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  • Writer's picturekirstiewright

Mental Health: The importance of work-life balance

Updated: Jan 4

Having worked with many professionals who work in the creative industry, I understand the importance of putting in long hours to ensure deadlines are met, a good service is provided, and high-quality work is created. However, a poor work-life balance can have a negative impact on your mental health. Working in the creative industry often involves long hours that can be away from home and therefore it can be challenging to prioritize a healthy work-life balance. However having a healthy work-life balance is essential for maintaining mental health and overall well-being. In this article, I will discuss the importance of work-life balance, the benefits of incorporating work-life balance into your routine and offer tips for maintaining a good work-life balance.


What is a Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is a term that we hear about a lot, but what does it really mean? Work-life balance is finding a balance between your work and the other aspects of your life. It means having time to do the work you are passionate about and prioritizing your wellbeing, social networks, hobbies and values outside of work. It essentially means finding a balance between all the things you care about.


Why bother to find work-life balance?

In today’s world with technology at our fingertips and many of us doing at least some work from home, the lines can become very blurred between work and home. The benefits of having a work-life balance have been found to be extensive. Studies show that people who make time to develop a work-life balance report higher level of happiness, are healthier, more likely to reach their goals, more likely to feel productive and report satisfaction in their relationships. A healthy work-life balance is also linked to less instances of sickness and people feeling more engaged in their work. With many people in the creative industries being freelance sickness often means loss of work and money, so a healthy work-life balance could save you money!





Signs of a Poor Work-Life Balance

It's easy to fall into a poor work-life balance and most of us have found ourselves in this position at some point, I know I definitely have! This can be especially true when you're passionate about your work and the demands of the creative industries don't make this an easy task. However, it's key to notice the signs of an imbalanced work-life balance so that you can take steps to get the balance that works best for you. Some signs that our work-life balance isn’t working for us are:


  • Feeling constantly stressed

  • Tension in your body

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Not having time for personal relationships

  • Feeling constantly tired

  • Irritability

  • Difficulty concentrating


What can I do to gain more of a work life balance?

On the surface this may seem like an impossible task. When we have deadlines that frequently change, and we feel compelled to take work on because we don’t know when the next pay check is coming, it can be hard to know how we can start to gain a healthy work life balance even if we know this may be helpful to us. Below is a guide to what steps we can take towards a work-life balance.


Step 1:

One of the first things we can do is stop, just for 10 minutes and think about what are the things you care most about in life? This is very individual for each person and can include work, family, creativity, nature, personal growth, fitness, health, conservation, adventure… to name a few.


Step 2:

Once you have thought about the things you care about most in life write the top 5 things you care about down.


Step 3:

Think about whether you are giving enough time to the things you care about most.

Why do this? We are often swept up in a to do list that is never ending and end up in a reactive cycle of doing things without thinking about 'am I spending time on the things we care about most?' We could forever be doing things and we need to really think about are we are using our time wisely on the things we care about most?


Step 4:

Next to the things you care about most write one action you could do in the next week for each of the 5 areas to ensure you are spending time on each aspect you care about. The action doesn’t have to be time consuming, an example could be texting a friend. Ensure each action is realistic in the timeframe you have.


Step 5:

Plan a time that you can do each of those actions in the next week.

This will ensure that even if you continue to be busy you are at least busy doing the things you care about and are getting a balance between the things you care about. It ensures you are at least choosing what you do with your time rather than reacting to the world around you.


Step 6:

Think about how you can ensure you are incorporating what you care about into an every day week and how this can be maintained in a healthy way long-term. Then take steps towards this.


Step 7:

Set reviews. Set time every couple of months to review if your work-life balance is working for you. The things you care about may change over time and what once added to your lie may no longer do so. A review helps catch this so you can change it for something you do care about.





An alternative method


Step 1:

Another way of finding out if what you spend your time on is serving you and whether you truly are getting a work-life balance is noting down the things you do on an average day and include everything e.g. watching tv, scrolling on your phone and having breakfast.


Step 2:

Then mark whether each activity adds to your wellbeing is neutral or takes away from your wellbeing. You will then be able to see whether there are things that take away from your wellbeing that you could spend less time on and replace with things you care about.


Top Tip

A work-life balance may include doing things you care about but in smaller chunks to fit them in e.g exercising for 10 minutes rather than an hour.


Having gone through how you can find a work life balance that fits you below are some general tips that might help along the way:


  • Make time for self-care: I am sure you have heard this one before but try to incorporate at least 10 minutes of self care into your day, whether this is a short meditation, or having a hot drink focusing on what it feels like to have a hot drink (the temperature and taste) rather than the next thing on your to do list.

  • Set boundaries: Think about what boundaries you want between your work and home life and stick to them, this could be not checking emails at certain times or not taking calls on your birthday etc.

  • Take breaks: Take regular breaks throughout the day even if this is standing up and going in a different room.

  • Delegate tasks: If you can give tasks to others to free up time.

  • Set realistic goals: Set realistic goals and deadlines for yourself and think about how much work realistically you can take on.

  • Connect: We know that connection is important for our wellbeing so be sure to connect to the people you care about even if it’s a 10 minute phone call to someone you care about, asking how their day has been and really listening to the reply.

  • Prioritize sleep: this will ensure your physical wellbeing.

  • Downtime: Plan things to look forward to.

  • Use a diary: In your diary plan your work and also things you want to do outside work, schedule them in so you have a balanced week before you start the week.

  • Unplug: Ensure you have time without your devices. 15 years ago when we went out to get a bite to eat we would have had time on the journey there, in the queue and on the way back to process the day so far, we might have seen someone we know or just generally be taking in the world around us. Now we are often on our phones, listening to a podcast or checking emails whilst getting something to eat. This does not give us a chance to switch off or give our minds a chance to stop being bombarded with information.




There was probably a reason you chose to work in the creative industries and we can use our creativity to help manage our wellbeing and provide balance within our week.


Creative Outlets to Balance Work and Mental Health

Adding creative outlets to our week can help ensure a work-life balance. This could look like:

  • Doing a hobby and making time for it

  • Write for fun

  • Listen to music

  • Create something with your kids

  • Dance

  • Colouring

  • Draw and paint

  • Craft

Can a work- life balance enhance creativity?

Having a work-life balance can not only have the benefits that we have already talked about but it can enhance creativity. This occurs because when we feel less stressed we are more able to focus, more ideas tend to flow and we are more productive.


Conclusion

Ensuring that we have a work-life balance even when we work long hours is key to maintain our overall wellbeing. As someone working in the creative industry, it can be challenging to find the right balance between your work and personal life. However, by thinking about what you truly care about, ensuring you are spending time on each one and not just being busy with things that you don’t care about, prioritizing self-care, setting boundaries, and incorporating creative outlets into your routine, you can find a healthy balance that works for you. Remember, taking care of you helps you to do your best work and enjoy life to its fullest. If you would like mental health support from therapists who are fully qualified and understand the creative industry click here for more details.

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