The idea of maintaining a ‘work-life balance’ has been extensively talked about when conversations about mental health have been brought up. The idea aims at not letting work take over our lives. We should prioritize other aspects of our lives as much as we prioritize our careers. Other aspects include family responsibilities, friends and other relationships, our own mental health, physical well-being, emotional well-being, and our interests. Juggling between all these with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic might be more complicated than it looks.
While the pandemic has had an age-graded normative influence, gender-based struggles aren’t as different. Having said that, men are struggling to achieve an effective work-life balance as much as women are. Added to the stress of working, men have the responsibility to earn for family members who depend on them for basic necessities in life. Men fear being stigmatized and see talking about their mental health as an attack on their masculinity.
Hence, the mental health of men is an important issue that needs to be taken into consideration while trying to rethink the work-life balance equation during these testing pandemic times. A few ways to improve and find a balance in this remote pandemic environment are:
- Set and define your boundaries: It can often be difficult to separate home and workspace while at home. It might be comfortable to eat your food and attend to your work on your bed, but it isn’t a healthy habit. You need to find yourself some space or a corner, where you can avoid being distracted, and make it your permanent workspace. Vamp it up with decor to make it a special place, if you want. Do check the lighting, quality, temperature, and comfort before finalizing the space. Define this area as the place where you make decisions, solve problems, attend meetings, and do all your professional work. It can be draining to restrict yourself to a specific space all day, so do not forget to take breaks and move around the house.
- Do not overwork yourself: You should know when to unplug yourself. Establish a timeline and stop your work after that allotted time. With all our devices in front of us, it might be tempting to get a head start on work for the next day to have a less hectic workday tomorrow, but you will overwork yourself in the present. Try to try off your computer and cancel notifications from your phone, if it will help you disconnect from your work-life. Focus on yourself, and your family. Recharge yourself during this time.
- Stay connected with your friends: Human beings are social beings for a reason, and while it feels like you do not have the energy to have conversations with other people, do take out some time every week to stay connected with your friends. The pandemic has left people overwhelmed, lonely, and stressed, and having ears to listen to their struggles, or just the mere presence of another individual will make their day better. To do so, schedule virtual hangouts with your friends, watch movies online with them, or just reach out to them over a call or text.
- Remember to exercise: Being confined within four walls of the house can be mentally exhausting, so make sure to take out some time in the day and dedicate it to exercising. With the added benefit of improved memory and concentration, it helps improve your mental health, quality of sleep, and to stretch your muscles.
- Undertake hobbies: One of the advantages of this shift to working from a home environment is that you get a lot of time to yourself. Use this time to introspect your experiences and learn from them. Also, take out some time to explore your hobbies. Do what you like, devote some time to refining your skills. This will give you a break from your mundane and hectic work schedules.
- Focus on your mental health (self-care weekends): And finally, the last point you need to remember is to focus on your mental health. These times are stressful, and can get emotionally overwhelming, but it isn’t for forever. As you set your boundaries, take breaks, socialize virtually with your friends, exercise and spend time exploring your hobbies, you are de-stressing. But you might want to consider talking to a professional mental health practitioner. Talking it out will help you gain perspective and recognize any issues that you are facing, and they will be able to help you work through it and improve.