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Work -Life Balance

Living Your Best Life

By: Dr. Diana Collins

Work is a form of stress in our lives. Our need to succeed professionally can lead to a mismatch and the tendency to put aside our own well-being in our personal life. Finding a balance in our work life is vital to our physical and mental well-being so that we can live our best life. 

Stress is something we all experience. It is the psychological and physical state that results when the resources of an individual are not sufficient to cope with the demand and pressure of the situation. Therefore, stress is more common in some situations than in others and can affect us differently as individuals.

Often, work takes precedence over all else in our lives. In addition, there are health, economic, and other pressures that contribute to our overall stress levels and to our mental health. Personality, experiences, and other unique characteristics all influence the way we respond to stress.

There is an extensive amount of research substantiating the disastrous effects of excessive levels of stress on employee performance. One prominent cost-of-illness study estimated “the cost of work-related stress ranged from $221 million to upward of $187 billion…” Another more extensive analysis conducted by the American Institute of Stress found that after including factors such as absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity, increased medical costs, and increased legal costs, the total economic impact of stress to U.S. employers was estimated at $300 billion.

Creating a work-life balance is a state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritizes the demands of one’s career and the demands of one’s personal life. Some of the common reasons that contribute to a poor work-life balance include increased responsibilities at work, longer work hours, increased responsibilities at home, and having children.

Some of the signs of work-related stress include symptoms of panic attacks, such as rapid heartbeats or chest pain; feeling tense and edgy at work; being late all the time; not wanting to participate in meetings or staff events; not being able to concentrate and feeling distracted; getting upset or angry; not being able to complete work and feeling overwhelmed; and distancing from other people at work and at home.

In order to develop a work-life balance, it is less about dividing the hours in your day between your work and your personal life and more about being flexible so you can accomplish things at work and have enough time and stamina to enjoy your personal life. The following are some ways to help you develop a work-life balance:

Accept That There Is No “Perfect” Work-Life Balance

Remember, there is no perfect schedule so strive for a realistic one. Some days, you might focus more on work, while other days, you might have more time and stamina to spend time with your family and friends or pursue hobbies.

Prioritize Your Health

Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes of walking every day can boost your mood and improve your health. Even small amounts of exercise add up, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t do 30 minutes at one time. Try taking a walk at lunch. Short breaks, like a walk or exercise can help lift your mood as well as help you get in shape.

Eat healthy regular meals and stay hydrated. A balanced diet can improve energy and concentration throughout the day. Try to limit the amount of caffeine you drink.


Make sleep a priority. Try to stick to a schedule and get enough sleep. Seven to eight hours is recommended. Limit blue light from devices and screens because they make it harder to fall asleep.

If you struggle with depression and anxiety, include therapy and doctor’s appointments in your schedule. And, if you suffer from a chronic illness, don’t be afraid to call in sick on rough days. Overextending yourself will prolong the time it takes to get better causing you to be more likely to take time off in the future.

Make Time to Unplug

Giving ourselves permission to cut ties with the outside world in order to re-energize and recover from weekly stress, allows us to give ourselves time for new ideas and thoughts.


Some people may enjoy a break with travel or a staycation. Set specific times to start and end your work day and plan to schedule your free time.

According to the State of American Vacation 2018 study performed by the U.S. Travel Association, 52 percent of employees reported having unused vacation time at the end of the year. Remember the old adage, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

You can make your office or work space more comfortable with a reliable chair and pleasant surroundings. Listen to music on the way home.

Set Goals and Priorities

Decide what should get done and what can wait. Pay attention to when you are most productive at work, and schedule time for your valued work-related activities. Structure your day around when you check emails and phone calls. Remember to set realistic and achievable goals. Try to be mindful of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do. Practice positivity and remind yourself of things that you are grateful for. Write these down and review them at night, or practice recalling them in your mind.

Stay Connected

Nurture your relationships by reaching out to friends and family members who can provide support and practical help. According to the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the world's longest studies of adult life, researchers found that our relationships and how happy we are in them has a powerful impact on our mental health. This study, which began in 1938 and follows 268 male Harvard sophomores, has been ongoing. It has been expanded as a longitudinal study and now is expanded to 1,300 and includes the men’s offspring. Over the years, researchers have included the participants’ health trajectories and their lives, including their successes and failures in their careers and marriages. The results are enlightening: the study shows that the role of genetics proved less vital to longevity and happiness than the level of self-satisfaction with relationships in midlife.

“Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care,” says director of the study, Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School. Living longer and your best life is linked to how satisfied you are in your relationships at midlife.

Self-care is different for each individual, and in order to enjoy life it is important to find out what your needs and desires are. Self-care is not a panacea for mental illness. Find out what triggers your response to stress and what techniques or practices can help your mental health. Be patient. You may have to take a trial-and-error approach to determine what strategies work for you.

If your symptoms of stress have lasted over two weeks and are overwhelming, despite your implementation of self-help strategies, do not wait to talk to your primary healthcare provider or mental health professional. Your mental health and well-being are too precious to sacrifice.


Dr. Diana Collins earned her medical degree at the University of Texas Health Science Center in 1992, finished her residency in General Psychiatry in 1995, and completed a Fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 1997. She’s been in practice since 1997 and has had her own office in Sugar Land since 1999. Dr. Collins was voted The Most Outstanding Psychiatrist in 2018 and 2019, received the Reader’s Choice Award of Fort Bend County by Living Magazine, and was a KnowAutism Ambassador in 2019.

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