office with a friendly coworker. But in order to truly prevent long-term burnout, you should also prioritize extended work breaks, like long weekends, staycations or vacations. Experts suggest taking some sort of leave every four weeks to maintain the positive effects of a work vacation.3 If that seems like a lot of time away from your job, start small. Just a daytrip or half-day off work every now and again can help you balance your personal and professional responsibilities more effectively.
3. Don’t Neglect Loved Ones
Your friends and family can be a welcome respite from a tough day at work. But you should try to actually see or communicate with your loved ones regularly; they can help you remember why you work so hard in the first place. If you’re really short on time but still need a social outlet, consider asking your friend to be your workout, lunch or dinner buddy. Schedule the time into your day as you would a work meeting, and you’ll see how easily you can include more social events into your calendar.
4. Embrace Post-Work Quiet Reflection Time
Meditation is an excellent way to clear your mind, but it can be difficult for beginners to truly reap the benefits. However, you should still give yourself time to practice mindfulness, use calming visualization techniques or simply enjoy a reflective period without distractions of any kind. After work, put away any work and turn off your phone and your computer to let your mind wander for a few moments. A brief period of calming silence can help ease your transition from work to rest without taking the stresses of your day home with you. If you use public transportation, this can be the perfect time to slow your busy mind down before you arrive home. If not, you can use a neutral place like a coffee shop, gym, library or your car to briefly pause and calm your thoughts before your time off begins.
You can also try to find work from home opportunities, as a remote position can lead to a better work-life balance since you cut transportation out of the picture. Regardless of your employment situation, effective stress management can help you live a healthier, happier life.
1Wigert, B., & Agrawal, S. (August 21, 2019). Employee burnout, part 1: The 5 main causes. Retrieved September 5, 2019 from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/237059/employee-burnout-part-main-causes.aspx
2Wei, M. (May 25, 2016). 10 strategies to fight job burnout. Retrieved September 5, 2019 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/urban-survival/201605/10-strategies-fight-job-burnout
3Association for Psychological Science. (September 2, 2015). Want to excel at work? Take a vacation. Retrieved September 6, 2019 from https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/minds-business/want-to-excel-at-work-take-a-vacation.html