Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Work-Life Balance
It’s no secret that today’s generation can have a hard time setting healthy boundaries between their work life and their personal life.
Whether it’s figuring out how to stop checking work emails late at night or how to develop a healthy relationship with work income and spending in the face of student loan debt, navigating the workplace in a sustainable way is often easier said than done.
The constant demands on today’s workers can sometimes make it feel like work doesn’t really have an “off” switch. Thanks to social media and email, it can sometimes start to feel like you’re losing control of your own time and life—working around the clock, even when you’re outside of your physical office.
What’s more, the increased presence of millennials in the workforce has also contributed to a shifting work culture, often one that’s more digitally connected than ever. By 2025, millennial workers are projected to take up an entire 75% of the American workforce , and so you might want to consider what a healthy work environment looks like in today’s world.
Sometimes a balanced life can be hard to put into practice since everyone has different situations, career paths, workplaces, and tolerance levels for work stress and burnout.
Still, there are some things that most anyone can do to set better, more mindful boundaries with work in hopes of living a less stressful life. After all, chronic stress is an increasingly severe problem in today’s workforce and has a number of serious health consequences.
Here are some easy, practical work-life balance tips for developing better habits so that even the most stressed person can begin to live their life to the fullest, without the constant chatter of work and financial anxieties in the back of their mind.
Protect Your Time
Though most of us wish we had more of them, the fact is, there are only a certain number of hours in any given day.
Most of us still refer to the 40-hour work week, but according to the the Bureau of Labor Statistics , the average full-time worker spends 42.5 hours per week, or 8.5 hours per day, at work.
On top of this, the average travel time to work in the U.S. was 26.9 minutes in 2018, adding nearly an hour, round trip, onto each American’s work day. All said, the average worker in the U.S. actually spends closer to 10 hours a day going to and from work and at the workplace. It’s no wonder it can sometimes feel like there isn’t much time for anything else.
Many workers feel they are stretched too thin, whether that’s because of long hours at work or because they’ve over-committed to other activities outside of work. Because time is finite, one way to establish a better work-life balance could be to set boundaries that help you better protect the time you have outside of work.
In order to feel more in control of your life and your time, you might want to take a closer look at your daily habits and routines. Rather than spending your commute thinking about the workday ahead, you could listen to a podcast or an audiobook so when you get home, you can spend your time with family and friends. You might even consider listening to an app to learn another language, which could enrich your time both at work and at home.
It might be helpful to schedule time on your calendar to spend offline. Setting a cut-off time for checking work emails, or even setting an alert when your family’s favorite show will come on could help to keep you in check and feeling more present.
This will look different for everyone—what is important is to find something that works for you and your unique circumstances.
Unplug and Recharge
“Unplugging” has become somewhat of a buzzword, but in today’s world, finding ways to do digital detoxes might be helpful for regaining some sense of calm even in the most stressful of jobs.
For some people, unplugging might look like a strict boundary on when phone use is permitted. This could mean leaving your phone in another room while you sleep to avoid checking work emails in bed. For others, it could mean scheduling in a 10- or 15-minute window each day to meditate and recharge.
Another great way to unplug might be to exercise, go for walks, or spend time in nature. Of course, this might be more difficult for some than others—like those who are living in big, crowded cities where idyllic trails are few and far between.
If it’s accessible to you, you might consider going for a short walk and leaving your phone at home. Without the constant urge to check your notifications or refresh your email app, you may find you’re able to recharge your mind and reverse stress faster. Whatever it is, finding a way to unplug could help undo some of the stress that tends to build up each day at work.
Getting a Handle on Financial Stress
One of the biggest stressors in our lives today is money. Whether you’re working in a job that isn’t paying you enough or you’re a recent grad facing the reality of life as a young professional saddled with student loan debt, financial stressors can contribute to many physical and mental health problems, making any semblance of work-life balance even harder to come by.
In 2018, 20% of people with outstanding student loans were behind on making their payments, according to the Federal Reserve . And though student debt affects people of all ages, this problem is especially severe for younger generations. In fact, the Federal Reserve reports that over half of young adults who went to college in 2018 took on debt.
The reality of debt—student loan-related or otherwise—can be a considerable burden on workers of any age. Whether you’re considering taking on a side hustle to make ends meet or just dealing with increased anxiety about job security, worrying about paying off debt could mean that stress about money, work, and making ends meet almost never fully goes away.
Finding ways to get a handle on financial stressors could be an important step to regaining a stronger sense of self. This may look like deferring or applying for forbearance on federal loans, if those options are available, looking into income-driven repayment plans, finding jobs that can help you pay off your debt, or refinancing your student loans.
Tackling financial anxiety might play an important role in helping you build a life where the time you spend outside of work isn’t plagued by worry and fear.
Staying Committed to Better Boundaries
Developing a healthier relationship with work might be an ongoing journey. Though there are many ways to go about establishing better boundaries, spending less time checking work-related correspondence outside of work and prioritizing recharging our bodies and minds could be good places to start. But keep in mind that it’s a process and not always a quick fix.
Figuring out what better boundaries look like to you and checking in with yourself about how to find work-life balance could be great ways to start making changes that will stick.
Whether you struggle with setting limits on checking your work email, finding time to exercise or do mindfulness exercises, or working through financial or debt-related stress, there are ways to move forward that can bring you closer to a more balanced professional life.
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