Mental Health Awareness: How to Achieve Work/Life Balance in Your 20's

For years now, “work/life balance” has been a buzzy, elusive concept that few of us feel we’ve achieved. In an increasingly online world, it’s become impossible to unplug. In 2015, Adrienne LaFrance wrote an article for The Atlantic about overflowing inboxes, in which she made the astute observation: “In the 1990s, AOL would gleefully announce, ‘You’ve got mail!’ Today, Gmail celebrates the opposite: ‘No new mail!’” E-mail is hardly the recreational tool it used to be; now it’s a way for the people we work with to reach us all. the. time. And maybe that’s because we all work all the time. 

A 2013 survey revealed that 81% of respondents checked their email after working hours and 59% did so on vacation. Nine years on from that survey, we've only gotten more connected. But we’ve also all found our lives interrupted by a global pandemic, which had many people re-evaluating their relationship to work, and even kick-started what HR professionals are calling “the great resignation,” when, in 2021, more people quit their jobs than in any year on record. And the question of work/life balance, for both employers and employees, is now more critical than ever. Read on for five of our favorite tips.

Get Outside First Thing 

In an increasingly WFH-friendly world, it’s tempting to set your alarm for a few minutes before you start work, roll out of bed, and log onto your laptop. But it’s going to cost you. According to Stanford neurobiologist and ophthalmologist Dr. Andrew Huberman, getting sunlight (yes, actual sunlight, not the light from your phone) into your eyes first thing is the most important factor in getting a good night’s sleep (and, of course, being well-rested is key to work/life balance). If you can get outside with the sunrise, do it! The specific balance of light in the rising sun activates our neural circuits and triggers a cortisol pulse that gets our system going for the day. To put it in unscientific terms: visual exposure to sunlight first thing gives you energy and regulates your sleep (and, unfortunately for those of us who were wondering whether sticking your head out the window might suffice, actually going outside has been proven to be 50x more effective than watching the sunrise through a window). Trust us, you won’t regret it.

Institute A Caffeine Cutoff

We know there’s nothing better than an iced latte on a warm summer morning, and we’d never suggest you give that up (unless you’re naturally anxious, in which case a 7-day caffeine detox is something we’d recommend for improving work/life balance–because an anxious worker is rarely a happy one). What we will say is this: caffeine has an average quarter-life of twelve hours, which means: twelve hours after you first drink it, a quarter of the caffeine you consumed is still in your system. So, before you convince yourself that you need an afternoon cup of coffee to help you finish that project, consider the fact that it’ll stay in your system long after you’re trying to sleep–potentially leading you to toss and turn all night, and setting you up for an irritable and stressful next day. Go for a green juice or slightly less caffeinated alternative like matcha or chai instead.

Say Goodbye to the Deskside Lunch 

We’re likely all well aware that a deskside lunch is hardly healthy, but let’s be honest: we’re all guilty of shoveling our Sweetgreen salads with one hand and answering emails with the other. But there are actually long-term health risks to sitting all day, including an increased risk of high cholesterol and heart disease. Whether you work from home or in an office, make an effort to create a designated eating area that is not your desk. It’s healthier and it’ll make you happier. Because work/life balance is all about the little moments you take throughout the day.

Go For A Midday Walk

Yes, we’re going to drive the “sitting all day is terrible for your health” point home here. It seems that many people have convinced themselves that they “don’t have time” to pause and go for a walk in the middle of the workday. But what if we told you that walking has literally been scientifically proven to boost creativity? Set an alarm on your phone for around 2:00 or 3:00 p.m when the afternoon slump really starts to hit, put on a podcast or walking meditation (we love Mimi Bouchard’s app, Superhuman, for the wide variety of motivational walking meditations), and get outside.

Set Boundaries With Email 

Here’s a tip that’s easier said than done: setting time boundaries with email. It’s hard at first, but once you’ve established the fact that you won’t answer any emails after 8:00 p.m., your colleagues will start to get used to it. Let them know that you’re going to be logging off at a certain time each night and that they can text you for emergencies. If you get a text about something that doesn’t feel like an emergency–let them know! Sure, it may sound uncomfortable, but hopefully, it’ll set a standard that the rest of your team starts to follow–and inspire everyone to work smarter, not longer. Also, we wish we didn’t have to say this, but we think we do: delete your email from your phone when you go on vacation (and don’t bring your laptop!). You deserve it.