Health Report: Five Tips for a Healthier Work-Life Balance

The new year is only a few weeks old and if you’re feeling the strain of the daily grind already, maybe it’s time to check if your work-life balance is what it should be.

In the United States, one in four workers say balancing work and life has become more difficult during the past five years, according to a survey last year by Ernst & Young.

Yes, it seems like everyone these days is working more hours, but don’t let the demands of the workplace affect your health.

Here are a few tips to regain and maintain a healthy work-life balance in 2016.

Don’t lose sleep over work

Some signs that your work life and personal life are out of balance are frequently finding yourself doing work at home, thinking about work all the time, and not getting enough sleep as a result.

“If you are having any of these symptoms, stop and look at how your work is affecting the rest of your life,” said Mark Shalauta, M.D., Scripps Clinic family medicine physician.

Technology today allows us to connect to almost everything electronically, which makes it extremely tempting to squeeze in more work, especially during hours when you should be resting.

“If you’re not getting sufficient sleep, it can lead to fatigue, poor work performance, anxiousness and depression,” Dr. Shalauta said.

So, in addition to getting to bed at a reasonable hour, try to avoid using electronic devices, such as computers, phones and tablets, just before bedtime. These devices emit blue light, which decreases your melatonin levels, the hormone associated with sleep, Dr. Shalauta said.

“Sleep requirements vary from individual to individual, but in general most people function best with seven to eight hours of sleep,” he said.

Set limits

This is the hard part, especially since we have access to e-mail and the internet at our fingertips. One trick is to limit your e-mail time, especially work-related email. Set aside a specific time to look at your work email, and then leave it alone. Another thing to work on that can be equally as difficult is being ready to say “no.” If you are feeling overwhelmed with the demands placed on you already, it’s OK to limit any new responsibilities until things are more manageable.

Adopt a healthier lifestyle

The more you engage in healthy activities and make healthy choices, the more likely you’ll be able to have a healthy work-life balance. Eat a healthy diet and stay active. All these have been shown to decrease stress levels and improve mood.

“Try at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times a week,” Dr. Shalauta said. “You can exercise more frequently, but be sure not to overdo it since you want to give your body some time to recover.”

Start small and build from there

It’s important to take small steps. Making several drastic changes all at once can cause even more stress. Choose one thing that you want to change or work on, and try that for a week. After a week, you can modify the initial change if needed, or add another one.

“For example, commit to brisk walking for 20 minutes once a week. Do this for a few weeks, then add another 20-minute walking session or another activity so you are exercising two times per week. Do it for a while until you are getting at least 20 minutes of activity at least three times a week,” Dr. Shalauta said.

Remember this is a continuous process, and you can adjust and make modifications as your family, interests and work change.

Know when to stay home when you are feeling sick

If you’re feeling ill and still go to work, you may slow your recovery since you should be resting, and also risk exposing others to your illness. “See your doctor if your symptoms are worsening, for example, if you have a fever that is lasting more than a few days,” Dr. Shalauta said.

You may feel that you’ll fall behind by missing work. But keep in mind that if you go to work when you’re sick, you are more likely to make mistakes and take longer to do things.

If you are sick but feel well enough to get some work done from home while stopping to get rest when needed, go for it.

For more information about Scripps Health, visit http://www.scripps.org/KUSI or call 858-240-5075.

Categories: Health