Work/life balance & mental health

Mental Health


By: Wendy Haaf

More Canadian women than men (24.1% versus 17%) will meet the criteria for a mood disorder at some point in their lives, one possible reason being that we tend to shoulder a heavier load at home. (Chronic stress – for instance, from conflicting job and family responsibilities – is a risk factor for depression, for example.) On the other hand, there are things we can do to make it easier to find that balance, and nurture and protect our mental and emotional health.

  • Temper your expectations. In one study, mothers who believed combining work and parenthood would easy were more apt to develop symptoms of depression than moms with more realistic expectations.
  • Ponder your priorities. Nobody can have – or do – it all. Focus on the goals and activities that are most important to you, and drop the rest without feeling guilty. Split chores among family members, and if you can afford it, hire help. This article has some great tips on defining your own work/life balance, including some topics to discuss with your partner if you have one. You can also find more suggestions here.
  • Practice self-care. Making time for healthy meals, adequate sleep, physical activity, and hobbies or activities that rejuvenate you isn’t selfish, it’s self-care. These things make you better able to handle stress. Remember: if you pour all of your energy into work and family without filling your tank from time to time, you’ll run out of gas. You can find more tips on self-care here and here.
  • Nurture friendships. Supportive friends help maintain good mental health. The same goes for healthy relationships with your partner and other family members.
  • Set digital limits. If possible, turn off your phone or avoid opening work e-mails after a certain time each evening. Some evidence suggests this strategy actually improves your productivity!
  • Explore flex-hours. Would a more flexible work schedule make it easier for you to meet personal and professional commitments? Check out these tips on negotiating flex-work before approaching your boss with the idea.
  • Take your emotional temperature. Are you stressed out? Experiencing symptoms of depression? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Try these online tests to gauge your well-being: and These sites also offer suggestions on where to get help if you need it.
  • Work it out. Working Through It features excellent resources on staying mentally healthy at work, including how to deal with difficult emotions on the job.

 Whew – I feel better already. How about you?

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