Making healthy changes

It’s not just you. Most people are going through stressful times at work, and whether they are out at the office or working from home the load keeps piling up. Too many projects, late nights and the constant flow of emails seem to be never-ending.

With all of this going on in people’s lives it is unlikely that the conversation about finding a work-life balance will ever really fade away. This is not without reason, as individuals become increasingly more aware of the importance of wellness, holistic well-being, and living a life that promotes healthy habits and longevity. Thus, a way needs to be found towards this end.

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance helps to reduce stress, fatigue and prevents burnout. Currently, chronic stress is one of the most common health concerns with lifestyle (preventable) diseases killing almost 70% of people globally. Carrying such high levels of stress for long periods of time can have major physical consequences. If not kept in check, chronic stress can lead to hypertension, digestive troubles, chronic aches and pains, and heart problems. It also has a negative impact on an individual’s mental health, which can lead to higher risks of depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

If this sounds a little (or a lot) like your norm then it may be time to pause and re-evaluate. Your work and your life both need you at the center. Making healthy changes can help to avoid the consequences of an overloaded system and burnout.

Taking a step back gives you the opportunity to re-arrange your priority list, giving you perspective on what is important in your life.

Here are some things to take note of that might indicate that you need to make some changes.

  1. Bending to societal expectations
  2. Extreme ambition
  3. Desire for perfectionism
  4. Believing in ‘one size fits all’
  5. Not taking care of your body
  6. Not minding your mental state
  7. Feeling apathetic towards your work, relationships and life
  8. Feelings of being incompetent
  9. No clear boundaries between work and home
  10. Feelings of loneliness

There is a way out

Know that you can find a way out and work back to healthier, more balanced state of being.

Your top three priorities

It is said that you should only pick three things out of work, sleep, family, friends, and fitness. After all, people can only do so much at any given time. This is why it is important to prioritise and know what really matters to you. Take time to define the parameters of success in each area and then a conscious decision to allocate enough time to each alongside their own objectives and goals. Learn how to say no to activities and people that you from your priorities.

Manage your time

Everyone should get to a point where they can categories the hours they spend on tasks into urgent / not urgent and important / not important. Look at how much time you spend doing work, with family, on chores and having fun – the amount of time you allocate to each will show you what you prioritise. If what you have drawn does not represent your ideal workday and leisure time then you need to redraw your clock.

Change is a good thing

There is always room for improvement, you just have to start with the necessary changes. Look at your routine and ask yourself what changes you could make to bring about more balance in your life. Reschedule meetings for off-peak hours so you spend less time in traffic, order online and spend less time in stores and queues. Ensure that you are creating habits that promote good nutrition, sleep, and exercise. Build support systems among friends and family that will help enable you to better utilise your time.

Small steps

One thing at a time. You do not have to make your changes all-together. You can make two small changes a week and then give yourself the time to adjust. If you can be consistent over 3 weeks then you have formed a new habit – keep it up.

Be mindful

Constant stress is a sign that your work-life balance is out of sync. Some of the best ways to release stress are to focus on your body and mind, bringing you back into the present. Daily exercise helps to relieve tension that builds up over time. Similarly, playing music, meditation, and enjoying time spent with friends and family or doing your favorite hobby can help your mind disengage from thoughts of negativity that bring you stress.

Turn off the tech

People need to make time to ‘unplug’ themselves from their mobile phones and the internet. You spend hours glued to screens and doing unproductive activities that prevent you from doing the things you prioritise such as getting enough rest, spending quality time with those you connect with and engaging in activities that you enjoy and which help you relax.

Five-minute takeaways

You can maximise your productivity by dividing the breaks in your routine into short and long. Take five-minute breaks every couple of hours in between tasks to help you shift focus and increase your output. Every few months take a vacation for at least five days and a weekend, to relax, rest and rejuvenate yourself.

Avoid multi-tasking

Trying to do everything at the same time increases stress-levels and can have a negative impact on your outcomes in your work and personal life. Draw boundaries. If you have made plans to spend time with your family then turn all distractions off and leave the phone alone. If you are in a meeting, do not check your emails. If your mind is constantly wondering, you should consider whether your priority is the task at hand or if your focus should be elsewhere.

Me-time

You are important. Your time is precious. Respect yourself. Give yourself the same time, effort and energy you give to everything and everyone else. Set aside at least an hour a day for yourself and use it to build a positive habit. This is your daily downtime and should be sacrosanct, except during emergencies. Use this time to help you rebuild your energy levels, find inspiration and be rejuvenated.

Get professional help

If you find yourself struggling to maintain the balance and the stress to be overwhelming seek help. Do not get to a stage where stress and fatigue begin to impact your mental health and physical well-being. Get professional help and find ways to work out a sustainable path to better health.

Yes, there exists a culture of hard work and while it is important it is also true that self-care, your well-being, and life are not worth the negative costs. Put yourself first and you will find that everything else in your life will begin to fall into place accordingly.