Do you often feel like you’re on a constant merry-go-round? Well, you're not alone. You might work endless hours in a corporate office role or do excess shifts in the healthcare industry, and both can take their toll on your health and wellbeing. Continue reading to find out how to create a work-life balance and enjoy a healthier lifestyle.
What is Work-Life Balance?
A healthy work-life balance is where you manage your time and energy to meet your professional and personal commitments. It means having time for activities that nourish your heart and spending time with family and friends besides your professional commitments. A work-life balance is important because it reduces the likelihood of suffering from fatigue, burnout, and stress-related health issues.
Work-Life Balance Strategies
Try a few of these strategies for creating or improving your work-life balance. Looking after your body and mind will assist you now and in the future and positively impact those around you.
#1 Make Time for Family and Friends
Scheduling time to catch up with important people in your life can seem like just another stress you "don’t need", but making sure you spend quality time with your partner, children, extended family, and/or friends is beneficial for your health and life expectancy.
Workers in the healthcare industry have some of the highest rates of relationship breakdown. The long and unsociable hours they combine with physically and mentally exhausting work means many workers have nothing left to give their loved ones when they come home after a shift. Make plans to do something fun with friends and family so you can mentally switch off from work and enjoy the company of loved ones. If you have children, focus on creating memories you can treasure forever. Find out what is happening in your kids' lives and/or spend time with your parents or partner doing an activity you all enjoy.
If you have a corporate job, remember to unplug and try to avoid bringing your work home with you. Your mobile phone or laptop makes it easy to keep up with the steady stream of emails and messages, so when spending time with family, aim to be fully present. Many parents end up being physically present but mentally still at work, and kids know when their parents aren't listening or giving them the attention they deserve. One way to reduce stress levels is to spend a few hours consciously to stop thinking about work. This way you're allowing your mind to rest, knowing you'll get back to what needs to be attended. On another note, you can also aim at keeping yourself busy with other activities to distract yourself from work anxieties. Make plans so you have something else to focus on in your downtime.
#2 Healthy Eating
For many people, meal planning and healthy food preparation are some of the first tasks that get drawn to the bottom of the to-do list when we get busy.
One would assume healthcare workers know the importance of eating a healthy diet more than anyone and therefore, wouldn't fall into constant poor food choices. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. After a long shift, picking up takeaway or more processed meal options is way easier than cooking from scratch. Moreover, local supermarkets may be closed during their off hours, so accessing healthy food choices can be more difficult. Shift workers are also more likely to eat irregular meals and snacks at night than day workers. And we tend to forget eating healthy gives us more energy, improves mood, and brings many other benefits compared to eating junk food.
What can you do? Make a plan! It may seem like a lot of work at the start, but your effort will pay dividends throughout the week when you feel good day after day. Try setting a time each week to get groceries, prepare meals for the week ahead, and freeze some to avoid thinking about cooking when you least feel like it.
Office workers usually have similar hours each week, so use that to your advantage and create a routine for meal planning each week. If you’re someone who changes their mind when they can’t be bothered to cook every night, choose meals you can partially or fully prepare in advance so it takes minimal time to get tea on the table. And think about lunches too! If you get tempted by less healthy food options for lunch, make a few days of lunches in advance and keep them in the fridge. Salads in jars can last for days if you layer the ingredients correctly and seal the jar tight, and when you run out of ideas, find 12 quick ones here or more of our amazing recipes here.
#3 Meditation and Mindfulness
You might scoff at the thought of having time to sit around meditating, but a few minutes spent building awareness and fostering resilience can provide a range of benefits, such as lowering stress. Meditation works by focusing the mind on an object, thought, or activity to achieve mental clarity and an emotionally calm state by becoming more present - this doesn't mean clearing your mind from thoughts or achieving some sort of elevated state.
Healthcare workers often have stressful but also emotionally draining jobs. Long bouts of stress take their toll on the mind and body, and taking time to relax and reset stress levels can contribute significantly to your wellbeing and physical health. Having a pause for a quick meditation break after a particularly stressful event in healthcare benefits the worker and patient because they return with a clearer mind and reduced stress, so they’re less likely to make a mistake.
An office worker or anyone, in general, may prefer implementing meditation practices at the same time every day, such as early morning before their hectic day begins. Meditating during the day can help reduce the frustration, stress, and other negative aspects of the working environment. Find a technique you can practice at your desk, or in a quiet or wellbeing room available.
#4 Good Quality Sleep
A work-life balance can seem out of reach when you aren’t getting enough sleep. Whether you work a shift in a hospital or an office, most busy workers will say they want better quality and quantity of sleep.
Shift workers are often sleep-deprived and overworked healthcare workers often suffer from shift work sleep disorder (SWSD), where they struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, or feel sleepy at unwanted times. Getting 7-8 hours of quality shut-eye every night is not always possible, which leads to sleep debt building up. The first step to ensure this doesn't happen is for shift workers to have a bedroom conducive to sleeping during the day when the room may be warm and light.
Most office workers have the benefit of being able to sleep at night, but for many, falling and staying asleep can be difficult, especially when life is busy and stressful. Rule number one is recognising the problem and seeking professional help if insomnia is a concern.
#5 Reach Out For Help
Any worker in any industry may need professional or personal help to gain the work-life they crave. It can be as simple as asking your partner to remind you to put away your phone when checking emails or seeing a psychologist if you need help.
Healthcare workers suffer from the trauma they may witness at work; an Employee Assistance Program provider can help them deal with the trauma and help with strategies to create a better work-life balance.
Office workers may need to talk to their manager or colleague if the work or volume is taking over and causing unmanageable stress. Speaking to a professional psychologist can help reduce anxiety and depression caused by a poor work-life balance. Remember, reaching for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
How Extras Cover Can Help
You don’t need to overhaul your entire life to achieve a work-life balance. Small steps toward a healthy lifestyle can make a significant difference in the long run. Choose one strategy to improve at a time and then build on it once it has become a habit.
Extras cover policies can be beneficial to seek specific assistance from a professional such as a nutritionist, exercise physiologist or psychologist to help achieve a more positive work-life balance. Contact us for more information or to discuss your specific situation.