Girl stressed with work life balance

How to Maintain a Healthy Work Life Balance

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Has “hustle culture” gotten the best of you? Well, you’re not alone, as a 2019 study [1] revealed that 25% of American working adults report picking up a “side gig” in addition to their regular 9-5 job as a means to make more money and remain busy. This is a perfect example of “hustle culture”, also known as “grind culture”: a term coined within the last few years to describe the mentality that one must work all day every day in order to achieve their dreams. Unfortunately, relaxation is out, and burnout is in. 

On the contrary, it appears to be that the half of the country that isn’t participating in “hustle culture” is participating in the opposite: a more laissez-faire mentality where personal life and relaxation are the priority instead of a career. Each of these contrasting viewpoints has its positives; the former pushes individuals to reach their full potential by working hard, and the latter allows individuals to prioritize their mental well-being over their careers and finances. However, as you may already be able to see, there are extreme downsides to each: “hustlers” may experience extreme burnout and poor mental health, and “personal-life-focusers” may be lost in the career aspect of their lives, and/or financially unstable. So, how can we combine the two lifestyles and create a healthy work-life balance? 

Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. As Harvard Business Journal puts it, creating a work-life balance is a “cycle, not an achievement” [2] — meaning that you must keep tending to this balance, even when you feel like it has been achieved. Life and responsibilities are ever-changing. One month you may feel super healthy in your balance of your job and your personal life, and the next you may feel like life and work have both simultaneously thrown you curveballs and sent you straight into a state of overwhelm and burnout.

I’m sure most can relate– somedays I feel like I have it all together, and the next I’m having to deal with a sudden influx of work projects and deadlines all the while juggling my day-to-day responsibilities like grocery shopping and laundry. It almost seems impossible, like you must choose to either let your projects and assignments take the backseat or you must neglect your own self-care. However, this balance is possible if you use these helpful tips and words of advice: 

  • Set limits and boundaries. If you know you have a busy week ahead of you for either work and/or life, don’t overschedule yourself! Learn to say “no” to plans with friends when you are aware that a big work project has a deadline coming up (or reschedule until after it is due!) or set a boundary with yourself that you will only be working while in the office, instead of clouding your personal life with working from home. Setting boundaries can certainly seem scary, especially when they involve other people who may be frustrated by your change in lifestyle, but in the end, what’s best for you should always come first. 
  • Let go of perfectionism and overexertion. Perfectionism and over-exerting yourself often come with overachieving tendencies. Maybe this has even been present since childhood—many children and teens participate in this type of behavior, committing to homework, sports practices, club meetings, and hanging out with friends, even though all these plans leave no time for them to unwind. Things only get worse in adulthood, where responsibilities become more time-consuming and difficult than after-school girl scout meetings. Let go of this perfectionistic point of view that you must be able to achieve all tasks in order to be successful–it’s maladaptive and will only hurt you in the long run. Take on what you think is doable, and do your best at it. That should be enough! 
  • Cut down unnecessary activities. Going along with the last tip, cutting out activities that aren’t priorities will leave you feeling more relaxed in your personal life and able to complete tasks with more time and success in your career life. For example, if your task list for a busy work week is to complete your work projects, work calls, get lunch with your friend, and start a new series with your husband, maybe cancel the lunch and cut back on binge watching so you’ll be able to get the most important tasks done. On the other hand, if you have an important personal-life week with tasks like attend a wedding, see your friend in town for the first time in years, and complete a work project, you could reach out to your boss and let them know that the project may be a bit late as you have some important events planned in your personal life. It’s all about communication and prioritization! 
  • Start small and build from there. Nobody is going to be able to create the perfect work-life balance from the very start. It takes time and practice! A great way to do this is to use an agenda or calendar to plan out your weeks. You can delegate which tasks should be done on which days of the week or month in order to keep yourself organized and sane. If you are really feeling that burnout, cut back significantly at first, and then start adding more tasks and responsibilities once you are feeling better and more motivated. Learning more about yourself and how your tendencies lead to burnout by reading books and articles on the topic can be super eye-opening, as well. Any little step helps! 
  • Remember, your mental health is most important. In the end, your mental well-being is vital in order for you to function successfully in all aspects of your life. Make sure you are listening to your mind and body. Are you hungry? Tired? Stressed? Ask yourself these questions and give yourself what you need. Whether it is extra sleep, more time alone, more time with friends, or less responsibilities at work, things can always be negotiated. Take care of yourself first, and watch how everything else falls into place! 

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Notes: 

[1] Huddleston, C. (2019, May 24). 46% of Americans need a side hustle just to cover basic expenses. GOBankingRates. Retrieved February 19, 2022, from https://www.gobankingrates.com/money/side-gigs/american-side-hustle-survey/ 

[2] Lupu , I., & Ruiz-Castro, M. (2021, January 29). Work-life balance is a cycle, not an achievement. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved February 19, 2022, from https://hbr.org/2021/01/work-life-balance-is-a-cycle-not-an-achievement 

;3] Griffith, E. (2019, January 26). Why are young people pretending to love work? The New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/26/business/against-hustle-culture-rise-and-grind-tgim.html

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