Forward Wayne County is focused on Health & Wellness this month. We asked Megan Ripberger, co-founder of Mezzo Solutions, to write about self-care and work-life balance.
If you are like me, you may dive into an internet search to learn more about topics of interest. Many times, this has helped cure my curiosity. But, when your curiosity turns inward, and you find yourself processing questions about your mental health and overall wellness, you might feel overloaded by all the solutions that can come up.
A question that routinely enters my mind and is regularly asked by the individuals I work with is, “What is work-life balance, and how can I achieve it?” Let’s explore what I have learned about this topic during my time as a mental health therapist.
What can individuals do?
If you are seeking work-life balance, an important place to start is to learn more about self-care.
Self-care has many definitions. The most widely used is a definition by the World Health Organization: “Self-care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene, nutrition, lifestyle, environmental factors, biopsychosocial factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.), and self-medication.”
Self-care is integral in disease and illness prevention and in establishing and maintaining health. Health is on a continuum – it’s not something you have or do not have. Health is something that you always possess that fluctuates through life. Self-care tasks represent a spectrum of options that can help us maintain our balance of health throughout the ebbs and flows of life.
Self-care practices can help improve work-life balance:
- Physical self-care considers activities we can do to focus on our physical health. Examples of physical self-care activities include exercise, meaningful body movement, nutrition, and seeking needed medical support.
- Social Self-Care encompasses activities that help us connect with others. Examples of social self-care activities include spending time with friends and family, attending social events, and connecting with your community.
- Spiritual Self-Care activities result in a nurtured spirit. These activities allow you to think bigger than yourself. Examples of spiritual self-care activities include engaging in prayer, meditation, and spending time in nature.
- Professional Self-Care activities help reduce work-related stress and allow you to achieve a work-life balance. Examples of professional self-care activities include creating and maintaining healthy boundaries, utilizing assertive communication, having and following a plan to help you stay organized, and taking breaks.
- Psychological Self-Care encompasses emotional and cognitive self-care. This category of self-care houses activities that help us make space for how we feel and think. Examples of psychological self-care activities include journaling, practicing mindfulness, talking with a therapist, and learning new coping skills.
If you are not sure how you are doing with your self-care or would like to learn more about these categories, check out the Mezzo Solutions Self-Care Assessment.
What can organizations do?
Organizational leaders can play a part in the journey of finding work-life balance. Creating and supporting a family-friendly culture, leading by example, manufacturing healthy boundaries, and providing supportive services are a few strategies that employers can implement to improve the balance and overall wellness of the workplace community.
- Creating a family-friendly culture starts with policy-making. Policies ensure equitable opportunities and communicate workplace beliefs and values. Having a family-friendly culture can also attract talent that can grow with your organization.
- Leading by example is a powerful way for leaders to walk the walk. Leaders are not exempt from engaging in the five domains of self-care outlined above. As a leader, it is important to do what is possible to care for your health. If you lead by example, you are helping yourself and encouraging your work community to do the same.
- Manufacturing healthy boundaries and empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, go hand in hand. Let’s be real, no one wants to be interrupted at dinner or during a social activity by an email, text, or call from the office. Having clear boundaries between work and home is vital in developing a work-life balance. Organizational leaders can do their part by being aware of this balance and allowing employees to say no and ask for help when needed.
- Providing supportive, work-based intervention services can benefit employees who need additional help. Life is tough at times, for everyone. Offering access to services, such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), can help staff get connected to wellness education opportunities. Providing these services and openly discussing how to access them can send a message that help is there when it is needed.
Work-Life Balance is a Balance
Establishing a work-life balance is unique to every person and organization. Understanding work-life balance from different viewpoints can be both enlightening and challenging. No matter how difficult it may seem, change is possible. As I close, I want to share one piece of wisdom that I routinely share with my clients – small steps lead to big changes.
To learn more about the mental health education and supports offered by Mezzo Solutions check out our website.