Learning to Juggle Work and Life

balancedlife300Modern society puts a lot of pressure on people. For many of us, our careers are central to our daily existence, and some people put so much focus on their work life that their personal health and family life can be negatively affected.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the peer-pressure environment of a driven workplace; your co-workers are staying late every day, so why aren’t you? Your boss is there when you arrive in the morning and there when you leave at night, and walking away from your desk feels like the walk of shame. You feel like no matter what you do, it’s not enough.

If that sounds familiar, you may need to step back and ask yourself, am I working too hard? Is my health or family life suffering? You may need to re-balance your work life and home life. Here are some tips that may help you swing the needle back in the right direction and find a healthy work/life medium.

1. Take more frequent breaks.

Finding a good balance starts at work. Your job doesn’t own your body, and you need to step back and take a break every so often — particularly in modern workplaces, where people are sitting for hours at a time. Get up, walk around, drink water, walk outside the building for a bit. Experts recommend a few minutes of exercise for every one hour spent sitting. As we sit, our major muscles barely move and our metabolism can actually slow down, so make sure you get up and move around at work. Don’t be afraid to assert your break rights as well!

2. Leave work at work.

When you get home from work, a common question to encounter is “How was work?” or “What did you do today?” Those questions are fine, but once you’ve offered your breakdown of the day, leave it at that. Bringing your work drama and struggles home with you isn’t good for you, your loved ones or your job. It can really help to mentally shut the door behind you as you leave the office and keep it closed until you return. Your job is not your life. Concentrate on what you’re doing at home when you’re there. Focus on your loved ones and your hobbies. Remember: The reason you’re doing all this work is so that you can provide for your family — but if you’re working just to do more work, what’s the point?

3. Learn to identify burn-out.

Work should complete your life, not control it. You should be excited and energized by your work, not filled with dread. If you have chronic tardiness or if you find yourself snapping at co-workers, friends or family members, you may need to stop and ask yourself: “Am I burning out?” Other signs of burnout include absolute boredom at work, a great deal of effort put towards distracting yourself from your job and health problems, such as weight gain or stress. If you are burnt out, admitting it may be the first step towards improving your work and home life. Once you know there’s a problem, you can start strategizing. Perhaps you will be reinvigorated by switching employers or finding a new career altogether? Maybe you can go back to school to advance in your job? Maybe you can talk to your supervisor about giving you some new duties?

4. Go on vacation!

The best solution for work/life balance is always the time-honored tradition of vacation. Do not be one of those people who banks up so much vacation time that they risk losing it! Use your vacation time to completely unplug from your work. Even if it’s for a long weekend, you may find that a few days away from it all may completely refresh or even change your perspective when you finally return to your desk. Plan a get-away, then just do it!

Maintaining a healthy work/life balance is important for so many reasons, but the one essential truth of it is that life is more than just work. Remember that and work towards realizing it, and you’ll be fine.

Gabriela D. Acosta is the community manager for the University of Southern California’s MSW programs and manages the social work blog for Social Work License Map. She is passionate about wellness, personal development and social justice. Connect with her on Twitter @Gabyacosta101

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