Terms like “self-care” and “work-life balance” are thrown around these days with little thought as to how to properly define or implement them. It’s not surprising, either, since the lure of successfully finding balance in our lives has a powerful attraction.
However, if we are to properly find that all-important harmony between our work and our lives, it’s vital that we actually understand what those two things are as well as how we can go about finding that equilibrium we all crave.
The Intricacies of Work-Life Balance
The truth is, work-life balance actually can be broken down into a lot more than just work and life. For example, you can have a chunk of time devoted to “life” that is spent tending to a messy toddler or taking care of an elderly parent, both of which won’t do a lick of good when it comes to helping you unwind or de-stress.
At the end of the day, one of the most important factors to finding a true balance is by separating yourself out from everyone else. This doesn’t mean you should abandon all of your responsibilities. On the contrary, recklessly embracing the concept of “self-care” is quite irresponsible and can have serious consequences for those who depend on you, whether they are bosses, coworkers, friends, or family.
Instead, it’s important to take meaningful, structured time for yourself that isn’t aimless or overly-abundant, but rather has purposeful goals to help you unwind, de-stress, and recharge your batteries. Here are a few suggestions for ways to truly find that optimal work-life balance through self-care.
How to Truly Find an Optimal Work Life Balance
Below are some top suggestions for different ways to go about finding work-life balance in your own daily grind. Some of these are directly action-driven while others involve an accompanying shift in mindset as well.
1. Setting Personal Boundaries
First up on the list, it’s important that we take the time to draw the line between work and our personal lives. In a world where working remotely is becoming more normal by the day, it’s critical that we find ways to identify where we cross the line. For instance, if you’re checking your email at all hours of the day (and night!), that can be a sign that work has crept in too far. You may think you’re getting more done, but studies have actually shown that working fewer hours in a week can actually yield many positive results such as better health and happiness, as well as higher productivity.
Here is a list of things to watch out for in order to set firm boundaries that your work should not cross. Once you’ve been able to establish those barriers, it will create a space of relief and rest from work responsibilities, allowing you to focus more passionately on your work duties during work time.
2. Good Sleep
Once we’ve separated work from life, it’s important to move on to the business of finding select times within that “life” to take care of ourselves. One of the most important ways one can do this is by simply trying to prioritize getting better sleep. We’re not just talking about sleeping for more hours in the day, though.
We’re talking about finding ways to get into that deep REM sleep that everyone is always talking about. It is the last stage of sleep and is also the most productive. It takes up roughly a quarter of our sleep time, can be very healing, and some studies have even suggested that it helps us process our emotions and fears better. There are many different ways to increase the quality of your sleep, such as reducing caffeine intake later in the day, taking supplements, or taking a bath or shower.
The concept of “unplugging” yourself from life on a regular basis is a very useful tool in finding balance and equilibrium.
However, properly unplugging isn’t something you can do on a whim. That’s why it can be helpful to schedule your unplugging ahead of time. It’s also important that you don’t over plan your “unplugged” time. Set appropriate expectations or even plan to do nothing so that you can truly allow your mind a chance to relax and unwind.
Finally, never underestimate the power of exercise. The benefits here start with the incredible feeling that accompanies being healthy, but it doesn’t stop there. The introduction of an exercise routine can also provide some structure in your effort to find the time for self-care.
In addition to physical activity, the power of exercising your brain cannot be understated. From active pursuits like crossword puzzles to finding that inner peace through meditation, exercising your mind can be an ideal way to rest, relax, and recharge on a regular basis.
Finding a Balance in the Pursuit of Balance
As a final encouragement, remember that the effort to find a balance with work, life, and self-care isn’t a race. It isn’t a pass-or-fail test and it isn’t something that should add stress to your already hectic schedule.
Approach the problem with a calm desire to introduce actionable steps that can yield genuine results. Then tailor your solution as you go, always keeping in mind that the end goal isn’t all about one set of responsibilities or another, but an optimal balance of them all.
Jori Hamilton is a writer from the pacific northwest who enjoys covering topics related to work, social justice, environmental issues, and more. You can follow her on twitter @hamiltonjori