Life balance is defined in the medical dictionary as a “harmonious blend of occupational, familial, social, and leisure pursuits.” Maintaining balance in your everyday schedule can get tricky in today’s fast-paced society.
While finding balance looks different for everyone, some steps can be taken to help alleviate pressures in areas where you feel overwhelmed. Whether you are busy with work, school, kids, relationships, or all of the above, keep reading for pointers on how to maintain harmony in all aspects of your life.
How To Tell if You Need More Balance in Your Life
How can you tell if your life is out of balance? To evaluate your life balance, start by making a list of the most important aspects of your life, whether that be your work, school, family, or relationships, and number your list by which is most to least important to you. Then, write down how much time you spend on each list item per week. If you’re spending too much time on something that isn’t important to you or vice versa, you may need more balance in your life. Remember, reaching a balance in your life does not necessarily mean you will be putting equal energy into all aspects – it means you are finding what works best based on what is most meaningful to you. Keep reading for more signs to look out for that you may need more harmony in your life.
Paying Attention to the Signs of Burnout
Although the term “burnout” may seem like a cliché buzzword, this phrase was coined in the 1970s by American Herbert Freudenberger to describe the consequences of severe stress and steep goals in “helping” occupations such as doctors and nurses. Today, burnout is used to express “fatigue, frustration, or apathy resulting from prolonged stress, overwork, or intense activity.” It is essential to know the signs of burnout, as negative effects can trickle into other aspects of your daily life and significantly affect your mental and physical health. A few signs that you are experiencing burnout include:
- Gastrointestinal problems: Stomach aches, bloating, and nausea
- Poor immune function: Getting sick more often than usual
- Fatigue after work: Feeling overworked and under-rested
- Loss of pleasure: Work becomes disinteresting
- Sleep issues: Trouble sleeping at night
Recognize Changes in Your Sleep Schedule
Let’s talk more about how burnout can cause sleep issues. A study by the National Library of Medicine comparing sleep in men and women with and without burnout found that those experiencing burnout had significantly higher insomnia levels, sleep fragmentation, and non-restorative sleep than the control group, along with higher depression and anxiety levels. Waking up too early, feeling unrested even after getting enough sleep, insomnia, waking up in the middle of the night, and struggling to fall back asleep are all signs that you could use more balance in your day-to-day.
Work/School and Home Balance
Whether you are busy at work, school, or both, finding a balance that satisfies you will set you up for success and improve your mental health. Nobody is only a student or only an employee; there is so much more in our everyday lives that require time and energy, such as spending time with family, friends, and more. This is why it’s so important to ensure you are not fully exhausting your energy at work or school. Below we have included a few helpful tips to help you create an equilibrium between your work/school and home life.
Prioritizing and Planning
Have you ever gotten caught up in the loop of missed deadlines, long hours, and procrastination and started falling behind on a project? If so, you may be experiencing a work-life imbalance. Prioritization and planning management is important to employ throughout all areas of your life to optimize your work-life balance and avoid burnout.
To get started with prioritizing, consider trying the 18-minute approach for planning created by the CEO of Bregman Partners, Peter Bregman. To begin planning your tasks for the day, spend 5 minutes thinking about what you need to do to make your day successful. Next, write these tasks down in a notebook or agenda to help you keep track of your progress throughout the day. Once this step is complete, set a timer to remind yourself to spend 1 minute every hour to refocus on your planner and stay on track. At the end of the day, spend another 5 minutes reviewing your productivity. Did you experience success? Did you experience challenges? What will you do differently tomorrow? Pro tip: try writing down your answers in a journal that you can return to when planning the next day.
Communicate and Set Limits
With today’s technology standards, and flexible or hybrid workplaces, creating boundaries for yourself has become more complex. However, are you consistently checking your work email and school apps after hours, or you have made yourself available for work or school 24/7? In that case, you may benefit from learning to set boundaries for yourself. Because creating and communicating your limits may seem daunting, here are a few boundaries you can choose to implement to help create healthy habits for school or work-life integration:
- Mental Boundaries: Establish mental boundaries by strictly sticking to your work or study hours and communicating when your workload is too heavy to lift on your own.
- Emotional Boundaries: Create emotional boundaries by avoiding work or school gossip and communicating how you would like to receive feedback upfront.
- Physical Boundaries: Set physical boundaries by staying home when you are sick and taking time alone when you feel your battery is drained.
Parenting and Life Balance
Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or you are working, parenting is a full-time job. In a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, 27% of parents stated that being a working mother or father has made it harder for them to advance in their careers, and 38% stated that being a working parent made it harder for them to be a good parent. Keep reading for a few tips on how to juggle parenting and life through the expectations we put on ourselves.
Ask For Help from Family Members and Friends
When feeling overwhelmed trying to simultaneously conquer all aspects of parenting and life, asking for help from trusted loved ones can help you to take your superhero parenting cape off and have some personal time. Whether that means coordinating a school carpool, hiring a babysitter to have a date night with your significant other, or asking a family member or partner for help watching the kids. If you are struggling with leaving your kids with other people, try bringing them to a park where you can watch them from a bench or participate in activities in the comfort of your home, such as reading a book or taking a bath. Remember that it is okay and normal to need a break from your kids and ask for help when needed.
Stop the Guilt!
If you are reading the last paragraph and thinking, “but am I a bad parent for needing a break from my kid?” the answer is absolutely not! Parenting guilt is commonly felt when parents feel torn between obligations as a parent and other life aspects, which is often caused by setting high expectations for oneself. Because working parents expect themselves to take care of their kids like they don’t have work, and stay-at-home parents are expected to be always on the job, we are left feeling guilty for not meeting our own expectations. Holding oneself to such high standards is problematic as this can negatively impact mental health and lead to feeling increased stress levels and exhaustion.
One way to help alleviate your parenting guilt is to lower your expectations for yourself. Don’t expect to make it to every soccer game, talent show, and school play. Instead, talk with your children about realistic plans and balancing obligations to avoid feeling guilt or neglect. Besides, you can plan to make it to the next game! Another habit that may help you with parenting guilt is celebrating the small wins in your life. You dropped all your kids off at school on time? That is something to feel good about! Lastly, instead of constantly apologizing, try showing appreciation. Maybe you hired a babysitter who had trouble putting your child to bed at night. Instead of apologizing for what you don’t have control over, thank them for their patience with your kid in helping them wind down for bedtime.
Social Life Balance
Finding a social life balance on top of school, work, or kids can be tough to navigate, especially when entering college and learning how to structure your own life. If you need to work on your social life balance, think about how much time you devote to work and how much you spend having fun. If you are scheduling all your available time for studying or working, then you may need a little more social time or the other way around. It is important to learn how to find a productive balance to develop habits that help you manage your time effectively. Keep reading for a few tips on how to manage a social life balance between work and school.
Plan After-Work Activities
If you are working too much and spending too little time fostering relationships with others, planning after-work or school activities with friends is a great start to upping your social time. Happy hour, anyone? Planning will make it easier to find a day and time that works best for you and your friends and will also help to ensure that your work doesn’t begin to define your life. This is also extremely important in helping you prepare for the possibility of working in different businesses or jobs, as Americans will work an average of 12 jobs in their lifetime. Your personal life outside of work can even help you become more productive in your job by spending time in new places and boosting the skills, creativity, and experiences that you can bring to the table. A few ideas for social plans you can make after work include hosting a dinner party, going for an evening stroll, or planning workout classes together.
Learn to Say No
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you spend too little time on your work, try learning to use the power of the word “no.” Putting your people-pleasing tendencies aside and saying no to friends will help you to take back lost time and focus on what you need to get done. When asked to do something you either don’t have the time or energy for but don’t know how to say no, start by responding to your friend with a positive statement. For example, if they ask you to go to a party with them that you don’t want to go to, start by saying, “thank you for thinking of me and inviting me.” It is important to remember that you don’t have to give a reason when saying no to someone and that simply saying no is enough. If you are worried that this friend will stop inviting you to do things with them if you say no, then make sure to take a rain check and initiate scheduling another time for you to see each other.
Balance in Relationships
Every relationship is different, no matter how long you have been with the person. While balance in relationships looks different for everyone, it is important to find what works best for you and your partner to create a healthy and long-lasting relationship. A few signs that you and your partner could use more balance include falling behind in your other life relationships, work, or hobbies, not knowing what to do when your partner isn’t around, and/or experiencing heightened feelings of irritability. Below, we have included some helpful tips for you to choose from to work towards creating a healthy balance with your partner.
Create Room for Outside Activities
While spending time with your significant other is wonderful, spending too much time can be damaging to the relationship and lead to inseparability. Creating room for private life activities you can take part in independently of your partner is key to keeping a long and healthy relationship. The first activity you should try to prioritize, outside of being with your significant other, is spending time with your friends. Good friendships can help increase your sense of belonging, boost your happiness and reduce stress, help to cope with traumas, and provide much-needed advice (such as if you are spending too much time with your partner).
It is also important to continue participating in activities and hobbies that bring you joy, even if your partner does not share all the same exact interests as you (which is expected). For example, if you love going on hikes but your significant other does not, try making time to go on hikes on your own or with a friend! Lastly, as the number of people working from home tripled between 2019 and 2021, it is common to be in a relationship where both parties work from home. While remote work has plenty of advantages, such as staying in sweatpants all day and having laid-back schedules, it can be hard to be under the same roof as your partner 24/7. A few ways that you can try to create a balance between work and your relationship are:
- Try setting separate workspaces in your home to create a sense of privacy and boost concentration.
- Respect your partner’s work hours to help limit distractions and increase productivity.
- Work from a different location occasionally to bring a change of scenery and a refreshed outlook on working from home.
- Schedule walks or lunches with your partner during your workday to take a mental break and get your mind off work.
Avoid Dependency on Your Partner
As mentioned previously, spending too much time with your partner can cause relationship issues like dependency. Emotional dependency is acting dependent on your partner to meet all your emotional needs while not doing much to meet those needs on your own. For example, when feeling distressed, you might turn to your partner to meet your emotional needs before trying to decipher them on your own. Dependency can lead to relationship problems such as insecurity or self-doubt, fear of abandonment, controlling behaviors, stress, and poor self-care.
If you feel like you may be dependent on your partner, the first step in creating a healthy dependency is to take a step back and think about who you are outside of your relationship. You can also try working on making your own decisions and goals outside of your partner. Refrain from sacrificing what you want to try to keep your partner happy- this will only lead to more problems down the road. Lastly, you can try working on meeting your own emotional needs by checking in with yourself when feeling sensitive and figuring out what you need on your own, whether that be relaxation time watching your favorite show by yourself or congratulating yourself for your achievements by going to the mall and purchasing a gift.
In this blog, we have discussed the importance of maintaining harmony in your life and how to tell if you need more balance, whether with work, school, parenting, relationships, or your social/leisure life. So, how will you work to maintain balance in your life this year?