Working from home seemed like such a gift in the spring. Tossing in loads of laundry throughout the day and taking breaks to have lunch with the kids or walk the dog were welcome escapes from the computer grind.
But did having your computer at the kitchen table or in your bed make work a bigger part of your life than you intended? Are you taking calls at 8pm and checking emails one last time before you go to sleep?
You got addicted. Lots of us did.
Finding work-life balance was hard enough when you had hours during which you were physically removed from the office. Now that it’s all under one roof, that balance is totally out of whack. So, how do you get back in balance?
Setting boundaries may feel like you’re being insubordinate, but boundaries are as important in work relationships as in personal ones.”
“Setting boundaries may feel like you’re being insubordinate, but boundaries are as important in work relationships as in personal ones,” said Mottsin Thomas, MD, a psychiatrist at bonmente. “Boundaries take the burden of saying no off of you. By establishing a limit, you teach you colleagues how to treat you and what they can expect from you. You also make yourself and your health a priority, which will likely improve your performance in the long run.”
Work can be a subtle creep on your mental health, but it can have dramatic consequences. In an effort to unwind, you may find you’re drinking too much or too often. Poor sleep can negatively affect your mood as much as your productivity. And that unrelenting stress, well, that can lead to anxiety and depression and cause relationships to suffer.
Setting boundaries doesn’t have to be difficult. It simply requires some self reflection and some self respect. Here are some tips to help you get back into balance.
1. Rank your priorities.
It helps to know where to draw the line if you know what your line is. For instance, if a Wednesday night pizza party with your family is the thing that brings you joy each week, don’t let a Friday project deadline steal it from you. If a morning workout is what keeps you sane, RSVP “Unable to Attend” to that 7:30am Zoom meeting. Think about your life and what is most important to you. Figure out where work is on that hierarchy. Knowing what your priorities are will help you draw the boundaries for your life.
2. Create structure.
Creating structure in your day will help you better manage your time and be able to accomplish all that you need to accomplish. If you have a meeting, designate a time frame for it, make an agenda, and stick to it. If you notice a lot of your productivity is interrupted by instant messages or texts, consider scheduling a weekly or daily “check-in” with the source of the distraction. By formalizing a meeting, you’ll bring structure to your interactions as opposed to responding to whims. If you’re working from home, create a structure to limit your hours. Work those hours and then “clock out” — don’t check or reply to emails or texts and resist the urge to work on projects.
3. Say “No.”
You don’t want to risk opportunities for growth, or your job, by saying no to everything, but boundary setting means saying no sometimes. If a work task tries to hijack a life priority, say no. Give yourself permission to say no, and allow a compromise to evolve out of it. Say “no” strategically. For instance, if you’re taking on too much because of guilt or a sense of obligation, talk to your employer about how assuming responsibility for this latest thing could be detrimental to the projects you’re already working on. Make suggestions for other ways it could be done that don’t make it your exclusive burden. Say “no” at home too. If you don’t want to do something — a play date, watching your grandkids, helping your friend fix his car — say “no.” It’s not a dirty word and you’re not rude if you say it.
Unplug all the things that beckon you to work or blur the line between work and life. If television during your work time is affecting your productivity, unplug it. If your cell phone in the evening is interfering with dinner with your family, turn it off. Turning off notifications — all the subtle bells, dings, and whooshes that our devices whisper to seduce us back to them — will ultimately feel like taking off a leash. Don’t worry, the text will be there when you pick up your phone again, as will the Instagram stories and Twitter insults and the news headlines and the funny videos of that screaming bird. Shifting your focus from technology to the world around you, efforts known as “digital detox” or “dopamine fasting,” is suspected to have positive effects on anxiety, mood, and overall happiness. If you’re working from home, unplug on the weekends and allow yourself to decompress.
Boundaries show you care about yourself… and your performance.”
“No one is creative when they’re exhausted, no one is efficient when they’re feeling pressured, no one comes up with clever solutions when they’re distracted by a million other things,” said Dr. Thomas, who said work-life balance is a prominent issue for many of his patients. “Boundaries show you care about yourself, and by caring about yourself, you’re actually showing that you care about your performance and your career.”
bonmente can help you discover the value of boundaries and how to get life back in balance. Schedule an appointment with our mental health providers today.