Are you making a living or making a life?

Dolly Parton once said, “don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” This statement has never been more applicable than in today’s fast paced, all encompassing workplace. Fuelled by technology we can, if we choose, be constantly in touch with our working lives. And it’s clear that this is taking its toll; according to the Mental Health Foundation, “when working long hours more than a quarter of employees feel depressed, one third feel anxious, and more than half feel irritable.”

But technology has the ability to empower our freedom as well. It enables remote working, and working from home, keeping us in touch with colleagues when we need it. More and more organisations are recognising their need to redesign workplaces and work arrangements to keep pace with the demands of the future workforce.

The trouble is, for the workforce themselves it’s a constantly challenging balance of being career driven, connected and involved, and being able to switch off or being assertive enough to say, ‘this is my time’.

Setting boundaries is crucial to looking after our mental and physical health.

So, what can we do to help ourselves address that all important work life balance, and help ourselves switch off and relax? Here’s some tips endorsed by the charity Mind:

  1. Take a break – relaxation doesn’t have to take up loads of time. Just stepping away for 5 minutes can be enough to reset your mind in a stressful situation, or give you enough thought space to feel calmer.
    • Try stepping away from your desk, popping outside for some fresh air, or taking 5 in the kitchen to chat with colleagues.
  2. Try active relaxation – gentle physical exercise is a great way to relax and does wonders for your mental health.
    • Take a lunch break and try going out for a long walk or go to meet a friend.
    • Take up Yoga or Pilates, maybe your workplace offers this, or maybe this is something you could organise with a group of colleagues once a week, during lunch or after work.
  3. Do a tech check! As we’ve said technology can help our work life balance, but it can also make us feel constantly connected, busy and stressed.
    • Try switching your phone off for an hour during the day to give yourself a break or switch it off when you go to bed.
    • Consider switching your emails off for the evening or at least not checking them.
    • Step away from social media! Instead, make a conscious effort to send time doing something you enjoy, or spend time with a loved one without being distracted by the online social scene.
  4. Spend time in nature – there’s lots of research that says the natural shapes found in nature are more calming for our brains than the straight lines and harsh angles found in our man-made world.
    • Get outside! Fresh air and open space do us a world of good. Take a walk in the countryside or in your local park and really take in the plants, tress and animals as you go.
  5. Listen to music – for many of us this allows us to disconnect with our busy thoughts and connect with our emotions.
    • Turn it up and dance! Let yourself go and dance like nobody is watching!
    • Really listen to the music – close your eyes and lose yourself in the beat, concentrate on what instruments you can hear.
  6. Get creative – Getting in touch with your artistic side can help you feel more relaxed.
    • Try adult colouring, craft, painting, building something, baking or cooking or playing a musical instrument. Why not setup a creative club one lunch time at work?
  7. Breathing exercises – breathing deeply increases your oxygen levels and changes your physiological state.
    • Try breathing deeply whilst relaxing your shoulders, sitting up straight and opening up your chest cavity. Count as you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
    • You could even try raising your arms. This has the dual effect of increasing your testosterone (courage hormone) and reducing your cortisol (stress hormone), great if you’re about to walk into a big meeting you’re worried about!
  8. Find your happy place – the memory of somewhere you associate with happiness can trigger the release of oxytocin (your love, or happy hormone) and in turn reduce your levels of cortisol.
    • Use your imagination – sit somewhere quiet and take yourself back. It could be somewhere you’ve visited before, or a relative’s house that holds happy memories.
    • Use all your senses – how does it smell? What can you hear? Can you feel the breeze on your face or the cuddle of a loved one?

Making big changes is not always easy. It is easy, however, to make small changes; 5 minutes here or there, or promising to take a lunch break or switch off your emails when you’re at home. And these can have a big impact!

Dolly Parton also once said ‘working 9 to 5…its all taking and no giving’. The world of work is definitely shifting away from the 9-5 she was singing about. But how many of us are truly shifting our mindset to taking time for ourselves? And most importantly, are we remembering to make a life, not just a living?

What do you do to relax? We’d love to hear your personal tips and tricks!

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