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Work-life balance prevents burnout

Every one of us has a fixed amount of energy to use each day. How we distribute this energy between the main components of our life (e.g. work, rest , family and leisure) influences our work-life balance.

We all have a fuel tank with limited fuel

Every one of us has a fixed amount of energy to use each day. How we distribute this energy between the main components of our life (e.g. work, rest , family and leisure) influences our work-life balance.

If we put too much energy into work, too little energy into rest, family and leisure, and if we do it for too long, our well-being will suffer. Our health suffers, and our family and relationships suffer. We may be on the road to Burnout!

Balance involves giving appropriate amounts of attention/time/energy to the important aspects of our life and often this needs to be flexible in order to deal with life’s natural challenges. Sometimes we need to work a bit harder, and sometimes rest a bit harder.

As we are all different, we will also have different balance needs and we discover this with experience and self reflection.

Recognising burnout and imbalance

Signs of burnout and imbalance include the following and may be either a result of being off-balance or an underlying cause of imbalance:

  • Decreased energy, motivation, flexibility
  • Increased stress, frustration, worry
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Getting overly involved in work
  • Negative attitude towards work, people or self
  • Changes in general health and performance
  • Lifestyle habits – increased smoking, drugs, caffeine, fast foods and reduced activity

Over time, these reactions can impact on the health of our heart and immune system leading to an increased risk of burnout and lifestyle diseases (i.e. heart disease, obesity, ulcers, diabetes, and some cancers).

Components of balance

  • Personal development – identity, self esteem, learning and stimulation
  • Social – family, friends, groups, teams
  • Work – paid, voluntary, home duties, study
  • Spiritual – values, beliefs, religion, meaning
  • Heart and mind – managing emotions and thinking: stress, worry, joy etc
  • Physical – exercise, sport, activity, diet, health
  • Relaxation – leisure, rest

Benefits of balance

A lifestyle that balances these activities will increase our personal health and well-being via the following avenues:

  • Reduces stress and prevents burnout
  • Stimulates the immune system and promotes recovery from illness
  • Increases sense of happiness and well-being
  • Provides perspective
  • Increases physical health, energy and motivation
  • Increases self esteem, self development, productivity and flexibility
  • Provides social support and connectedness

Balance blockers

Balance is often blocked by the following, all of which can be managed with effort and assistance:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Running out of time and energy
  • The load on our plate (and responsibilities)
  • Lacking assertive time management skills
  • High levels of stress or illness
  • Thinking negativity, e.g. ‘I can’t say no’
  • Unaware that there is imbalance – can’t see it
  • Life happens – unexpected critical events

Tips for getting balanced

  • Make balance a priority and commit to it – make it a change that you want!
  • Make time to reflect on your life and balance needs
  • Make note of where your energy is going (actual balance) and decide on how you would like your life to be (ideal balance)
  • Make plans to achieve balance by setting reasonable goals and removing obstacles
  • Start small by adding enjoyable activities back into your day or week and reward yourself for gains made
  • Stay focused and motivated by getting others involved in your attempts to balance and by making dates, reminders and other changes to your routine that support your plans

Tips for work (paid voluntary, home duties, study)

  • Know your role and responsibilities – expectations
  • Accept your limits (time, energy, skills) as a natural part of working life
  • Take proper breaks to relax or energise
  • Manage your workload by prioritising, and when appropriate, by seeking assistance or delegating
  • Slow down – your inbox will never by empty
  • Talk to your colleagues – shared problem solving brings other options and support
  • Seek good advice and ‘perspective’ by asking helpful questions such as – ‘what is the best step to take here?’
  • Learn to say no to things that are not ‘essential’
  • Cultivate a sense of humour, creativity and fun at work (and use appropriately – politically correct)
  • Think ahead and set achievable goals
  • Maintain your interest and curiosity in your work and others; stay fresh by looking towards what could be learnt or done differently
  • Focus on the positive aspects of your work and personal life. Record and remember these often.
  • Learn to accept what you cannot change; take positive steps to change what you can

(Identify, self-esteem, learning)

Personal development

  • Make time for yourself to reflect on your achievements, strengths, goals etc.
  • Take up a new hobby or interest
  • Try a short course at uni or TAFE
  • Talk about people, the world and your thoughts on life
  • Listen to what others have to say

Heart and mind

  • Accept that you will experience a full range of emotion and learn how to express this appropriately
  • Get to know your personal signs of stress
  • Prevent stress from creeping up – develop a personal daily/weekly plan/habit to stress management
  • Learn how to use breathing and other techniques to relax (bath, massage, read, music, hobbies)
  • Control negative thinking (worry) by rationally reviewing each situation. Ask yourself, ‘What would I be telling a friend in this situation to help them?’
  • Take one situation at a time – sit down and problem solve the best approach and plan positive and assertive approaches to interpersonal stressors
  • Be reasonable – practice what you preach; take good advice; check if your attitude is helping or hindering you; look at the glass half full versus half empty
  • Nurture positivity – read positive literature, share something positive, watch positive movies

Tips for physical wellbeing

  • Regular activity and exercise (walk, swim, ride, sports) improve general and heart health, increase energy and concentration
  • A healthy, balanced diet provides excellent stress buffering. The Heart Foundation recommends following the Kellogg’s cereal box healthy eating pyramid!
  • Reduce your intake of caffeine/nicotine/alcohol/drugs
  • See your GP, dietician, exercise physiologist etc.

Tips for relaxation

  • Make a list of pleasant activities and do more of them – e.g. movies, reading, music, massage, time with pets
  • Make time for rest and ensure a healthy sleep pattern
  • Try to reduce intensity – don’t book yourself full!

Tips for your social self

  • Spend time with children, family, friends and people you like and get involved with social activities regularly
  • Add more fun and play to your life – games and parties
  • Build a support network in your friends and family for talking and sharing regularly – reduce isolation

Tips for your spiritual side

  • Take time to clarify and discuss your values, beliefs and the meaning of life!
  • Discover more of you; try new/different things, try meditation, church, interest groups, adventures etc
  • Make efforts to see and develop your personal ‘bigger picture’ of life

Where to from here?

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