Liz Morrison, LCSW
On Your Own for the First Time? Tips for Balancing Life and Work
So you’ve decided it’s time to go off on your own into the world. Up until now, you’ve had your needs taken care of by others, probably your parents. For the first 18 or so years, they took you to school, fed you, clothed you, and countless other things so that you could grow up to be a fine young adult.However, transitioning from a fine young adult into a happy and healthy adult is not easy. The adult world can hit you hard, and often in ways you never considered, while dreaming about not having a bedtime anymore. Fortunately, it’s a well-trodden path. You’re not on your own, and many of those who have walked it before you are more than willing to share some advice.
The Need for a Balance between Life and Work
Balancing life and work is no easy task. Often, the scale tips heavily to one side. Some will have trouble letting go of their carefree childhood and taking on the added responsibilities of adulthood. Others may attempt to tackle the responsibilities of adulthood head-on, but then find themselves working themselves to death, trying to take on too much, too soon.
Neither extreme is good for your mental and physical health. “All work and no play” is taxing on both the body and the mind. Alternatively, “All play and no work” may feel great at first, but can have severe consequences down the line — when the money to play is no longer there, and/or if going the college route, grades start to suffer.
Tips for Balancing the Scale
Limit activities that aren’t productive. Do you find the time in your day is taken up by constantly checking social networking sites and messaging? Try putting your phone on vibrate, turning it upside-down so that you can’t see the screen, or placing it to the side. In the case of an emergency, your family and friends are likely to call you. If your phone gives a prolonged vibrate, then you’ll know that it’s a phone call. Other than that, ignore the phone until you get a pre-set amount of work done (finishing a page on a report or essay).
Make time to unwind. Many of us have been there before. Rent’s due, finals are coming up, and the stress is starting to build. But making time to relax is important, too. It doesn’t have to cost money or take up a whole day. It can be something as simple as spending an hour reading for pleasure, or exercising.
Limit your interactions with those who don’t care about balancing the scale.So you’ve decided to finish a report due tomorrow, before watching the TV show you’ve recorded. Suddenly, you get a phone call from a friend, who wants you to come hang out. While this is certainly a way to relax, and not bad in and of itself, you need to get that report done today. You attempt to turn your friend down, citing your reason.
A good friend would, at this point, understand and not try to push the matter any further. But if this person says “Forget the report, come with us,” you may have to think about limiting your interactions with said friend. Companionship is important, but not to the detriment of your responsibilities. Promise them that you’ll hang out at another time. Setting a specific date would be optimal, so that you can work it into your schedule. Just make sure to go through with your promise.
Stop demanding perfection from yourself. As a child, you may have been a straight-A student who wasn’t happy with anything less. Maintaining such high goals is a lot easier when your time is only being taken up by school, hobbies, and perhaps a part-time job during the summer. When you suddenly find you have less time to devote, and your grades/work start to suffer, you may find yourself being discouraged. Striving for perfection can have negative results on your mental health. A healthier and more attainable goal would be to instead strive for excellence.