No matter what your job is, work can be stressful. But what if it gets so stressful you feel like you have no time to relax? You end up bringing piles of work home with you, and it starts to cut into the time you should be spending on yourself or with your friends and family.
Related: 7 Ways a Journal Can Help Your Career
Finding a good work-life balance can be tough, especially in the digital age when it’s so easy for your work to follow you home. Here are five tips to help you in your pursuit to a healthy work-life balance:
1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
As if diet and exercise didn’t already affect our physical health enough, these factors have a huge impact on your mental health, as well. By implementing a regular workout schedule and eating healthy food, you can boost your ability to manage stress. And if you’re less stressed, you’re more equipped to leave that stress at the office.
Unfortunately, when people are stressed, they tend to want to eat greasy, fatty comfort foods like pizza and ice cream. Try to resist this as much as possible, because these foods only make you feel lethargic and less able to deal with stress. Steer clear of high-fat foods, caffeine and sugar and opt for high-fiber, carbohydrate-rich foods like sweet potatoes, vegetables and rice. Fruits and vegetables are always a good choice, and in this case, they’ll help fight stress by boosting your immune system and filling your body with antioxidants.
When it comes to exercise, the most important thing is to find an activity you enjoy. If you hate to run, don’t run. Try Zumba, kickboxing, swimming or playing a co-ed sport — there are tons of ways to get some exercise without torturing yourself. You might even have some fun while decreasing your stress levels and increasing your productivity, thus making it easier to leave that slightly smaller pile of work at the office.
2. Take breaks throughout the day
Just as athletes take breaks throughout a game, working people should be taking breaks throughout their workdays. One study found that taking periodic breaks throughout the day can lead to higher job satisfaction, reduced emotional exhaustion and an overall greater effort from employees to go above and beyond.
Though the frequency and length of breaks should vary from person to person based on preference and feasibility, the study suggests employees at least try to take a brief break early in the day. Morning breaks can leave you feeling more energized, motivated and focused. They can even help reduce headaches, eyestrain and lower back pain.
Related: 8 Ways Your Hobbies Can Help You Get a Job
In short, taking breaks keeps your stress at a manageable level while you’re at work, allowing you to go home feeling accomplished and calm, rather than frustrated and exhausted.
3. Organize your time
The first step to organizing your time is setting aside time to organize your time. Taking 10 to 20 minutes at the beginning of the day to look over your tasks and set goals for the day can drastically increase your productivity.
It’s also crucial to designate specific hours of the day as your “working hours.” The addition of technology has made it even harder for some people to leave work at work — it’s difficult to enforce office hours with bosses, co-workers and clients calling and emailing you well into the evening. However, setting boundaries on your time is one of the most basic tips to establish a proper work-life balance.
Make a list of the things that are important to you and decide how much time you want to spend on them each week. These could include hanging out with your family, playing an instrument, reading, learning a new skill, practicing a hobby or just kicking back and watching a movie. No matter what the activity is, make sure to have some “me time” planned into your week.
4. Set up “tomorrow you” for success
Along with organizing your time at the beginning of the workday, it’s also important to carve out time at the end of the day to think about the next day’s priorities. This will save you from the morning scramble of trying to remember what you’re supposed to be working on.
Take another 10-20 minutes at the end of the day to write your future self a note about what you did that day, where you left off and what tasks you need to get started on in the morning. This method will allow you to streamline your work and maintain a smooth flow from day to day. It also prevents you from obsessing over which tasks you need to tackle the next day — you can relax, knowing it’s already taken care of.
5. Embrace your commute
Commuting is one of the leading causes of stress in working people. One Swedish study found that couples where one partner commutes at least 45 minutes have a 40 percent higher chance of getting divorced. How you spend your commute influences your productivity during the day, and your attitude when you get home.
Related: 11 Tips to Negotiate Like a Pro
Try using your morning commute as a time for meditation, reflection and breathing exercises. Practicing these skills can help you remain calm and focused throughout the day. On your way home, concentrate on unwinding and celebrating that you’re on your way home. You may feel like you need to rush to get home and relax, but why wait? Do whatever makes you feel stress-free — roll down the windows and blast some music, or embrace the beautiful sound of silence after a trying day.
Finding a balance between work and life can be challenging and stressful. But, in addition to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and making the most of your commute, you can manage this stress easier by taking breaks throughout the day, organizing your time and setting yourself up for success.