Assess your work/life balance
According to the Mental Health Foundation, more than 40% of workers neglect other aspects of their life because of work, which can increase their vulnerability to mental ill health.
So how many of us are aware of this neglection, and how easy is it to recognise when our work/life balance is unhealthy?
Common signs of an unhealthy balance
Whether you’re a graduate starting your first full-time job, or the CEO of a company, your work/life balance matters.
It can be difficult to know what is a small bump in the road, or if there is a bigger problem contributing to your overall stress levels. While everyone reacts to pressure differently, there are some common signs of stress that may indicate a poor work/life balance:
If you’re lacking sleep due to checking your emails late at night or are waking up during the night, worrying about your to-do list, there may be a problem. Perhaps you’re waking up tired, despite getting your full eight hours. A constant feeling of tiredness, no matter how many hours of sleep you get, is a common sign that your brain needs a break.
Aches and pains
If you’re experiencing headaches more than usual, or you’re suffering long-lasting, persistent shoulder and neck pain, you may be struggling to cope. Chronic headaches and muscle tension indicate a constant state of strain and this is a clear sign that your body needs some TLC.
Stress can often have a negative effect on our eating habits. Some people lose their appetite, often forgetting to eat meals or eating very little on the go when they are so busy thinking about what they need to do at work. Others may do the opposite, and turn to food for comfort which can negatively impact both your physical health and your self-esteem.
You may not notice a change in your eating habits, but others can pick up on it. If you’re an onlooker and are worried about a friend, reach out and suggest you meet for lunch - they might well need a break and enjoy a friendly conversation.
Don't confuse having a career with having a life.
- Hillary Clinton.
Working out of hours
A big indication of poor work/life balance is if you’re thinking about work, or working during your time off. If you’re due to finish work at 5pm, then it’s important you actually stop. This is your time to switch off and focus on the other aspects of your life.
Checking emails and answering calls late at night or at the weekend demonstrates you may need time to adjust your work/life balance. Similarly, if you’re worrying about work on your time off, or feeling guilty for taking a break, action needs to be taken.
Irritable and snappy
When we have no work/life balance, our emotions can feel heightened, and more sensitive. We may feel our patience is wearing thin and our temper is harder to control. If you find yourself getting short with colleagues, or snapping at loved ones daily or multiple times a day, it could be that you’re finding it difficult to cope and need to take a step back.
Similarly, when overwhelmed, we can become quite teary and emotional. Getting upset and frustrated at tasks that you normally find easy and enjoyable, indicates you need some time out.
When was the last time you spend time with your family, laughed with friends or had a real conversation with your partner (that wasn’t talking about work)? If you can’t remember or people are telling you that they don’t see you anymore, it might be a sign you need to prioritise how you allocate your time.
The risk of imbalance
Wellness and the focus on self-care are very much becoming a key part of modern life, but not all of us practise the idea. We work long hours, take little breaks and try to fit as much in as we can when out of the office. But, while maintaining a social life is important, we also need to give ourselves time to completely relax. This may mean enjoying a moment of peace with breakfast in the morning, or scheduling in an hour to have a bath and pamper yourself in the evening.
You may feel you’re handling things well: perhaps you have a good job, you’re doing well in your role and still maintain a social life. Yet, you may be lacking balance in other aspects of your life. Consider for a moment; how much sleep you get each night, when was your last homemade meal, when was the last time you took a day off to spend with your partner?
According to the Mental Health Foundation, the pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture is perhaps the biggest challenge to the mental health of the UK population.
Occupational burnout is thought to be a result of long-term, unresolvable job stress. When unmanaged, this can lead to physical symptoms, such as headaches and fatigue, and personality changes, including short tempers, closed thinking and a lack of interest. It has the potential to cause problems with your employer, particularly if your productivity and working ability is affected.
Stress is often a causing factor, as well as a risk of poor work/life balance. Stress, when unmanaged, can build and build until one day, it becomes too much. Chronic stress can result in personal distress and unhappiness, as well as physical symptoms.
Work-related stress costs Britain 10.4 million working days each year.
In a 2017 YouGov Work Life Balance report, one in five (21%) 25 to 34 year olds claimed they are unhappy with their work/life balance, compared to 17% of 45 to 54 year olds. Furthermore, four in 10 (41%) of 25 to 34 year olds believe there is often an expectation from their employer to work outside their normal hours.
The report reveals responding to emails and messages are one of the major pressures felt by employees, and 43% read or send work-related emails outside of office hours - including on holiday.
Physical and emotional symptoms of stress can include:
- Feeling overwhelmed, or like you are losing control.
- Low self-esteem, feeling lonely and worthless.
- Becoming easily agitated.
- Lack of energy due to poor sleep.
- Aches, pains and tense muscles.
- Upset stomach.
- Frequently catching colds or illness.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of stress, you may benefit from speaking to a professional, such as a counsellor or life coach. A life coach can help you reassess your situation and help you find balance. If there are underlying issues that may be contributing to your stress, a counsellor may be able to help you understand and manage the problem.
If you spend the majority of your spare time focusing on work, whether it be in the office or at home, it’s likely you don’t have much time for friends. Your friends and family need your time - neglecting them constantly due to work commitments can affect these relationships, which can, in turn, heighten the impact of stress.
Your loved ones are there to support you, but tensions can arise when they feel neglected. Nurturing these relationships are key for overall well-being, as well as an essential part of maintaining a good work/life balance.
How coaching can help
For some, they’re able to recognise the problem early and manage it well. Others, however, may need a little guidance. Generally, we turn to our friends or family for support and advice, but sometimes we need more in the form of professional support.
Speaking with a life coach can be a great way to help you get back on track, and help you recognise and decide exactly how you would like to spend your life. While we all have to make compromises, it’s possible to organise our lives in a productive way to enable enjoyment of our time outside of work, whilst maintaining success in the workplace.
How can a life coach help me achieve a better work/life balance?
For you to benefit fully from the support of a life coach, you need to want to change. It takes courage and a willingness to recognise a problem and ask for help, it’s a huge step. Coaching can help you understand your feelings, recognise your goals and support you in taking the necessary steps to change your life. With the support of a coach, you’ll be able to:
- Identify the roadblocks and problems that are currently standing in your way.
- Change counterproductive behaviours.
- Build on confidence and self-belief.
- Recognise and address job burnout.
- Set boundaries by speaking up.
- Manage stress.
- Improve your effectiveness at work, and at home.
Life is short, and ensuring you live a happy, healthy life should be a priority. A coach may be able to help you see things in a different light. Perhaps your stress has built up over time, due to lots of small things. Or, maybe one thing in particular is causing your unhappiness. Whatever the cause, a coach can help you recognise issues, and set goals to overcome them.
We need to put in the energy and passion if we want to be successful, but our lives need to deliver personally, as well as giving us what we want professionally. At times, the focus on building a career can mean we sacrifice the things that make us happy, but a life coach will help you find a balance. Coaching can help you rebuild communication with friends and colleagues, help you manage expectations and ensure your work is supporting your life, rather than opposing it.
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