Visitor restrictions are in place due to COVID-19 (coronavirus). Review the latest information about the virus and how you can help by donating funds.

Emotional Health

Is Work-Life Balance Possible?

How to Make Your Life Work

Ever feel like you can’t juggle it all? Does it seem like your life is complete chaos? Stop and breathe. Achieving work-life balance is possible. Here are some tips.

1. Be intentional.

Set aside moments for yourself, even when things are very busy. Use that time to be intentional and do what you enjoy. For some, that might mean getting a manicure. For others, it might be curling up with a good book. Do what’s possible based on your work-life demands.

This also applies to who you invite and incorporate into your life. “We live in a society where doing more and being involved in more is valued. However, I like to challenge people to do less,” says Inger E. Burnett-Zeigler, PhD, psychologist at Asher Center for the Study and Treatment of Depressive Disorders at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She explains. “By doing less, we examine the space we’re in, open ourselves up to new possibilities and make way for genuine connection.”

2. Tune out.

Of social media, that is. Research has also shown that multitasking can impact performance and make you less efficient. Turn off alerts and focus on the present moment. To help you tune out, try activities that help manage stress, like meditation or yoga.

3. Define boundaries.

Just say no — and don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t agree to do things if they won’t in some way serve you. This can extend to daily habits, too. Set aside time to have lunch, and leave the office at a reasonable time. These are healthy choices that will help keep your work from taking over your life.

4. Hit the hay.

Sleep doesn’t just help energize you for the day ahead; it also helps you manage stress. This can be difficult when you already feel like you’re juggling several things. However, not sleeping will only perpetuate a stressful cycle. Try these snooze-inducing snacks or see if melatonin is right for you.

5. Know the signs of stress — and when to ask for help.

If you feel like you have to do everything yourself, the pressure will weigh you down. Recognizing signs of stress, like tightness or tension in the neck and shoulders, headaches and increased irritability, can help you deal with it head-on.

It is okay to give up some control and ask for help. Once you’ve identified what it is you need, talk to the people in your life about how they can support you in your efforts to achieve more balance. Ask your children to help with the chores, or hire a babysitter so you can get some me-time. “You don’t have to apologize or feel guilty about setting boundaries and asking for help,” says Dr. Burnett-Zeigler. “Little by little, you can incrementally let go of the expectation and burden of trying to get so much done during so little time.”

Be intentional with your time.
— Inger E. Burnett-Zeigler, PhD

Dr. Burnett-Zeigler admits it’s a fluid, ever-changing process. “When I think about work-life balance, I think of competing priorities that change over time. Sometimes, when others think of this balance, they think always having an ideal balance in a particular moment in time,” she says. “Sometimes there is a higher level of intensity related to work, or those expectations wane and you have more opportunity to engage and participate in your personal life.”

Work-life balance is not a myth after all: It’s about finding a lifestyle that works for you. The most important thing to remember? “Take advantage of what time you do have, and be intentional with it,” says Dr. Burnett-Zeigler.

Inger E. Burnett-Zeigler, PhD
Inger E. Burnett-Zeigler, PhD
Nearest Location:
Associate Professor, Feinberg School of Medicine
  • Primary Specialty Psychology
Does Not Schedule or Accept New Patients
View Profile