Balancing Work and Family

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on February 20, 2024
4 min read

Work-life balance is the relationship between your job and the other important things in your life. These may be things like your family, sports and social life, household chores, and volunteer commitments. If you feel like you have enough time for all of these things, you probably have a good work-life balance.

Your work-life balance will most likely shift as your daily responsibilities change. With realistic expectations and some trial and error, you can help yourself and your family get a long-term work-life balance.

If you find yourself working too much, it can lead to overwhelming exhaustion. You might feel emotionally distanced from your children or think you're a poor or ineffective spouse or parent. These feelings can take a severe toll on your mental health.

When you’re out of balance, the effects on your mental health can include:

  • Limited tolerance (shorter temper)
  • Fatigue
  • Poor health
  • Higher stress levels
  • Lost time with family and friends 
  • Poor sleep

Most people struggle to find a balance between work and family at some point in their lives. If you’re noticing problems, try these steps:

‌At work. Work can be very demanding. Take a step back to think about how you’re spending your time and whether your goals are manageable. You’ll feel happier when you can set priorities and get things done. Are you trying to do too much? Do you have unrealistic deadlines? These issues take a toll over time.

Make a to-do list. To avoid spending too much time with work, make a to-do list every day and check things off as you finish them. This will help you avoid putting things off so you can finish one task before you start the next. Feel like you’re drowning in tasks? Try breaking each big item into smaller ones. Take breaks when you need them. Don’t be afraid to talk to your boss or ask for help.

Listen to music. To help you stay calm and focused, listen to your favorite type of music. Music tends to make us feel good emotionally. It may lower your blood pressure, too. 

Talk to your boss. If you still feel challenged by work, talk with your supervisor. Try to avoid complaining. Communicate with them calmly and clearly. Make sure they understand how you feel. Be ready to share ideas and solutions. Stay open to their advice. 

Take time off. When you feel like you need it, take some time away. Although it may sound wrong, taking time away from work can make you more focused and productive. 

At home. Try setting routines with fixed start and stop times. Working from home? You can still make it a point to put away the laptop and turn off the phone after your workday is over. Make sure your family feels valued. 

Me time. Make sure to carve out “me time” during the day when you can unwind and relax. If you feel like you can’t relax because there are so many things to do around the house, ask for help. Splitting up tasks and chores can help release stress. 

Support. A support system of friends and family is very helpful. Your loved ones can help you work through issues or take your mind off work so you can enjoy life and be present. 

Stay active. To boost your sense of well-being, make it a habit to stay active. Regular exercise can reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms related to depression. It also boosts your immune system. This may cut the number of sick days you take each year. 

To switch from work mode to family mode:

  • Wind down after work by listening to the radio or a podcast or reading a book. 
  • Try working out after work to release stress.
  • Try doing a mindfulness exercise in your car before going to work and when you return home.
  • Make a hands-free phone call to loved ones on the way home to catch up with them and leave work behind.
  • Set a routine like changing your clothes when you get home, taking a few deep breaths, and bringing your attention back to the present.

Creating a work-life balance takes effort and consistency. It may not always be simple, and it’s easy to feel frustrated from time to time. 

If you feel like your life is spinning out of control, consider talking to a mental health care provider. Some companies offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) to connect you with helpful resources.