finding balance, stressful career

Creating Balance with a Demanding Career

I get the struggle.  It's hard to find balance in life when you have a demanding career.  For me, it's fine line between being bored and being burned out.  Too little work and I'm feeling restless and unfulfilled.  Too much work and I'm stressed, more irritable, and not able to be as present as I need to be for the work I'm doing - and not able to as easily enjoy my down time.  When you have an emotionally or mentally taxing career, the lines between work and personal life can easily become blurred.  You take work home with you, find yourself working extra hours, and might even be sorting through the clutter of everything you have to do when what your brain really needs is rest.

As a therapist, finding that balance for me took some trial and error.  I had to learn my limit, set my boundaries, and find ways to create a clear distinction between my role as a helper and the other part of me (the part that just needs to be "off" to rest and recover).  Here are some tips for finding that balance based on what has worked for me.

  1. Start the day off right -  Wake up with enough time to do the things you need to do to fully prepare for the day.  When you're scrambling to get ready and running out the door (or to your virtual office), you're setting yourself up for excess stress right off the bat.
  2. Plan  your day - Get your priorities straight.  Look at  your schedule.  Tidy up a bit. What needs to be done today? What can wait until tomorrow?  When will you start and when will you finish? For me, writing out a to-do list for the day helps me get clear on tasks that need to be done that will make me feel like I had a productive day.  If you can't finish everything, that's okay...and that's what tomorrow's to-do list is for.
  3. Exercise - I'm a strong proponent for a little bit of exercise to start each day.  Whether it's going to the gym, going for a walk, or jogging around the block a few times, exercise helps you reduce stress, burn off anxiety, feel better, and get you in a good mindset for the day ahead.  This should be YOU time.  Listen to a podcast or an audio book.  Whether it's self-help, a good story, or anything else that sparks your interest - putting yourself in a different world than work helps you not to be overly consumed by it when you don't need to be.
  4. Create your time boundaries - This can be difficult depending on how demanding your career is but is also really important.  Set firm time boundaries that you can realistically stick to each day.  There's always more work to be done but there really  needs to be a clear cutoff if at all possible.  Stop checking work emails.  Put down your phone.  Create that boundary between when you're on and when you're off.
  5. Talk about your stressors - Often times it's the case that people keep work stress bottled up.  They think that sharing about their stressors will only put the burden on others.  More often than not, they're surprised to find out that people in their lives who care want to help.  They want to listen.  Therapy can also be a good place to process things that cause stress, to find solutions, and to learn skills that will help with work and general life related stress.
  6. Take breaks - Take a few moments a few times to day to take short breaks.  Stop what you're doing, take a few good deep belly breaths (breathing in to the count of 3, holding for second, and releasing to the count of 5).  Stretch and walk around for a minute before getting back to work.  Take a mid day break.  Eat, hydrate, and take a short nap or even just close your eyes to do a brief 10 minute guided meditation.
  7. Take vacations - If you are employed and get paid time off, take it! You've earned it and it's owed to you.  If you're an entrepreneur, make sure you have a system and a savings account that allows for you to take time off.  Not only do you need the break, but you also need things to look forward to.  Whatever your budget, find a way to take a couple of days off at least every couple of months (in conjunction with a weekend) to really separate yourself from your work and to reset.  Taking vacations gives me an opportunity to reflect on what's important and makes me better prepared to do the work I love when I return.  Travel if you can.  Getting out of your normal day-to-day routine and environment can be really refreshing. 
  8. Don't neglect your needs - As mentioned before, get regular exercise, make sure to stay hydrated, eat foods that give you energy, and try to moderate alcohol, caffeine, and foods that weight you down too much.
  9. Find things you enjoy to do outside of work hours - Make time to spend with family and friends, join a group, play a sport, or learn something new.  Too often, I see that people are all-consumed with their careers and feel that it's the only thing that defines them.  Think about what it is that you're really working for and towards.  When we work we are trading time for some future payoff - but people often regret waiting too long to do the things they really want to do in their lives.  We aren't promised our own health or the health of our loved ones, so try to live the kind of life you want to be living NOW.  
  10. Assess your satisfaction with your current career - Is your career working for you?  Or do you dread starting your day?  I realize that it's not always easy to change careers (and that we sometimes feel trapped due to education limits, financial barriers, and so on), but when you absolutely hate the work you're doing, there's gotta be some kind of plan for getting out and making a change.  Life's too short to spend 40+ hours per week doing something that you loathe.  

Are you struggling to find balance in your life?  Stressed out trying to manage everything that comes along with work and managing a household?  Not sure what to do or where to start?  We can help create a plan and provide some of the skills you need to manage all of the overwhelm that comes along with life.  Call or text 813-515-9602 or send us a message.  We return all calls and emails!

We are a group of therapists in tampa.  Float on Counseling is located on North Dale Mabry Hwy in the Carrollwood area.  We have a team of skilled therapists and can help you figure out the best fit for you. Whether you're looking for work/life balance or therapy for anxiety, depression, or stress, we can help.  

Joel Schmidt, MA, LMHC

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