You know the routine: you have long-standing plans with a friend who, you figure, won’t despise you if you cancel on them for the third time. She’ll be annoyed, but understanding. After all, you have an insanely busy job and will need to work until at least 9pm to get it all done – there’s no other way. So you cancel and, as you anticipated, your friend says she understands, but she also reminds you it’s been four months since you last saw each other. “Four months!” you scoff, checking your diary only to discover it’s actually nearer five months (but you don’t tell her that).
According to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) British employees work the longest hours in Europe, take the shortest lunch breaks and have the least public holidays. If that wasn’t grim enough, one in five of us work an extra day a week in unpaid overtime. This work-comes-first policy is not only affecting our mental health (with UK workers taking an average of 5.3 days off for stress, anxiety and depression in 2012), but also the work we’re producing. A 2014 study by Standford University proved that when you work longer than 50 hours a week your output, morale, concentration and physical health all take a battering.
All of which means that maintaining a healthy work/life balance is essential for your mental and physical health. Taking some time for yourself relieves stress and allows your body and mind to unwind. Learning to allow yourself ‘you time’ - whether it’s watching an episode of your favourite sitcom, seeing a friend or giving yourself an extra half hour grooming time in the morning – will make you feel calmer and more in control of whatever it is you’re facing that day, so your life will truly feel more balanced.