Work Life Balance: Minimizing Stress, Maximizing Happiness

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When it comes to work, society can be incredibly demanding. Forty hours a week is more of a minimum suggestion than a maximum work load. It can be difficult to determine if society is working to live or living to work. Even in a job someone hates, they spend at least 25% of their week at that job. People talk in circles about a work-life balance, but when work is such a huge part of your life, how do you really balance?

The minimalistic mindset is slowly creeping into homes and people are ridding themselves of clutter that only weighs them down. Doesn’t it make sense to think minimal when attacking corporate culture as well? Throwing away jeans that are two sizes too small is easier than determining how to rid yourself of unnecessary work baggage. As someone who is prior military and still married to a soldier, I understand the “mission first” mindset. While it may be necessary for service members to remain combat ready, the ‘mission first’ mentality in the corporate world is slowly stripping away our mental health, happiness, and sanity.

Work Stress

Stress has a negative connotation attached to it considering it can be the root cause of heart attacks, strokes, heart disease, and other various diseases. Intense stress is nothing to scoff at nor is it a way to live one’s life. The more acute stress someone experiences, the greater their chance of it being their demise. Stress-free living is all but impossible but learning to prioritize and cope with stress can be the difference between a heart attack at lunch and living to see retirement.

Look at your current workload and triage accordingly. What must be done today and what can be put off until tomorrow? Is your load so heavy you’re tempted to work on your days off or can you set it aside and wait until Monday? Most importantly, what can be delegated? These are vital questions to balance work and minimize work stress. No one should live to work. Work is only part of our lives and should be treated as such.

One way to eliminate or reduce work stress is by communicating with your employer. If your workload is unmanageable, let your boss know that you may need extra time or an extra hand to complete the task.

Be honest with your employer about your work-life balance goals and discuss possibilities to achieve those goals. For example, telecommuting or half days may be an option.

Vacation

The average American took a scant 16 days of vacation in 2016. That is an incredibly low number. Factoring in the cost of vacations, it makes sense that people would limit their time off to maximize profits and minimize expenditures. While it is nice to have money, time off is vital to survival. Working parents need to maximize their family time. Movies, though an exaggeration of life, always show the parent running in for their daughter’s recital only to catch the beginning of her dance as they find their seat. Movie dads are shown running from their cars to catch their son’s ballgame right after a big meeting or sale. Where were they rushing from? Always rushing from work to catch a glimpse of their child’s life. That is the mindset that will clutter lives and maximize stress.

Big vacations may be expensive, but there is so much a family can do during time off. Kids need the time with their parents more than they need lavish trips somewhere. Even a day trip to the nearest city can be a grand adventure as a family. Time off is what you make it, but vacations days must be taken to make those memories and create those adventures. Staycations are popular because they work. If a family’s vacation budget is low, find something close and make the most of it. The important thing is that time is taken-automatic email replies turned on, cell phones turned off, and work placed on the back burner for at least one extra day.

Budgets

There is no doubt that time off can be expensive, but this is where making a budget becomes vital. Another dirty word with a reputation, budgets are not only our friends but our lifelines. Dave Ramsey has incredible budget advice for living debt free and learning to manage our money instead of having our money manage us. The internet is saturated with budget advice and how to save money while earning money. Controlling your money is the key to success and minimizing the need to stress at work.

Working parents, particularly those with one income, understand that every penny counts. Financial stresses are a top reason for divorce and unhappiness. The high cost of living and continual inflation, creates a society that feels the need to live for work. Creating a minimalism lifestyle can help ease your budget. Learn to thrift shop, eat home cooked meals and save a percentage every month for emergencies. Above all, reduce your debt.

Family Time

Workplace stress can double for working parents as they try to figure out day care schedules, extra-curricular activities, and, of course, being there for the kids. This is not a commonly identified stress in corporate culture. Tying back to the ‘mission first’ mentality, a project’s unexpected deadline or major change can often trump your child’s band concert. This is a stress every working parent knows, and it can be one of the most painful to endure.


Identify your work culture and determine the best way to reduce work stress to maximize time with your children. Make a list and determine how far in advance you know about a commitment (both for your child and for work). Prioritize what you can do in advance, what can wait, and what can be delegated. Not to be redundant, but it’s immensely important that you communicate with your superior about your parental commitments; setting boundaries in terms of your engagement with work after-hours and working together to create an ideal situation where work-life balance is concerned. While not all workplaces have a culture that is conducive to this, it is important to do the best you can with your circumstances.

Work-life balance is an often-used phrase but few of us are actually able to create the balance the term refers to. The concept is that our work lives are compartmentalized to work and our home lives are kept at home, and there is no conflict between the two. While this may not be entirely possible, we can find ways to minimize just how much our work-lives ooze into our personal lives. Minimalism works for closets, but it works for careers, too.

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About Sarah Begley

Sarah Begley currently resides in Fountain, CO with her husband and three children. Sarah is an Army veteran who deployed to Iraq in 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom; she served as both a motor transport operator and a medical specialist and was honorably discharged in 2009. Sarah has her B.A. in Communications and M.A. in Strategic Communication. She has a passion for volunteering and has been awarded the Yellow Rose of Texas by former Governor Rick Perry as well as the Commander’s Award for Public Service. Sarah currently works for Foundation for Women Warriors, a non-profit organization that helps women veterans. In her free time, Sarah enjoys playing the piano and violin, baking goodies of all kinds, and reading any historical non-fiction book she can find, with particular interest in British history and military history.

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