We’ve all been there, 6 pm on a Sunday night, tempted to check our work emails to get ahead for Monday morning. Or half-way through a trip away and you find yourself logging in briefly to make sure things are still ticking over whilst you’re away. In an ever-evolving society of instant and remote access at all times, it seems to have become the norm to be constantly be ‘plugged in’ to your job. So in honour of World Mental Health day, we’ve compiled our tips for making sure you get the time off you deserve.
Why a work-life balance is needed
Maintaining a balance between work and your ‘outside work’ life is not only crucial for physical health and relationship reasons, but also for caring for your own mental health. With the ever increasing fast pace of work life, it’s unsurprising that many find it very difficult to leave work at work. Taking a mental health day off is okay. Switching off in the evening is okay. Leaving work on time is okay. Maintaining a work-life balance is important for you to flourish.
You don’t have to take any drastic measures, just subtle changes to your lifestyle to improve productivity, stress levels and your overall mental well-being.
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Step away from your email
Leave your email at work, and if you really must check it at home, set some rules with yourself about when to leave it. Definitely give yourself some time off at the dinner table and set a time in the evening when you can totally switch off and enjoy some down time.
Just say no
Being constantly available can often be your own downfall. Saying yes to other people’s demands and requests may eventually become taken for granted and ultimately end up in you feeling swamped and overloaded. Even if you don’t want to out-rightly say ‘no’, suggest you’ll get back to them once you’ve had time to consult your schedule. You’ll be respected for prioritising your time and workload.
Leave work at work
Making a conscious effort to leave your laptop and work phone at work. Of course, sometimes it’s inevitable when you’ve got a tough deadline to meet the next day. But if nothing is urgent, leave your laptop at work so you’re not tempted to quickly send a few emails or update a spreadsheet. It can wait until the following morning.
Increase productivity levels
You may have heard of ‘work smart not long’ and wondered ‘what on earth does this mean?’. This is all about prioritisation, setting yourself strict time constraints and prioritising your tasks, therefore increasing the quality of work you can produce in a shortened time. You may also find that being content with your time in the office and switching off at home will increase you concentration and maintain your interest in the task at hand.
The association game
Do you remember at school being told to keep doing school work to one area in your house so you were able to switch off once your homework had been done? Well the same theory applies work work. Compartmentalising your space means dedicating particular areas to certain practices, so your brain associates certain spaces with certain routines. For example, your office should be associated with work and not your sofa. If you must bring work home, get into the routine of designating a particular area to work and not taking out of that space.
Create an end of work routine
At the end of your day, make a conscious effort to check your diary, make your to-do list and shut your laptop as the you leave the office. This act of closure will signify an end to the work day. A simple routine like this will indicate to your brain that it’s time to log out of work mode and give yourself a break.
Set some personal rules
Take what you want from this tip, whether that’s ensuring you leave work on time or leaving your work phone at work. Make a rule with yourself that you would otherwise break. This rule doesn’t need to be anything drastic, just enough for you to make a small change.
Becoming more active doesn’t have to mean training for a marathon in your evenings, it can mean anything from choosing the stairs instead of the lift to cycling to work in the morning. A little extra movement with go the full mile when it comes to mental well-being, a small burst of activity can do wonders to clear the mind and ensure you’re actually tired in the evenings, so therefore you’ll sleep better. Even if you take a little lap round the office each hour, you’ll be breaking up your day and stepping away from your computer.
How your workplace can help you
If you find yourself struggling, your first port of call should be your manager. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, contact HR to see if your company run some kind of buddy scheme or talk to someone at work who you can trust. Unfortunately, if you don’t speak up about your workload it may not be flagged and that means that very little can be done about it.
Remember, your mental health comes first and foremost and it is important that you look after you.
If you find yourself struggling with any of the issues we’ve discussed in this post, please visit the following organisations for more information.
Mental Health Foundation help people to thrive through understanding, protecting and sustaining their mental health.
Mind A charity dedicated to raising awareness and providing advice and support for anyone experiencing a mental health problem.
Elefriends An online community ran by mind where you can be yourself, listen share and be heard in a safe place.