Work-life balance seems like one of those mythical concepts that everyone knows about but has never experienced. In this age of hyperconnectivity, we are constantly glued to our devices, answering emails, Googling information, and absorbing news. It can be difficult to ignore a work email if it pops up while you’re scanning Instagram. It’s even harder to stop researching your latest project when you can easily bring your tablet to bed. But for the sake of our mental health and overall well-being, we need to find some kind of balance.

What is work-life balance?

In essence, work-life balance is your ability live your life outside of work. You have the necessary time to handle your professional duties, and you still have time to hit the gym, see a movie, or go on a date. You don’t feel that work rules your life, and you can avoid burnout.

A lack of work-life balance can lead to chronic stress, and this causes a host of issues:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems and disorders
  • Increased occurrences of aches and pains
  • Digestion issues
  • Insomnia
  • Increased risk of depression and anxiety

In short, work-life balance isn’t optional; it’s crucial for your health. But there’s no steadfast rule about this balance. It’s not as simple as leaving the office at 5 and ignoring your email until the next morning when you return. What works for some people may not work for others. You need to identify the balance structure that best suits your lifestyle.

Finding your balance

It’s important to think of work-life balance holistically. Your daily habits matter, but bigger decisions matter too. For example, committing to a 3-month project may radically change your schedule for a limited time. There may be sacrifices you’ll have to make for 3 months that could affect the flow of your life. You have to decide if you can accommodate that and still lead a life that isn’t dominated by work.

Also, everyone’s tolerance for work might be different. You may not have a problem answering an urgent email at 8 p.m. because you understand that it’s part of your job. Or because you leave work at 4 p.m. every day to go for a run.

Find parameters that work for you, and try to avoid generic definitions of work-life balance.

If you’re unsure of how to define your balance, here are a few things to consider:

  • Prioritize your time: Maybe you need to wake up at 5 a.m. to get everything on your list accomplished. Or you need to schedule fun activities on your calendar, so you don’t get stuck at work. Figure out what’s most important and build a schedule that supports it.
  • Create “me” time: Your schedule is filled with work tasks and family tasks. But it can be stressful devoting all your time to others. Don’t forget to take time for yourself, whether it’s 10 minutes of meditation, an afternoon on the beach, or a matinee movie.
  • Be social: Social connectedness is a critical part of maintaining our well-being. Spend time with your friends and loved ones. It will boost your mood and aid your productivity.
  • Manage your workload: Know what you can handle and how long certain tasks will take. Create realistic expectations and make commitments you can stick to. This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed and reduce the amount of time you spend working afterhours.

Work-life balance might be a well-known, universal concept, but its application is very individualized. Take some time to define for it your life and do what it takes to protect your well-being.