Work/life balance and stress management

Work-life balance

Work-life balance is adjusting your day-to-day activities to achieve a sense of balance between work life and personal life. Some benefits of a healthy work-life balance include:

  • reduced stress levels, at work and at home
  • greater focus and concentration
  • higher levels of job satisfaction
  • the opportunity to participate more fully in family and social life
  • more time to pursue personal goals and hobbies
  • improved health.

How to maintain good work-life balance?

Balancing the demands of a busy lifestyle is not an easy thing to do, but is best managed by regularly reviewing and assessing your priorities.

Here are a few ideas to help you strike a good work-life balance:

  • Set goals around what you value highly
  • Manage your time effectively—review job activities, priorities and success factors
  • Create a boundary between balancing work and personal time-leave work at work where possible
  • Build resilience and have a positive attitude
  • Avoid stress, mental exhaustion and burnout—fatigue affects your ability to work productively
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle—look after yourself, eat well, sleep well and set aside a little time to exercise or pursue an activity that you enjoy
  • Enlist a good support system—learn to delegate, we all need a little help sometimes
  • Enjoy your work.

What is stress?

Everyone experiences stress at some stage in their life. It is a way for us to know that something in our life is causing us concern and is affecting how we are thinking and feeling.

Stress is not always bad. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best, but when you are constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price.

Signs and symptoms of stress

  • Mental
    • Trouble thinking clearly
    • Memory problems
    • Can’t concentrate
    • Low attention span
    • Poor judgement
    • Anxious or racing thoughts
    • Constant worrying
  • Emotional
    • Moodiness
    • Easily upset or hurt
    • Irritability or short temper
    • Agitation, unable to relax or keep still
    • Feeling overwhelmed
    • Sense of loneliness and isolation
    • Depression or general unhappiness
  • Physical
    • Tightness in muscles
    • Aches and pains
    • Headaches, trembling, sweating
    • Nausea, dizziness
    • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
    • Loss of appetite
    • Lack of sleep, dreams, nightmares
  • Behavioural
    • Eating more or less
    • Sleeping too much or too little
    • Isolating yourself from others
    • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
    • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
    • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing).

These signs and symptoms of stress can also be caused by other psychological and medical problems. If you experience any of these, it is important to see your doctor—as they can help you determine whether or not your symptoms are stress-related.

Causes of stress

The situations and pressures that cause stress are known as stressors. There are 2 types of stressors:

  • external (where outside forces act on us)
  • internal (self-generated, we have some control over it).

External causes of stress

  • Major life changes
  • Work
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Financial problems
  • Being too busy
  • Children and family.

Internal causes of stress (self-generated)

  • Inability to accept uncertainty
  • Doubt
  • Negative self-talk
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Perfectionism
  • Lack of assertiveness.

How to manage stress

Managing stress is about making a plan to be able to cope effectively with daily pressures. The ultimate goal is to strike a balance between life, work, relationships, relaxation and fun. By doing this you are more able to deal with daily stress triggers and meet these challenges head on.

Some strategies that can help you look after your mind and body, and in turn help you to better control behaviours that result from too much stress include:

Your body

  • Know your stress triggers
  • Recognise early warning signs and symptoms and act on them to reduce stress
  • Practise relaxation techniques or meditation
  • Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly—aim for at least 30 minutes every day
  • Get enough sleep—aim for around 8 hours every night.

Your thinking

  • Try to worry less about things you can’t control, and make plans for dealing with the things you can control
  • Set small, manageable and achievable goals
  • Apply problem-solving techniques—identifying the problem, clarifying its nature and map out options for dealing with it
  • Choose to have a positive attitude
  • Think positively about yourself and your achievements
  • Take time out to visualise a calm and peaceful place
  • Compete against yourself, not those around you and aim for your personal best
  • Develop, keep and use your sense of humour.

Your behaviours

  • Plan and organise ahead to allow enough time to get tasks done
  • Use 'to do' lists and set priorities to help you achieve your goals
  • Be open and honest with people, rather than hiding your thoughts and feelings
  • Seek guidance and support when you are feeling stressed
  • Create a balanced lifestyle for yourself and allow time for recreation and relaxation
  • Reward yourself when you reach your achievements and goals
  • Limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine and other drugs.