Working students and entrepreneurs share similar motivations and similar challenges. When you take your work home with you, and you spend a lot of time with your head buried in paperwork or staring at a screen, a number of daily challenges present themselves that can seriously harm your quality of life.
Taking care of yourself as someone who doesn’t have a locational separation between work and life can be surprisingly difficult. Balancing all the demands on your time while finding ways to stay healthy, happy, and get enough sleep requires planning and care.
Preventative Mental Health at Home
When work occurs in your living space, whether it’s long nights of studying or days sequestered in a home office, it can easily consume all your time. When you don’t have a physical separation of work — a sense of “going to work” and “coming home” — you open up your living space to all of the stress and exhaustion that come with it.
Having a busy life is bad enough, but breaking down those barriers between work and home, school and home, or business and home can exacerbate the sense of burnout that everyone feels at one time or another in our lives. Being at home so much can make you miserable. So how can you maintain a healthy state of mind and balance all the important aspects of your life?
1: As much as possible, maintain physical separation of “workspace.”
One way to keep your work locked up in its proper place and time is to designate a part of your living area as “work only.” Even if you don’t have a separate room to create an office in, you can achieve something similar by sectioning off a corner of a room, or even just one desk, where work happens. That is the place where you do productive things, and when you’re not there, you’re not working. This also helps keep away distractions while you work or study; you might be surprised at how well a designated work area keeps you on task, especially if you remove potential distractions from it.
This keeps the work out of your living space, and helps you to save things for later — for example, when an irate client emails you at 8 p.m. or a classmate wants help on a group project at midnight. Having a set space and a scheduled time helps you just say no.
Speaking of a schedule …
2: Accept that there isn’t enough time in each day to get everything done. Create a weekly schedule.
Trying to achieve too much in a single day is just going to stress you out and exhaust you. Planning time to relax and recharge is just as important as achieving daily goals. Without setting aside time to binge some TV, read, or just take a long bath, you risk heightened stress and burnout. Living life to its absolute fullest while you balance work, school, and everything else is a marathon — not a sprint. You have to pace yourself and find time for the things that make you happy in your schedule.
One of the most frustrating things about adulthood is the sense of not having time to do everything that’s important to you. By focusing on a schedule that looks at a week or a month, rather than your day to day exclusively, you can find more time slots for the things you enjoy, the things that keep you going, and for the people you love.
Preventative Physical Health at Home
Being busy doesn’t just have consequences for one’s mental health. All sorts of physical health complications can occur from living a life that’s too packed, working for too long, and exhausting yourself.
High levels of stress for long periods of time can have serious ramifications on your physical health. These can include increased risk of heart attack, a weakened immune system, and high blood pressure or blood sugar, among other physical conditions ranging from minor annoyances to serious medical problems.
So all that planning and making sure your life is balanced with friends, family, and goofing off isn’t only for your mental state of being, and it’s not a “fix it” strategy only for when you feel burned out. Maintaining a healthy schedule that prioritizes “you time” appropriately is for every week, even when you feel like you don’t need it, because avoiding stress in the first place can help keep you healthy.
Among the other dangers of spending long hours studying or working at home is the simple act of sitting. It’s only very recently in our history that we became a society where so many people sit for such a large majority of their day. Sitting for extended periods of time, like stress, can cause serious health problems, and the longer you spend doing it, the worse the effects can become.
Reducing the negative effects of sitting requires a little discipline and a little knowledge, but not a whole lot else. The damage most likely can’t be completely mitigated, but we can add breaks into our days that reduce harm. Getting up and moving around every half an hour is a great way to alleviate the damage. Learning the best sitting positions, relative furniture heights, and posture for good ergonomics is another way to reduce the damage. Keeping your chair at the right position to reduce strain on your wrists and neck, for example, is an easy way to do this. Purchasing ergonomically designed office furniture and computer peripherals will also help.
Other simple things keep you sustained, healthy and happy: Remembering to eat lunch. Taking vitamin supplements if you don’t get a lot of sun. Taking time to prepare healthy meals for the whole week on a Sunday instead of hitting up fast food joints. Everything gets easier when activities have their place and you take an occasional couple of hours to focus on yourself and your personal needs.
What scheduling strategies do you use to stay ahead of the game? When do you plan social activities? Got any really good recipes for easy lunches to pack up for the week? Leave a comment and let everyone know!
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