Updated: Jan 13
There is some truth to the old adage, "if you want to get something done ask a busy person." Overachievers tend to have that "bring it on" outlook and take well-deserved pride in all they achieve. But when that pride takes the form of working the longest hours to get the most done it can also cause stress and undermine both mental and physical health.
It's best to seek a balance before stress or burnout take a toll. Following a few—or all—of these seven foolproof tips can create balance in life and help insulate busy people from the wear and tear that go along with stress, overwork or a lack of attention to life's other important pleasures.
1. Establish a self-care routine
There's no substitute for taking the time to take care of yourself. After all, if you don't have a healthy body and mind what do you have? The enormous benefits of mindful activity, or just resting your attention in meditation, are well documented. For many people this takes the form of a gratitude practice that can be done before jumping up in the morning or after retiring for the night. Just ten minutes to a half hour a day of meditation, mindfulness or gratitude practice can make all the difference.
2. Eat well, sleep well and exercise
A healthy diet, enough sleep and daily exercise are the foundations of wellness and self-care. Making sure there's a balance in your diet—with plenty of whole grains, fresh fruit and veggies, and cutting way back on processed foods—makes a big difference in everything from focus to energy levels. Getting enough exercise and sunlight also reduce stress and keep the body strong and energized.
Reducing screen time, especially late at night, is also an important way to insure you get quality shut-eye. Put a limit on evening work time and make sure no devices find their way into the bedroom.
3. Be kind to yourself: Set realistic goals and learn to say "no."
Knowing your limits may not be as easy as it sounds. A good rule is if a task feels overwhelming or wrong, it probably is. Busy people can take on a lot, but no one is invincible. Be sure your goals, and others' expectations, remain in your comfort zone or within a healthy learning curve. Listen to yourself; don't override that important voice inside. And, above all, speak kindly to yourself. There's absolutely no substitute for being your own advocate and best friend.
4. Make time for the people you love
Quality time with family and friends is essential for a balanced life. Not only do loved ones provide a much-needed support system, they need us as much as we need them. Life goes by quickly, so be sure you don't miss out on those precious moments.
5. Schedule days off and take full vacations—not work vacations
A day off here and there to recharge can be a life-saver in times of stress and can help us relax and get perspective on our lives. Sometimes we don't know how ragged we are until we actually stop. So make sure you schedule plenty of down time, for yourself and to be with loved ones.
6. Be creative, curious and continue to learn
Meaningful pursuits outside the job or office can go a long way toward recharging the batteries and making life feel more meaningful. And recent science says stimulation keeps the brain developing throughout life and can even help stave off dementia. Creative pursuits can also help us evolve professionally—more people nowadays are letting go of an unfulfilling or dead-end career to pursue their passion.
7. Speak with a therapist
Sometimes talking to a professional to better managing life's inevitable ups and downs can go far toward getting you through the rough patches. Therapists can help clarify and set goals, curb unhealthy habits or relationships, or just help us get perspective when life feels overwhelming.