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Navigating Work-Life Balance: Strategies for Prioritizing Mental Health

Written byDesiree Smith

In today’s fast-paced world, finding the balance between the demands of work and personal life can be a challenge. As we navigate the intricacies of career goals, family responsibilities, and individual pursuits, achieving work-life balance often seems daunting. The key is finding that elusive equilibrium where productivity thrives without compromising personal well-being.

As boundaries blur and our days become full, it gets easy to overlook the importance of mental health. However, since our mental health affects every aspect of our lives, it makes sense that it would play a critical role in work-life balance. By cultivating well-being in both our professional and personal lives, we can become well-rounded individuals with enriching lives in and out of the workplace.

Understanding Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is achieved when you consistently meet the demands of your career and personal life. Though easier said than done, this balance can reduce stress, lower the risk of burnout, and create a greater sense of well-being. The good news is that finding a healthy work-life balance benefits both employees and employers, so if you’re feeling guilty about prioritizing your personal life at times, rest assured that a healthier you helps your employer, too.

Common reasons for an imbalanced life include increased work responsibilities, longer working hours, caring for children, and mounting responsibilities at home. Rather than focusing solely on one aspect of your life — personal or professional — achieving a true balance is about focusing on both your work and personal life equally.

Maybe work-life balance doesn’t seem important to you. You could be spending most of your time at work and feel completely content. But whether you realize it or not, neglecting your personal life in favor of your career — or vice versa — can have many adverse effects.

For starters, a poor work-life balance can negatively impact your mental health. If you’re stressed from work but have no time to unwind, you risk burning out. And if you never have time to deal with the responsibilities at home, things tend to pile up and get worse. While you should always strive to work hard and be an asset to your company, your value as an employee will decrease if you’re constantly stressed.

A poor work-life balance affects more than your mental well-being; it also has clear ramifications for your physical health. If you’re always stressed and drained from work, your immune system will suffer. Finding a healthy balance that includes eating a healthy diet and giving yourself time to exercise will reduce stress and improve your ability to be at your best at home or on the job.

Creating a work-life balance offers benefits beyond your health and wellness. As we’ve mentioned, it can benefit your employer as well. How? You can’t perform your job at full capacity if you’re always stressed and tired. When you find the right balance, you’re better able to focus on your work and understand when you’re most productive. This combination can make you more productive. It’s part of working smarter, not harder. If possible, ask your employer to help you find flexible arrangements that make you a more effective and valuable employee.

Finally, a work-life imbalance can negatively influence your relationships. If you spend too much time working, you won’t have enough time or emotional capacity to give your loved ones the care and attention they deserve. A balanced life allows you to spend quality time with family and friends outside of work and helps you be fully present in each moment.

Signs of Work-Life Imbalance

It’s possible you’re suffering from poor work-life balance and don’t even know it. While you may be content with how you currently divide your time, it’s important to be aware of how balanced your life is — or isn’t — to avoid the adverse effects.

An unhealthy balance often looks like constant overwork, a neglected personal life, burnout, lack of self-care, and strained relationships. Lines start to blur when you can’t stop thinking about work during your personal time. If you struggle to disconnect mentally from work tasks, you’ll likely experience persistent stress and anxiety. And if you’re never fully present while spending time with loved ones, your relationships will suffer.

You may have felt off for a while but can’t pinpoint the cause. An imbalance between work and personal life often triggers a sense of persistent unease, dissatisfaction, or disquiet. Prolonged stress from work can cause emotional instability and frequent mood swings. Maybe you’ve started to lose interest in things you once enjoyed. When work goes above everything else, it’s easy to feel disconnected from your passions, hobbies, and social engagements.

Maybe you feel guilty taking time off when you’re sick. You may worry that the unavoidable change in plans will disrupt your workflow and set your colleagues up for failure. The truth is that with proper planning and communication, your time off and sick days won’t alter your company’s productivity.

Do you feel discontent and believe a different career could be more personally fulfilling? If you’re pouring a lot of energy into your career but lack long-term fulfillment, that may be a sign of poor work-life balance. 

Finally, maybe you know you spend too much time working but feel obligated to work instead of engaging in personal activities. If you’re constantly battling an internal conflict between what you should do and what you want to do, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing the effects of a poor work-life balance.

How To Balance Your Life by Prioritizing Your Mental Health

Achieving a balanced life doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort. The first step is recognizing your need for balance. Next, you need to identify the specific signs of imbalance in your life. Finally, take proactive steps to prioritize your mental health and reintroduce balance and harmony into your life. Here are a few practical suggestions to get you started.

1). Accept there is no “perfect” balance.

Balance looks different for everyone, so there is no right or wrong way to achieve it. Strive for a realistic schedule, and give yourself time to get into a new, more balanced routine. Stay flexible and open to reassessing your needs each day. Balance can vary in different seasons of life, so give yourself the space to make adjustments as needed.

2). Pursue a career you love.

You won’t always love every aspect of your job but try to pursue a career that you feel passionate about. Your job should be exciting enough that you want to get out of bed every morning. The best jobs are the ones you enjoy so much that you would do them for free.

3). Prioritize your health.

Your health should come first. If you’re not mentally and physically healthy, you won’t be able to bring your best to your work. Don’t be afraid to call in sick when necessary or leave work for therapy and doctor’s appointments. Proactively caring for your mental and physical well-being will keep you happy and healthy, so you’ll spend less time out of work and be more productive.

4). Make time for yourself.

Your job shouldn’t be your entire life. Be intentional about planning time for yourself and with others, whether that’s scheduling nights out, taking a much-needed vacation, or simply unplugging and recharging. The things we enjoy aren’t just nice things to have and do; they actually help fill us up so that we can be the best version of ourselves. And just because work keeps you busy doesn’t mean you should neglect personal relationships. Making time for your loved ones will keep your relationships healthy and may even give you an energy boost that carries over to your work.

5). Set boundaries — and stick to them!

At the end of the day, what matters most isn’t the exact hours you work but the work you get done. Find the time of day when you’re the most productive, and prioritize which tasks to accomplish at that time. If possible, build your schedule around when you’re the most productive. Once you set working hours and boundaries, notify your team members so they respect them. To make the most of your time, implement time-management strategies, create a to-do list, and prioritize the tasks that need more time or energy.

Ultimately, you must determine what balance looks like for you and how you can get there. Not only does a healthy work-life balance promote positive, long-lasting relationships, but it also fosters your mental well-being. By prioritizing your mental health, you’ll live a healthier and happier life where you can give your all to everything and everyone.

Not sure how to start prioritizing your mental health? Our team of experts is here to help. We can get you the tools and support you need as you work to find the balance you’ve been looking for.

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