“Too busy” to prioritise your wellbeing? That’s no excuse!
“I have too many emails to reply to, lunch will have to wait.” “I’ve got to work late tonight, I guess I’ll skip the gym.” “I can’t call in sick today, they’ll think I’m avoiding the meeting.” Sound familiar? In this day and age, it’s become a common occurrence to get buried in work. What with instant messaging, working from home and remote virtual meetings, the line between your professional life and personal life becomes increasingly blurred.
A strong work ethic is admirable, and so is wanting to meet your deadlines, honour a commitment to a client or complete your task list by the end of the day, but the real challenge comes in recognising when these goals start to interfere with our daily existence and mental health. Ahead, our life coach expert shares common reasons why we often prioritise work over our wellbeing, and how we can live a more healthy and balanced life.
Read more: 8 Habits To Improve Your Mental Health
Why Do We Prioritise Work Over Our Wellbeing?
Consider yourself a workaholic? Maybe you don’t even realise how much time and energy you commit to your job. Stop for a second to reflect on this. If you think work is taking over your life, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Here are some common reasons why we prioritise work over other things. Awareness is the first step to reversing the habit.
- Habit – Some of us have become so used to working long hours that we’ve fallen into a pattern of always putting work first, without even realising it. It’s easy to get addicted to the busyness, and that makes it a difficult habit to break.
- Urgent vs important tasks – We tend to prioritise “urgent tasks” but, often, what feels urgent may not actually be that important. As a result, we waste our hours on trivial tasks and neglect what’s actually important.
- The productivity challenge – Ticking tasks off a to-do list can make us feel productive, and many of us have been wired to think working longer means you’re working harder. While ploughing through your task list may instil you with a sense of achievement, it’s important to know your limit and recognise when to rest.
- The “should” dilemma – “If I don’t get this done I might get fired.” “If I don’t pick up this call they will think badly of me.” “If I don’t stay in the office till late, they’ll think I’m slacking off.” Work often triumphs because of the internal narrative that plays out in our heads that have resulted from our subconscious fears and pressure from different groups (bosses, colleagues, family, societal pressure).
- An excellent excuse – Sometimes prioritising work can get us out of other activities that we may not want to do in the moment, like going to the gym, making dinner, seeing friends, running errands, doing chores etc.
How To Prioritise Your Wellbeing
If you’re guilty of any of the above, rest assured, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there! Your task now is to find a happy balance between taking care of your work and taking care of yourself. If we fail to strike a healthy balance, overworking can lead to burnout and take a serious toll on your physical, mental and emotional health.
We are all different mentally, and have different thresholds, capabilities and capacities – so this is not about comparing ourselves. It is about recognising that as human beings we have limitations. So, it’s up to us to define our thresholds and understand the point at which our mental wellbeing starts to suffer. Ahead are some steps and suggestions to consider on your journey to making your wellbeing a priority:
- Exercise and movement – We all know it’s good for us, but are you getting enough? The body, like, our mental muscles, need exercise to keep in good order. Set aside at least 30 minutes in your day to get your body moving. It could be something as simple as following a quick workout video online or taking a leisurely stroll outside.
- Sleep and rest – Zoom fatigue, burnout, work exhaustion: these are all real struggles. Whilst prioritising work may initially feel like the right thing to do – and you may feel in the short to medium term more productive – over time, the economic law of diminishing returns applies (e.g. In other words, the more input, effort and energy you put in, the less productive/effective efficient you may be over time). As such, it’s important to take sufficient mental breaks during work, allow your body to rest between shifts and ensure you get quality sleep at night.
- Take regular breaks – I’m not just talking about taking regular breaks throughout the day (though it is recommended you take a 15-minute break for every 90 minutes of concentrated work). It’s important to also make sure to avoid working on the weekend and take your annual leave.
- Digital detox – The digital detox may seem like a fad, but it really can do wonders for your mental health. It may be tough at first, but you’ll soon realise how peaceful it is to not have to attend to relentless social media notifications, messages and emails. Try to go without your phone for an hour, and then work your way up to 24.
- Breathing or meditation – Don’t knock it till you try it. When practiced correctly, these activities can release stress, calm your mind and provide clarity on what you need to do next.
- Connection – As human beings we are wired to connect. You may have convinced yourself that you don’t have time to have fun, but it’s worth making time to socialise and connect with others.
- Laugh more – Laughter truly is medicine for the soul. Switch off work mode and do something that makes you happy, whether it’s doing something crafty, reading a book, journalling, singing or dancing.
- Gratitude and appreciation – These revolutionary acts have been proven to change the chemistry of one’s brain. At the end of the day, rather than focusing on what you didn’t manage to achieve, acknowledge and be proud of what you have done (and don’t forget to reward yourself!).
- Track your time – Track how your time is spent. It will become apparent where your priorities lie and if your work-life balance is out of whack, follow the above steps to make sure you get enough time to yourself.
Sassy Tip: If you feel like you need more guidance in living a more balanced and fulfilled life, consider looking into Monica’s four-part “Navigate Towards Fulfilment” course. Head here for all the details.