These days everybody works longer hours and crams in twice as much work, so it seems like finding the right balance between work and relaxation can be a challenge.
Finding a balance between work and relaxation is essential to maintain a healthy and happy life. Just by knowing when to take a break from work and how to spend your downtime – without feeling guilty about not doing anything, can do wonders in giving your life balance and energy.
Rest and relaxation are valuable tools. For example, creating rituals that ensure a good night’s sleep are vital as proper sleep leads to more productive days or having fun on holiday leads to a fresher mind. It may sound challenging, but it can be achieved.
Why is it so difficult to unwind?
Technology is making it easier to access work from anywhere, making it hard to switch off and blurring the boundaries between work time and personal time. Some people thrive on working non-stop, late nights and weekends, but it will only be a matter of time before it takes a toll on their health, both mentally and physically.
Even when we are not working, we are always on the go. Running our next errand, attending our next social event, caring for our families and working on projects. It seems we have a never-ending to-do list that can leave us tired, overwhelmed and at risk of burnout.
The weekend is an excellent time to recharge your batteries, unwind and enjoy some personal downtime. Downtime can mean different things to people, but whatever you do, the focus is the same; find a way to feel relaxed and rejuvenated come Monday morning.
Learn to disconnect
But before we start to relax, we need to disconnect from work, whether it’s a weeknight or a weekend, being available 24/7 is not likely to help us relax after a long day, so setting expectations can be a positive move.
Set an Out of Office Message – before you leave the office on Friday, set your out of office message to inform people that you will have limited access to email and unless it’s an emergency, will respond on Monday. This information will let them know not to expect a response right away so you can comfortably shut down.
Designate an Email Time Slot - work should be done at the office (or during office hours), not at home. Bringing your work home will only create unwanted stress. On the other hand, if you must work from home, it is essential to designate specific working hours so that you don’t end up working 24/7 and exhausting yourself. I recommend the finding 30 minutes in the morning to check for any urgent messages, leaving you the rest of your day free.
Don’t worry, and no one expects you to be a zen master overnight. Once you successfully disconnect from work, you can start relaxing. Take baby steps at first, and learn to start letting go.
How to find a balance between work and relaxation
1. Start your day right
Starting your day right means being relaxed and not rushing around with a hectic routine. You can successfully do this by having a good night’s sleep, sit down to a healthy breakfast, take a shower and preferably get some exercise, or meditate.
Don’t be tempted to look at your phone or check for messages in the first 30 minutes of waking as specific messages can quickly ruin your mood. Instead, make sure you have fully relaxed into your routine before you take a peek at your day ahead. When you are ready, spend 5-10 minutes planning your day, prioritising activities and scheduling in some well-being breaks.
Make sure to get up an hour earlier so that you’ll be able to enjoy your new morning rituals.
2. ‘Me’ time is important
A good way to find a balance between work and relaxation is to take a break (see planning your day in note 1), even if it’s as little as 10 minutes. Use this free time to relax and do something you enjoy – it may be time spent watching your favourite TV show, reading a book, stretching at your desk or taking a walk in the fresh air.
Remember, spending quality time for yourself is crucial for your overall wellbeing. This time spent relaxing can make you feel rested, recharged and motivated to do better at whatever job is waiting for you, or give you the energy needed to spend with loved ones.
3. Something to look forward to
Make time for a date – it can be a romantic date or a get together with friends or family. Going out with people you love can help you relieve stress. Call your parents, siblings or your friends for a night out, a picnic in the local park, or arrange a romantic dinner with your partner. This 'date' will not only give you something fun to look forward to but also the opportunity to develop better relationships and ultimately find a balance between work and relaxation.
If you have a little more time, plan a short getaway to a nearby destination or just leave the house. Go to the beach, the movies, visit a local museum or take a scenic drive. The key is to take a break from your usual routine and create a different weekend experience away from work and technology.
4. A stress-free environment
Your home and your personal workspace should be a place where you can always feel at ease, calm and happy. If you are a nature-lover, add more plants into your home or office. Or put your favourite things in your work area such as photographs, inspirational postcards, funky stationery or a personalised mouse mat.
To protect your posture and circadian rhythms, make sure to have the right type of chair while working in front of your computer, as well as the right lighting and proper ventilation. A desk lamp, especially one with a daylight bulb, has the bonus of keeping you awake in the winter evenings.
5. Move your body
From hiking to dancing there is an endless amount of fun activities that reduce stress and can help you feel relaxed; find the right one that fits your style.
No matter how busy you are, regular exercise can relieve stress and keep your physical and mental health in shape. Jogging or running regularly can provide significant health benefits, but you don’t have to engage in strenuous workouts, just having an active lifestyle is enough.
In fact, just walking around the neighbourhood and breathing in the fresh air can be a great way to achieve a balance between work and relaxation. Take a quick walk without any devices and work on shifting your focus to the present moment. Practice mindfulness and try to forget the tasks and projects for the upcoming week. Gather your thoughts, breathe and enjoy the day.
6. Eat healthily
Lunch breaks and coffee breaks shouldn’t be just about eating or drinking coffee. Use this free time to relax, chat with colleagues, read a book, or take a walk, so that you’ll have renewed energy to go back to work.
Never skip meals. No matter how busy you are, take time to eat and fuel your body correctly. You don’t need to follow some strict diet from a nutrition expert – eating healthy (and in moderation) is the key. Stress inhibits the digestive system, so sitting down and eating slowly can help you digest your food better.
7. Relaxation exercises
Stress is unavoidable, and some stress is actually good for us, but too much can play havoc with your mind and body. You can easily combat stress by doing some relaxation techniques. Listen to songs that make you feel relaxed or songs that simply get you in the mood to have fun. A bonus of this is that some studies prove that playing music or hearing certain genres actually boosts brain power.
Sleeping or taking a nap is a great way to relax, but there are other ways that you can do to relax too – try some gentle yoga poses, stretching, dancing or even just doing some breathing exercises
Workaholics need to remember that being overworked can stress you out and cause various health risks so finding a balance between work and relaxation is essential to attain optimal health and well-being.
Creating time for family, friends and yourself is important. You don’t need to make drastic changes to your life to achieve this balance either – little tweaks here and there can give you the breaks and the refreshment that your body craves, and balance between work and relaxation.
I have never heard of anyone looking back on their life and wishing they had spent more time at the office. So, unchain yourself from your desk, put down your smartphone and take time to stop and live in the moment.
Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.