Balance Series #1: How to have balance in your life – Work and play

By: Sydney Levine

Balance. It’s the thing that everybody strives to have in their life. Without balance, it may seem difficult to feel like our best selves. I wanted to come up with a way to help people better understand how to achieve this seemingly impossible goal, and I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks. This balance series is going to discuss the many ways we can find balance in all the different aspects of our lives. Let’s dive into the first topic of this series- the work-life balance.

Within these past nine months, our lives were reconstructed as we faced massive adjustments in our lifestyles. Not only are we dealing with the stress of a global pandemic, but our lives, education, and professional experiences are now largely based online. Working remotely means that we can now be reached any day of the week, at any time of the day. The boundaries between work and home have disappeared, and it has become more essential than ever to find a balance between our work and our social lives. I’m sure we all are buried with assignments, deadlines, emails, and schedules that just seem never-ending, leading us to feel stressed and overwhelmed. This chronic stress can have real effects on our health and wellbeing. Chronic stress can lead to headaches, high blood pressure, weakened immune systems, digestive issues, and later down the road can lead to an increased risk of a heart attack (The Effects of Stress on Your Body, 2017). So, while our work and assignments are important, in order to prevent increased health problems and burnout, we must also make time to do the things that we enjoy. I know that as a full-time student, I personally have had to make a point of making time for myself and friends between schoolwork and other commitments. I want to provide you all with some tips that I have found help me work towards a better work-life balance that I hope will help you too.

Tip #1: Set goals and write them down. 

  • Write down your goals both for work and for play. I find that this helps you see what work you have to complete and by when. According to a psychology study, 25% of our happiness depends on how well we are able to manage stress (Epstein, 2011). Planning ahead can be a major stress management tool. We feel stressed and anxious when it seems impossible to complete our work by the deadline. Planning will allow you to get ahead of the stress and put into perspective what assignments demand your attention now and which ones can wait, so that ultimately you can have time for yourself on the weekend!

Tip #2: Balance your space. 

  • When our homes have now become our places of work, we have to establish boundaries between our workspace and our space for relaxing and spending time with loved ones. One tip I have found useful is to create a space specifically used for work, and only work. That way, when you are in this workspace you know you need to be in the mindset to get things done. When you step away from it you can then relax and put work out of your mind. Researchers have found that those who have control over the boundaries between work and their personal life are better able to manage stress and prevent intrusive, negative thoughts from spiraling out of control (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, News Bureau, 2020). 
  • Having a separate space is super important, as studies have also found that when you are able to disconnect from work during your “off-hours”, you experience less psychological strain and an increase in overall life satisfaction (Sonnentag, 2012). If we do not have a separate space for work, it can feel as though you are always at your job, and will begin to lose a space where you feel relaxed and at home.

Tip #3: Take advantage of the little things, and take breaks. 

  • During this time, certain parts of our lives have been put on hold and even though we have had to miss out on a lot of things – whether that be weddings, visiting friends, or spending time with extended family – we have to be grateful for our health. It is important to set aside time out of the week or the day for ourselves. TAKE A BREAK. Get outside for a walk, go grab coffee with a friend, or just listen to your favorite song! Not only will this boost your mood, but it will increase your productivity and prevent burnout. Research has found that people who take “micro” breaks, or mini breaks, throughout their work day had increased cognitive functions such as concentration and creativity, mood improvement, and lower levels of stress (Kim, S., Park, Y., & Headrick, L., 2018). 

Tip #4: Remind yourself of what you are working towards.

  • In all the clutter of assignments and deadlines it can be hard to remember what the point of all of this is. It’s important to remind yourself that there is an end goal you are striving towards. All your hard work will pay off and your goals will be achieved if you keep at it and never give up.

Success requires hard work, but life is not just about our work. Hopefully, our careers will include work that we are passionate about, but we must, for the sake of our overall wellbeing, step away from our screens, spend time with friends and family, and surround ourselves with people and places that just put us in a good mood. Making time to enjoy ourselves does not mean we have to put our goals on hold – it is simply necessary in order to maintain sanity and achieve balance in our lives. 

I hope these tips will help you achieve the work-life balance necessary to stay true to your goals while also making the time to do the things that you enjoy. Now, more than ever, having this work-life balance is essential, as more people are working remotely. These tips are simply a guide, as it is important to find what works for you in order to create a healthy, balanced life.  

Reference List:

Epstein, R. (2011). Fight the Frazzled Mind: Proactive Steps Manage Stress. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fight-the-frazzled-mind/

Kim, S., Park, Y., & Headrick, L. (2018). Daily micro-breaks and job performance: General work engagement as a cross-level moderator. Journal of Applied Psychology, 103(7), 772–786. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0000308

Sonnentag, S. (2012). Psychological Detachment From Work During Leisure Time: The Benefits of Mentally Disengaging From Work. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(2), 114–118. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721411434979

Review, H. B. (2017). HBR Guide to Being More Productive (HBR Guide Series). La Vergne: Harvard Business Review Press.University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, News Bureau. (2020, June 25). Control over work-life boundaries creates crucial buffer to manage after-hours work stress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/06/200625122734.html

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