By successfully creating a harmonious work-life balance, you can not only achieve a happier, healthier life, but also lay the groundwork for a successful career! So, what exactly is work-life balance, and why is it important?
Whilst medicine is a prestigious and a valued career, it suffers from huge burnout rates and healthcare professionals’ dissatisfaction at an all-time high, our desire to flourish professionally can often be at the expense of a healthy lifestyle.
Work-life balance can be described as a state of equilibrium where an individual equally prioritises the demands of their personal life to the demands of their career. A poor work-life balance can include increased responsibilities at work, longer working hours, increased stress, burnout or home responsibilities such as children.
The value of good work-life balance can lead to a number of positive effects; including less stress, a lower risk of burnout and most importantly, a greater sense of well-being and happiness.
The fantastic part about implementing a great work-life balance is that not only will it benefit doctors, nurses and allied healthcare professionals, but it will also benefit NHS patients and NHS trusts too. This is because they will ultimately improve employee retention rates as the need to always hire and rely on agency staff will be long-gone due to a more engaged, loyal and productive workforce.
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3 Tips to Successfully Strike the right Work-Life Balance!
1. Prioritise your own health
First thing’s first, no matter how demanding your job role is – you should always prioritise your own health. Yes, it’s a healthcare professional’s forte to care for others; but they’ll be unable to do so if they don’t care for their own mental, physical and emotional health.
Although not every single employer places enough importance on their employee’s mental health, there are a range of fantastic resources you can rely upon in addition to your friends and family. Even your recruitment agency should always be there to give you support when you need it.
With doctors subject to experiencing burnout as a result of their outrageous workloads, it increases their risk of suffering from physical and mental illnesses such as headaches, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression.
As we said, you must prioritise your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing… So, firstly a fantastic way to protect your mental health is of course, speak out if you’re feeling upset, anxious or stressed – reach out to your loved ones. The feeling of safety and love you receive when you share a problem or worry with someone you trust is unfathomable and it might give you that strength you need to tackle it head on. In addition to this, make sure you learn how to manage your stress, get some vital vitamin D, keep learning and give to others.
Secondly, you need to take steps to protect your physical health and… yes, you guessed it! Exercising… We completely understand that the basic nature of working in healthcare means night shifts, early starts, constantly changing patterns, antisocial hours but if you don’t find time for it, you will only pay for it mentally and in the long-run, physically.
There are fantastic ways to slip exercise into your daily routine such as getting up 20-minutes earlier than usual and doing a HIIT workout or if that’s too intense for you, pop on an online Pilates class. You can even combine the two and go to the gym with a friend, or if easier – a dog walk, or perhaps a leisurely bike ride! If you’re still struggling to find time, then you can even get some movement in on your hour’s break.
Third and finally, you must care for your emotional health by doing something for you! Whether that is meditation and connecting directly with your mind, eating healthily, getting enough sleep, learning to say no, developing a passion – it’s all in your hands to protect your emotional wellbeing.
2. Go on holiday
Sometimes, the only way to truly unplug and forget about patients and your work life completely, is by booking a two-week annual leave period, hopping on a plane and immersing yourself into a new culture. On appointment of your NHS role, you will receive 27 days annual leave + 8 days of public holiday entitlement. That being said, only 40% of us in the UK actually maximise our full annual leave. Regardless, of how many days you have, you should always aim to take them as it gives you an opportunity to recharge.
Going on holiday isn’t just about sun, sea and sand, but it’s about you stepping away from reality; removing yourself from your workplace, from your home environment and aligning yourself back to your true centre. Taking a break from work means you can return refreshed with a renewed objectivity, reduced stress levels, improved productivity and enhanced efficiency in your performance.
Going on holiday, abroad in the UK can also lead to the ultimate happiness. If your demanding work life means that you inevitably neglect your social life, fitness and hobbies – you’ll inevitably start to foster negative feelings towards your workplace, colleagues and managers. By taking the essential time out, you can regain perspective, spend time on yourself (a great time for walks, beach yoga, or water activities?!) – giving you the positive injection that your life may need.
3. Set Boundaries
As with anything, not just your work-life balance – you should set yourself boundaries to avoid complete burnout. When you leave the hospital, try and not think about any patients you have left, upcoming events, tasks, responsibilities and emails. Although this is harder said than done, by consciously actioning your mindset it’s more likely to become natural.
Working in healthcare means there is always an additional activity to do – you should ensure that you work your permanent, contracted hours/set locum hours and then you should limit yourself on any additional bank or locum shifts you take up each month. Taking every opportunity that is available to you, might be a good idea financially – but it is definitely not a very good idea for your wellbeing.
In addition to this, you should also set yourself goals and priorities to achieve both on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. By structuring your day, you’ll increase productivity at work and not leave you feeling guilty when you relax outside of work.
In a world where there is a global pandemic, an NHS that is facing huge challenges and over 15 million patients on waiting lists – burnout is only natural and so, taking control of the situation early can help you have a positive approach in a stressful situation.