The pressure of an increasingly demanding workplace culture is one of the biggest risks to mental health. The human costs of unmanaged work-related stress extends beyond having time out of work and can ultimately lead to loss of life. A key way to protect your mental health against the potential detrimental effects of work related stress is to ensure you have a healthy work-life balance.
Step 1: Recognise the signs of an unhealthy work-life balance
There are many signs that can indicate a poor work-life balance and can include:
- You feel unhappy about the time you devote to work
- You are neglecting other aspects of your life because of work
- You find yourself thinking and worrying about work outside of working hours
- You notice that you are always in pain; chronic headaches/neck pain may be a sign of strain.
- You are not sleeping well, and having nightmares particularly about work
- You always feel tired and persistent fatigue.
- Your patience is wearing think, you feel frustrated with others and are losing your temper
- You can remember the last time you relaxed or enjoyed yourself
- Your personal relationships are struggling
- Your personal and professional space is a mess
- You are engaging in unhelpful ways to manage your food e.g. drinking more alcohol
Step 2: Help Yourself
Creating a work-life balance involves adjusting your day-to-day activities to achieve a sense of balance between your work life and personal life. Balancing the demands of a busy lifestyle is not an easy thing to do, but is best managed by regularly reviewing and assessing your priorities.
- Take personal responsibility; speak up when work expectations and demands are too much.
- Prioritise your workload and manage your time; try not to get caught up in unproductive activities that take you off task.
- Take regular breaks, although it may feel counterintuitive taking breaks allows you to work in a more focused way.
- Draw a line between work life and home life. If you are working from home to try to only work in one area of your home – preferably somewhere you and can close the door on it.
- Recognise the importance of protective factors, including exercise, leisure activities and friendships. Try not to sacrifice these for work.
- Be mindful of the cumulative effect of working long hours by keeping track of your working hours over a period of weeks or months rather than days.
- Book in annual leave, taking time out after busy times can help refuel and rebalance your time.
- Manage stress effectively; stress, mental exhaustion and burnout affects your ability to work productively
- Enlist a good support system—learn to delegate, we all need a little help sometimes
- Balance the different types of work you do.