Nailing the perfect work / life balance might feel like a pipe dream, but Dr Elena Touroni, a Consultant Psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic in London, insists it doesn't have to be. Instead of putting 100% of your energy into your career, which is almost certainly a recipe for burn out, create a healthy balance that lends itself to long term success.
Here, five ways to nail a healthy work / life balance, including putting the right boundaries in place and making sure you put 'me' time aside.
Put boundaries in place that clearly separate your working life from your home life. Whether that means turning your phone off at a certain time every day, or putting on an out of office outside of work hours. As Dr Elena Touroni comments, “when you’re at home make sure you’re fully there, and visa versa. No checking emails from bed or taking calls from the dinner table. It can be tempting to let work creep into your evenings and weekends, but when these divides are clear both your work and personal life will benefit.
Engage in self care
"Self-care can mean different things for different people,” Dr Elenor notes, adding that it’s more about finding time to make yourself feel good each day. “For one person, it might be an evening bath, for someone else it might be making the time for their favourite kick-boxing class. Either way, it’s about doing the things you enjoy and making time for them. Whatever nourishes you and fills you with a sense of joy.” That might mean a crossword on the commute home as opposed to last minute emails, or clocking off on time so you can actually make it to your gym class.
Learn how to say no
Nailing a decent work / life balance is about only taking on projects and work that you have the time to do, and being able to decline the stuff you don’t. As the psychologist explains, "Listen to how you feel and learn to say ‘no’ - sometimes this can be as simple as taking an extra 5 mins to respond next time you’re asked to take something on. Take this pause and tune in with yourself. Do you feel like you have the resources to take this on at the moment? Always make health your top priority.”
Do things just for yourself
Much like engaging in self care, taking ‘me time’ to carry out hobbies or tasks that you enjoy will help you to strike that healthy work / life balance by putting your mental and physical health first. "Commit to doing at least one thing a day that’s just for you” Dr Eleanor advises. “That might be as simple as reading a chapter of a book or taking 20 mins out to eat lunch away from your desk in the nearby park. Scheduling “me time’ is really important."
Know the different between stress and burn out
“Whilst small amounts of stress can sometimes be beneficial in driving us forward, high levels of stress over a prolonged period of time deplete our psychological resources,” the consultant psychologist states. So learn to recognise when your stress level is at a level you can handle, and when you might be pushing yourself too hard. “Someone who is putting all their energy into their work is investing too heavily in just one aspect of what it means to have a full, rounded life. It’s all about finding a balance between driving ourselves forward, but also doing the things that nourish us and provide us with a sense of wellbeing and fun.”
Why a healthy work-life balance is so important
- To strengthen your relationships
Unsurprisingly, channelling all of your time and energy into your work can often put a strain on relationship with family and friends - and so creating a better balance can work wonders. Like Elenor says, "for our relationships to thrive - whether that be with a partner, family or friends - we need to be devoting time and effort into nurturing those bonds, and so it’s important to create distinct boundaries between work and home life as much as possible." That could means no phones in the bedroom, or limited work chat.
- To boost your physical health
We all know our mental health suffers when we're stressed, but our phayical health can suffer when boundaries between work and home get merged. "High levels of stress can reap havoc on our physical health too: digestive issues, disrupted sleep cycles, aches and pains and weakened immunity. What’s more, when we overwork, exercise and diet tend to be the first things we drop, causing a vicious cycle where we’re neglecting both our physical and mental health."
- To improve your productivity
Ever wondered why you get incredibly distracted even when you're the most stressed? "When we’re busy, we might feel as though we’re getting a lot done, but the reality is often the reverse. When we’re overstretched and not looking after ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally, we will never be able to produce our best work. True productivity requires presence and focus, which are difficult to apply if our energy bank is low." Taking time out for your personal life helps you to recharge and create the energy to channel into work.
- To make your success more sustainable
While it might feel like going into overdrive fulfils short term goals, this is only a recipe for burnout in the long run. As the consultant psychologist advises, "success is a long-term game and it needs to be sustainable. It’s about knowing when to push forward but also when to back off. When there is an imbalance in what we are giving out to the world and what we are taking for ourselves, both our psychological and physical resources will eventually burn out.
"Finding that sweet spot of give and take, is what it really means to have a healthy work-life balance."