We’re in the midst of a burnout epidemic. Although it has been around for a while, in 2019, the World Health Organization officially classified burnout as an “occupational hazard” rather than a medical condition. However, it’s not only bad for business, it’s bad for our mental health. 

This form of chronic and unmanaged workplace stress leads to bodily exhaustion, mental apathy, and reduced efficiency. Unfortunately, these effects don’t sign off the moment you leave work for the day. They ripple out into all aspects of our lives, often harming the relationships we have with our family and friends. To overcome this, we need to consciously create the kind of work-life balance that can nurture our mental health. 

I know this from first-hand experience. During my early years as an accountant, the firm I was working for had a rigid and rigorous schedule. Long hours and short breaks were the norm – and so was burnout. For me, it came in the form of a critical vitamin B deficiency. If I had a more flexible schedule that allowed time for exercise and self-care, then I could have avoided all that chronic stress. Unfortunately, I didn’t. However, this upset started me on a journey to finding the kind of work-life balance that could improve my general and mental health. 

How to find the right work-life balance 

When most people think of “work-life balance,” they think of an equal 50/50 split – spending half their time at work and half their time at home. That kind of ratio might work for some, but it’s certainly not ideal (or realistic) for everyone. In truth, there is no one right way to have a work-life balance. 

Instead, there are multiple ways for people to find balance in their lives. For some, it looks like an 80/20 split, for others a 70/30 split is ideal. To find the right number, it’s important to listen to your head, heart, and body. Your head helps you get things done, your heart keeps you passionate, and your body keeps you energized. When all three are working holistically, you’ve found the right work-life balance – and this will be reflected in your mental health.  

With all this in mind, let’s take a look at a few tips that can help:

  1. Focus on working smart, not working hard. Working smart is about setting priorities and goals for each day and then doing what needs to be done. Working hard is about trying to cram as much as you can into every workday, which often leads to burnout and poor mental health. To work smart, focus on prioritising tasks and saying “no” when necessary. 
  2. Reduce work-related stress as much as possible. Complete freedom from work-related stress is unlikely. However, we can mitigate the damaging kind by eating well, exercising regularly, and building supportive relationships. 
  3. Schedule time for goal setting. It’s important to regularly set aside time to think about your larger personal and professional goals. This can help improve your mental health and job satisfaction. Set up a weekly journaling habit to record how well you’re doing.

Although it’s true that we need to work to live, it’s also true that life isn’t all about work. Finding a balance between these two is key to improving your mental health.