Boundaries: One Key to Successful Work-Life Balance

Salvi LoPiccolo, LMHC

Work-Life-Balance-1024x708Stressed, fatigued, tired, overwhelmed, exhausted…. All common words many of us use to describe a long day after work. More than any other nation, Americans are quickly running from one activity to the next and leaving little room for ourselves. Everything and everyone around us is a larger priority and just the thought of taking a moment for ourselves becomes laughable. This fast pace and constant focus on others, however, is not a joke. The reality is that constantly putting others’ needs ahead of our own leads to many negative consequences such as burn-out, mental fatigue and emotional exhaustion.

We live in a success-driven society in which we strive to move up quickly by staying late or taking on extra responsibilities. There is no doubt that being hard-working is a desirable quality that employers look for. However, whether at the job or in our lives, top performance and sustainable happiness is about balance. Being able to bring balance to both work and personal life is the key to being successful in everything we do. And one way to maintain balance in your life is to understand and maintain boundaries

Boundaries are guidelines we use for maintaining positive and healthy working relationships. They are clearly established limits that provide us with a sense of control over our lives. Boundaries can be helpful in any part of your life, whether with friends, family, when shopping, or work. Since most of our waking time is spent at work, it is important to recognize boundaries and maintain them.

Here are a few tips on how to apply boundaries in your life and how to stick with them:

Know What You Value

Without truly knowing yourself and what is important to you, you will be unable to know when to draw a line between what you’re okay with and what you’re not okay with. Take time to reflect on yourself and what you are passionate about. For instance, if you enjoy being outdoors be sure to reserve time during the week to do so.

Let Others Know

Once you establish what you value, let others know. This goes for both the people at your work and those outside the workplace. In the workplace, some expectations are explicit and other are not. As example, with today’s technology it’s possible for workers to be constantly connected. Many employees believe that just because a boss or co-worker sends them an email outside of normal working hours that it must be answered right away. The reality, however, may be different.

If answering emails outside of working hours is bothering you it’s helpful to first find out if that is an expected part of the job. If it’s not, then let co-workers and other know that you will not be responding to emails or phone calls outside of business hours.

Address Boundary Violations

Often times instead of dealing with a problem right away we “sweep it under the rug” in hopes the problem will resolve on its own. Unfortunately, that’s not how problem-solving works. What typically happens is multiple problems build up under that same rug until you find yourself tripping over that huge mound you’ve created.

For example, if you find yourself constantly being disrupted at work by another co-worker, ask them if they would be able to set up a time once weekly or daily to check-in to address any concerns.

Stay Consistent and Stick to a Routine

If you know what to expect and when to expect it you are less likely to feel stressed and overwhelmed. Having control increases your self-sufficiency and confidence. One way to stick to a routine is by creating a schedule. This can help with time management, organizational skills, and prioritization. Prioritizing tasks provides you the opportunity to know what you need to get done and what can wait. It also feels great to be able to cross something off of a list! And, working successful through a long to-do list is a great way to boost a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.

As basic as these tips appear to be, they frequently are not employed by most workers. Further, these tips help with both productivity and they can improve your quality of life significantly. Poor work-life balance is detrimental to leading a healthy life. Feelings of stress or being overwhelmed can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and even physical health symptoms.

If you find that you are experiencing any of these symptoms or others, please reach out to Capital EAP. A trained mental health provider can assist you in raising your awareness of what could be the source of your stress, and help you facilitate ways to bring great balance, and happiness, into your life.