Self-Care Strategies for a Healthy Work-Life Balance

By: Tina Chan, Reference Services Program Manager and Social Sciences Librarian, MIT Libraries

Self-care Strategies for a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for many people.  Like many, I practice social-distancing and wear a mask while outside, and I work from home since my library closed. I had to set up and adapt to my work-from-home space while setting boundaries since my work and home spaces were in the same location. I recognize I am privileged to work from home while others were laid off, furloughed, or had to work onsite. I acknowledge I have no caregiver responsibilities when others had to be at home (sometimes while working) with people they care for. As unfortunate events (racial injustice, COVID-19 pandemic, economic decline, among others) impact us in different ways, the following are some self-care strategies for a healthy work-life balance.

Establish Work and Home Boundaries

Separating work and home spaces is important. When I first started working from home, it was easy for me to work beyond my work hours since I was still at home. Create a designated workspace in your home and stick to your work hours.  Not working on your days off is also important.  The work will still be there when you return to work.

Maintain a Consistent Schedule

Maintain a consistent schedule to help regulate your day. Set specific times of the day to eat, work, study, do homework, exercise, sleep, and any other activities you normally did pre-COVID-19 pandemic. I start my day by biking an hour and I take virtual fitness classes. Adding these classes to my calendar commits me to take them. I also set aside reading time in the evenings.

Stay Mentally and Physically Active

Being at home doesn’t mean you can’t be mentally and physically active. Set aside a regular daily time to do something that keeps you mentally and physically active. Take a virtual fitness class, read a book or work on a crossword puzzle in the evenings, or learn a new hobby. Whatever the activity is, do it regularly. Remember to stay hydrated.

Support a Healthy Diet

Staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic can cause unhealthy eating habits. Make smart food choices by writing a list of healthy items to buy. I am more likely to stick with a list when I write what to buy. Stock your refrigerator and freezer with healthy foods to create healthy eating habits. 

Maintain Social Connections

Staying social is important to mental health. Maintain regular social connections with family and friends. Check in with them through a video or telephone call. If you work from home, you’re no longer able to stop by a colleague’s desk to chat or to run into them in the break room. Set up a video call with colleagues to create community and support each other.

Limit Media Consumption, Including Social Media

Keeping up with current news is important, but sometimes it can be disheartening. As the news impacts us in different ways, reducing media consumption, including social media, is essential. Limit the number and frequency of media sources. For example, you may want to follow three of your favorite news sources to twice per day (in the mornings and evenings).

Practicing self-care and maintaining a healthy work-life balance are critical to staying mentally and physically healthy.  As we respond to events differently, seek professional help when necessary.  We must continue to follow healthy strategies to stay grounded in times of uncertainty.