Lately, you find yourself working six overtime shifts a month, and you cannot stop thinking about incidents that happened at work. Then, you find yourself not having enough time to take care of your personal errands, missing important social events with friends and family, and struggling to take time off either when you are sick or need to take a vacation.
You keep telling yourself that the choices you made are for the purpose of meeting your expectation at work and giving your family a better life, yet you start feeling off (fatigue, body aches), being irritable all the time, losing your temper easily and turning down invitations. Everything seems uninteresting to you unless it is work related. This may sound familiar to you because we have all been there. These characteristics that you are experiencing are associated with a poor work-life balance. This is when we feel like our work-life balance is out of whack.
In law enforcement culture, it is natural to strive for the best results in terms of work demands, but it can lead to an unbalanced work life. Those who have a poor work-life balance and those who struggle to practice self-care may be at a higher risk of burnout, sleep deprivation, fatigue, depression and anxiety, and a decline in physical health. We all have our own limits when it comes to sustaining a mental balance between work and personal life. To be mindful of a sustainable work-life balance, consider the following:
• Be aware of your limitations. Know what is important to you and know that you cannot do it all.
• Avoid bringing work home and home to work. Make a mental note to transition between work and home life.
• Learn the value of planning and organization. Learn to manage time well by prioritizing and setting routines.
• Add fun every day. Enjoy life with play and a laugh.
• Nourish your body. Having a healthy diet, good night’s sleep and routine exercise can add energy.
• Control time wasters. Avoid overcommitting yourself to unnecessary tasks or hours watching TV.
• Expect the unexpected. Life is unpredictable, even with a routine. Be flexible.
B-A-L-A-N-C-E can be elusive, but being mindful of the above can be effective in managing a work-life balance that is less susceptible to stress, sleep deprivation, poor diet, fatigue and illness (Oakstone Publishing, 2013).
Let’s go back to “Avoid bringing work home and home to work” for a moment because the work-to-home transition can be difficult for some individuals. Work tasks tend to linger on one’s mind as one returns to personal life. Some of the following may help in easing your mind off work-related items:
• Make a to-do list before leaving work so that as you write them down, you allow yourself to let go of the day’s stresses and leave the thoughts behind.
• Leave your desk or workspace organized and neat for the next day.
• During your commute home, distract yourself with an audio book or soothing music.
• Institute a “quiet time” policy once you get home. This policy makes family members aware that you need time to unwind before jumping into home issues.
• Keep wholesome snacks available at home. This will allow you to refuel yourself before preparing dinner.
• Organize family time. Set up a timeline that will allow each family member to talk with you about their day.
• Ask for help. Share your home tasks. When everyone pitches in, then the home issues do not spread into work.
This clear separation of work and personal life is so important because it allows you to focus on either work or personal life instead of being distracted.
Making a conscious effort to balance work and personal life is a positive step toward healing from the effects of stress. It restores energy and renews the spirit. In the long run, engaging in these positive steps can help in providing better care for others.
If you would like to obtain further assistance regarding creating a balance between work and personal life, you can contact Psychological Services Bureau (PSB) at (213) 738-3500 for a free and confidential consultation or appointment. You can also connect with a trained peer supporter or chaplain for confidential support by calling PSB and asking to be referred to one of these supportive resources or by visiting our webpage at https://lasd.sharepoint.com/sites/lasd_ intranet/SitePages/psb.aspx.