More than 1 in 4 Americans describe their state of functioning as “super stressed.” We often hear the term ‘work-life balance’, but for many, this goal seems out of reach. Between home and work responsibilities, we often feel a race against the clock to check off our to-do lists. The irony is that as our stress levels increase, our productivity decreases. Stress can negatively impact our ability to focus, mood regulation, and communication and relationships with others. Stress can also negatively affect our physical health. Chronic stress suppresses our immune systems and leaves us at higher risk for heart attack and stroke.
Yet, manageable amounts of stress can increase our alertness and performance. It’s all about balance. Achieving a healthy work-life balance is a realistic goal that ultimately benefits workers and businesses. When workers feel balanced in their day to day lives, they are more productive, require fewer sick days and are more likely to remain engaged in their role at work.
Here are a few strategies we can use to combat stress and create more balance in our lives:
Prioritizing helps us feel a sense of accomplishment and control. Research shows that the more control we have over our work, the less stressed we tend to feel.
Divide big projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. Complete the first step before moving on to the next and reward yourself with a short break upon completion.
Flex schedules and working remotely are becoming more common in today’s business world, and many companies are drafting work-life policies. Research shows that employees who have flex time are more productive and loyal to their employers. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Taking a five-minute break at work isn’t only acceptable, it’s often encouraged by many employers. Briefly walking away from a project will help provide mental clarity and improve your ability to cope with stress and make helpful decisions when you jump back into the process. Remember, you are human and doing the best you can!
Listen to your favorite music at work to foster concentration, reduce stress and anxiety, and stimulate creativity. Over 30 years of research shows benefits of listening to music in everyday life, including lowered blood pressure and increased sense of connection.
Be honest with colleagues or your boss when you have a problem to address. Chances are, you’re not alone. Brainstorm with others to suggest practical options and solutions. Talk to your manager and team about routine time-consuming tasks and create a plan to expedite the process if possible. The less time you spend doing busy work or stressing about difficult tasks, the more time you can spend productively, or with friends or family.
Looking at a situation from someone else’s point of view can also reduce your stress. In conflict, either reconsider your strategy or stand your ground, calmly and rationally. Make space for other opinions and allow for compromise. Take space if necessary to manage emotions. You’ll be better equipped to handle the problem constructively later.
The same technology that makes it so easy for workers to do their jobs flexibly can also burn us out if we don’t take adequate time to disconnect.
Make sure duties at home are distributed fairly with clear expectations. Consider dividing responsibilities based on developmental levels and strengths.
If you feel overwhelmed just looking at your calendar, learn and practice saying ”no.” Explore your personal boundaries with social activities and self-care.
Connecting with friends and family can be important to your success at home—and at work—and can improve your overall health. People with stronger social support systems have more aggressive immune responses to illnesses than those who lack these communities.
Many organizations offer resources through an EAP, which can save you time by providing assistance on issues like locating a daycare center, caretaking for an elderly parent, and providing referrals to mental health and other wellness services.
Consistent exercise reduces stress, depression and anxiety symptoms, and enables people to better cope with adversity, according to researchers. Regular activity will boost your immune system as well. Find movement you enjoy and schedule time in your calendar.
Relying on alcohol or drugs to cope with stress will likely lead to more problems. Fueling your body with vitamins, nutrients and adequate sleep will improve your stress tolerance and ability to manage emotions, concentration, and communication.
You deserve health and happiness. If you are experiencing chronic stress, it may be time to seek help from a licensed mental health professional. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness—taking care of yourself is a sign of strength.