We’ve all been there. Maybe you’ve got a big project due at work, so you’ve decided to put in just a few extra hours in the evenings answering emails and getting research done. Before you know it, you’ve lost the whole weekend to ‘just one more email’, and you can’t remember the last time you sat at the dining room table without a phone or laptop out.
Perhaps your department is short-staffed; you decide to be a team player, giving up your much-needed day off or pulling a double shift to help out. You’re exhausted and frazzled; stress is starting to affect how well you get to and stay asleep. But you’re being a team player! This is what it’s meant to be like, isn’t it?
Or maybe you travel a lot for work. Everyone comments on how glamorous it is, how lucky you are to be visiting multiple new countries week after week during the busy conference or meeting seasons. But they don’t see the hours lost to airport transfers and flight delays, overpriced packaged sandwiches replacing home-cooked meals and differing timezones making a catch-up call with your nearest and dearest tougher than expected.
Since 2001, the number of us working 48-hour weeks has risen to three million. 74% of us have felt ‘overwhelmed or unable to cope’ at some point during the last year. More and more of us are experiencing burnout. Caused by excessive and prolonged periods of stress, it can be physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. While you may have heard the term making headlines, do you know the signs you may be close to or experiencing burnout?
One in 10 of us struggle to unwind in the evenings and at weekends. While this can be a sign that our work/life balance is out of sync or that our stress levels are getting too high, we can overlook the impact our difficulty separating work and home can have on our relationships.
According to one study, nearly half of working parents (47%) say that work restricts their ability to spend time reading or playing with their kids. 48% say feeling overwhelmed by increasing demands of the modern workplace affects their relationship with their partner, with 47% saying they feel boundaries between work and home have become blurred thanks to technology.
We share five tips to help you regain control of your work/life balance, decrease your stress, and help you reclaim valuable, quality time with your loved ones.
1. Set boundaries
If work has begun bleeding into your home life, it could be worth readdressing your boundaries. Ask yourself: what will really happen if I wait until the morning to answer that email? Will finishing that presentation now benefit me, or would I benefit more from having some quality time to rest, relax and recharge?
Setting boundaries can be a positive act of self-care, that can not only benefit you, but have a positive impact on your relationships. The less stressed and under pressure we feel, the more present we can feel in the moment, spending time with friends and family. Consider small, everyday acts of self-care you can start practising to help you keep that balance.
2. Try a digital detox
When was the last time you were more than a few feet away from your phone? Can you remember the last time you didn’t log in to check your emails, WhatsApp messages, or lose time scrolling through social media? It could be time to try a digital detox.
Having a break from your phone can be liberating. That could be going phone-free for a weekend, joining in on a campaign such as scroll-free September, or just setting aside a few hours each evening where you can enjoy downtime with loved ones – without screens interfering.
Taking a step back from tech can not only help you to feel less stressed, but can improve sleeping patterns, working and family relationships, as well as giving you the space to reconnect with yourself. Not sure where to start? Try these simple steps on how to do a digital detox (without having to give up your phone).
3. Weigh up the pros and cons
Working from home sounds like the perfect solution to: no long, busy commute; hours back each day to do with as you like; the comfort and convenience of working from your own home. What’s not to like?
Working from home can be great, but finding a work/life balance when you work from home can be tough. Not only can it feel isolating from the rest of your colleagues, but it can also be tricky to set boundaries, establish (and stick to) a routine, as well as to learn to switch off. If you are able to, setting aside a separate working space can help to create a physical boundary, allowing you to better switch off when you move away from this space and start enjoying your downtime.
If you struggle to separate work time and me-time when working from home, it could be worth considering if the benefits really do outweigh the downsides of allowing work to encroach on your home.
4. Value quality over quantity
Although many of us would love to spend more time relaxing and less time working, the harsh reality is, we can’t always say no to overtime, travel, or responsibilities. If you can’t increase the amount of time you have to spend with loved ones, you can still address the quality of that time you are spending together.
Studies have shown many of us can’t have dinner together or even watch TV without checking our phones. What we are doing together, how we are interacting, and how much of our attention we are devoting to those activities we are doing together can all affect the quality of our family time. If staying in and watching Netflix, or going out and sticking to the same dinner and a movie has become routine rather than quality time spent together, it could be worth thinking of new ways you can increase your satisfaction.
Getting active can not only help your mental wellbeing, but can also offer you the chance to enjoy nature together, explore new areas, and enjoy the benefits of being outside.
Cooking together can not only be a fun activity, but can also help you to experiment with healthier eating, naturally decrease your stress levels through tweaking what you eat, and can even act as an opportunity to practice mindfulness as you create a meal together.
5. Consider working with a life coach
Working with a coach can help you in a number of different ways. Offering an impartial outside perspective, many coaches can offer guidance and advice from a place of experience.
Working with a coach as a mentor can help you to maximise your potential without allowing work to take over all areas of your life. Relationship coaches are able to offer advice for a wide variety of areas, from workplace to romantic relationships.
A personal development coach may be able to help you focus on increasing your self-awareness, examining your life goals, and considering any challenges you may be facing. Or if stress is one of the biggest factors impacting your relationships, working with a coach can help you to better understand and identify the symptoms of stress – and what you can do to overcome them.