Improving Your Work-Life Balance – Make it a Goal

By Misty Kevech, HHQI RN Project Coordinator

stressed nurseAre you asking yourself the question, “Where did the summer go?” It seems like just yesterday when you were making plans for this summer to relax and get some quality downtime. I know, I made plans to eat lunch away from my computer four days a week (being practical), but soon realized that I continually needed to reduce that goal all summer. I think I can confidently say that I did take lunch away from my computer and eat outside four times, okay, not per week, but four times throughout the whole summer. Geez!

If you have kids, you are probably getting them ready for school. That can bring on additional stress for the next nine months – lunches, homework, and extracurricular activities. Whatever your stressful time of the year may be, many of us think we will do better the next season. A little more “me time” and a little less work, family, and everyone else time. If you are like me, that just does not seem to happen.

Does it really matter? The answer is, yes! According to the Mental Health America, 25 percent of Americans describe themselves as “super stressed.” Literature shows that the more we try to do, the less productive we really are. I am a super multitasker, are you? I juggle many projects constantly and it takes time and effort to keep the balls moving. But when I designate time to work on one project (as the self-help tips recommend), I actually do find that I am more effective and efficient.

But who has time to stop and work on one project? I am a Type A personality and thrive under stress and deadlines, but is that good for me? A certain amount of stress is good to motivate and improve performance. Too much or a constant level of stress, especially over time, can weaken our immune systems and predispose us to everything from a cold to the risk of a heart attack. We have to learn how to manage stress and balance our work life.

I often teach clinicians about “motivational interviewing” and “teach-back” skills. I explain that it is hard to do and it takes a lot of practice to hone in on those skills. Stress reduction and work-life balance is also hard, takes a lot of practice, and requires a continuous conscious effort.

Mental Health America provides the following simple tips:

  • At Work
    • Set manageable goals each day
      • Prioritize
      • Feel good about progress (I love to check off items)
      • Be realistic
      • Be efficient with your time at work
      • Don’t procrastinate (I find picking the hardest of the tasks first makes my day go better)
      • Divide big projects into smaller pieces
      • Reward yourself with completions (break, coffee, walk outside for 5 minutes)
      • Turn off e-mails for work time
    • Ask for flexibility
      • Ask if telecommuting is possible, even if it is to work on a big project
      • Flex your days to work on an off-peak day or hours if you want uninterrupted time or to facilitate family commitments
    • Take five
      • Use small breaks to clear your head and refocus
      • Spend a few minutes doing visualization (imagining yourself on the beach or at your favorite place)
    • Tune in
      • Listen to your favorite music to relax you and increase your creativity (be sensitive to others and wear a headset)
    • Communicate effectively
      • Speak up if your are feeling overwhelmed with workload and offer some possible solutions
      • Look at stressful or conflicting situations from the other person’s view, rethink your strategy or stand your ground calmly and rationally.  Look for ways to compromise.  Retreat if needed to regroup and determine better strategy to address conflict.
    • Give yourself a break
      • Remember you are not perfect
  • At Home
    • Unplug
      • Reduce availability for work for after hours, if possible
      • Decrease amount of time on electronics
    • Divide and conquer
      • Distribute home responsibilities with others
      • Communicate clearly
    • Don’t over commit
      • Learn to say no
      • Get support
      • Talk with friends or family about how you feel
    • Take advantage of your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
      • Check if your organization offers this assistance
      • Stay active
    • Exercise regularly – this reduces stress, depression, and anxiety
      • Boosts immune system
    • Treat your body right
      • Eat right, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep
      • Don’t rely on caffeine and tobacco for coping
    • Get help if you need it
      • Ask for assistance or seek help

I personally use some of these tips, but as I said before, it does take practice. Please join me in committing to setting a goal to improve your work-life balance over the next few months. Pick one or two of the above tips to try (don’t implement them all – that would cause stress overload). Find what works, add another one along the way, and hopefully we will all begin to see a better work-life balance!

Additional Resources:

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