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Striking the Balance Between Working and Living

Workaholic: A term used to describe those bound to their work with a relentless rope. According to a Gallup survey from 2014, more than 50% of American full-time workers went to work beyond the well-known 9-to-5. Fifty-nine percent reported working beyond the 40-hour workweek and well into a tiresome 50- or 60-hour workweek.

With increasing workloads, though, comes increasing stress. Stress can come as a result from the specific nature of the work, the quantitative workload itself or the toll the hours spent at the workplace take on other aspects of an employee’s life. One aspect of life that could be dramatically affected by the increased time spent at work is one’s personal time.

Familial and other personal relationships could endure the pressure of burning the midnight oil at your workplace. “Forty-six percent of working Americans said their job demands interfered with their family life ‘sometimes or often,’ a figure that increased from 41% in 2002,” according to the White House report.

The gradual rise of the work-life imbalance could be a result of fewer workers in America’s employee pool after the recession, thus causing the remaining workers to take on heavier loads or prolonged work hours. No matter the cause, though, it’s evident that work-related stress is increasingly creeping into the personal lives of employees nationwide. Nearly 20% of full-time employees said they go as far as spending “more than 20 hours per week working outside of the office on their personal time.”

With family and personal time being so deeply cut into by egregiously demanding working hours, how does one cope with the resulting stress? Stress, in itself, is an unavoidable part of living. Whether it’s good or bad stress, stress exists in many parts of one’s day-to-day: Familial and personal relationships, education and even hobbies can result in both good and bad stress, healthy and unhealthy.

When work creeps too far into one’s personal life, though, it’s imperative that steps are taken to maintain a balance. Once an imbalance between one’s working and personal lives is struck, damage can be done. A deeply skewed work-life balance can “impair personal health, jeopardize safety and increase stress,” states the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).

Although work and personal worlds might seem too deeply intertwined in many instances, there are ways to build a crucial wall between the two.

Set small goals.

When starting your journey to living a personal life more independent of your work life, it’s wise to start small. If you choose to quit overworking cold turkey, chances are you won’t be able to stick to those initial goals. For example, initially choosing to slice your working hours in half might prove simply unrealistic. Start small by decreasing your working hours a certain percentage — say 5% — or by an hour or two. After a few weeks of working decreased hours, see if it’s feasible to work even less than that, if even by an additional hour or two.

Bite-sized goals to weed your work life out of your personal life are more likely to result in the desired equilibrium between the two worlds. If your initial goals are too lofty, the less possible they might be to achieve, which could only add more stress into your life.


Smartphones, laptops and tablets make it possible for your work to be accessible nearly any time of the day. Employers or coworkers can access you by calls, texts or emails during your days off or during personal schedule.

By disconnecting from your electronic sidekicks, you minimize the ability for work to interfere with your set personal time. If you’re on vacation with your family or even just sitting down to your evening meal, switch off your phones and tablets, and slip the laptops away: Make your personal time your priority.

Stop wasting time.

Similarly to unplugging electronics, try simply unplugging from time-wasting activities. The more time wasted on things you don’t truly value, the more you could feel like you aren’t getting the most from your personal life. Feeling more fulfilled in your personal life will help add some value and weight to your personal time, which could help make you feel more balanced between work and personal time.

Spending your time volunteering or finishing put-off tasks will make you feel more accomplished than if you were to spend the same amount of time mindlessly surfing the web. By learning new hobbies or developing new relationships, your personal life could take on a heftier, more qualitative value.

Make yourself a priority.

The Mayo Clinic suggests fulfilling your basic needs in the best way possible. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly are all actions you can take to regain yourself. These activities can remedy the fatigue, exhaustion or sadness you could feel as a result of working too much and living your personal life too little.

Exercising will also enhance your personal stamina and release feel-good endorphins. Acting as an incredible stress reliever, exercise also helps wipe away the stress of the day. By gaining control of your well-being you may also feel more in control of your personal life and less overwhelmed by your work life overall

Time to act.

Although more and more full-time employees are feeling a growing sense of work-life imbalance, it isn’t too late to regain control. By taking some or all of the steps listed above to help gain control of your personal life, your work life may become less overwhelming and stressful. Allowing yourself to take your own time is a big step and can seem difficult to do. As always, though, you aren’t alone in your journey. If you need someone to help you strike a balance between work and your personal life, Choices Psychotherapy is always here to listen and help.