Don’t put your wellbeing on hold

Q:  I feel I am terrible at managing my work-life balance. It might be that I’m just exhausted being so close to the end of the year, and also that work and my personal life have been extremely busy pretty much all year. I feel stuck and not sure how to make more time for me with all these competing demands.

A: A healthy work-life balance is important for preventing or managing burnout, but it seems like one of those things that we find so difficult to achieve.

I would start by looking at the different domains of your life and see where you can make small changes after considering what work-life balance could look like for you.

What would you be doing if you could make more time for you? List these things — some may be small snippets of time to read a book or join a group activity in line with your interests. Some may be things you can do at home, whereas others require effort. We often say we don’t have the time to do these things for us. But you can’t afford not to make yourself a priority. If something is that important, you will schedule “me time” somewhere. For some of us, it means we must wake up earlier in the day to get everything done. If you have children, consider whether you can get someone to occasionally care for them, perhaps a service provider or friend, so you can make time for yourself. Remember, things will stay the same if you don’t make some changes — which is not what you want.

With work — review your workload with your supervisor — is it achievable? Do you have access to flexible work arrangements in terms of start and finish times or working from home? Are you in a “family friendly workplace”? You might even ask yourself if you're in the right job and working the hours you would like? You may not have control over your workload, but is there something you can do differently?

Do you schedule time off just for you? Use your annual leave? Many of us mostly take annual leave because we have something that needs to be done in our personal life. Often it is for holidays with our families/children, but what about time off just for you? To do only what you want to do? Or some of us barely take annual leave, and it just sits there, building up. We might tell ourselves that work is too busy to take time off but think about the potential consequences of burning out. Don’t wait for a crisis to make time to look after you.

Have something to look forward to — make plans and set goals: small goals, (personal and work-related) such as having a day off for yourself; as well as big goals, such as planning a trip. Plan; and then do it. Imagine just living life in automatic pilot mode: waking up every day, going to work, coming home, cooking dinner, feeding people, bed, wake up, and do it all again. And again. And again, with no relief in sight. Although this is life for many of us most of the time; having things to look forward to can break up the monotony of everyday life.

As you can see, my suggestions require effort. It’s not easy so approach this with one small step at a time and one small goal at a time. Life may still be stressful, but you will feel more balanced by making time for you, as well as everything and everyone else. It’s so worth it, so don’t put your wellbeing on hold. You are too important. What small thing could you start doing, or change, starting tomorrow?

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Tanya Russell

Tanya Russell is CatholicCare's Assistant Director and a registered psychologist.

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