With so many of us torn between juggling heavy workloads, managing relationships and family responsibilities, and squeezing in outside interests, it’s no surprise that more than one in four Americans describe themselves as “super stressed.” And that’s not balanced or healthy.
The truth is that once you allow your life to overwhelm you week after week, you open yourself up to feelings of lack of control, anxiety, exhaustion, despair, and more. You run the risk of suffering from burnout syndrome and addictive behaviors. In the end, your health, your family, and your career all become victims of this lack of balance.
Take a step back and think about how much time you actually spend working. Think about not only the time you spend in the office, but also the time you spend at home responding to emails or drafting a report. Does that number surprise you? If it does, it’s time to reevaluate how efficiently you are actually spending your time. Work to live, not the other way around.
The symptoms of work/life imbalance vary; here are some of the most common:
1. Your health – If you’re working so much you can’t fit in time to exercise or prepare wholly nutritious food for yourself, it will most likely catch up with you. In the short-term, you may start to feel sluggish after snacking and lacking meals. In the long-term however, you may encounter serious health problems.
2. Your family – Your priorities in life will most likely start with your family. To neglect them because of work commitments can take its toll on home life, which can heighten the impact of stress.
3. Your friendships – If you spend the majority of your spare time catching up with work, it is likely you won’t have many close friends. Just like family, friends need your time too. You may feel your work colleagues are enough, but if you don’t see them outside of the working environment, can you really consider them as close friends?
4. Your effectiveness – The amount of hours you work in a week rarely correlates with your overall effectiveness. It’s not how hard you work, it’s how smart you work. You are most productive when you are fully refreshed, stress-free and motivated, rather than over-worked, stressed and unhappy.
5. Your example – If you are a leader, your colleagues may unintentionally, or intentionally, mimic the way you approach work. You set the pace. If you’re work/life balance is causing you stress, this might affect your colleagues too if they try to match your work ethic. Be mindful of your surroundings when you stay late at work – let your colleagues know what you expect of them so they can have a positive balance in life too.
Work-life balance isn’t out of reach. Start by evaluating your relationship to work. Then apply specific strategies to help you strike a healthier balance.