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02.14 - February

Emotional well-being
Balancing your life: Small steps, big rewards
Discover 7 smart strategies for smoother sailing at home and work

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By Arleen Fitzgerald, L.I.C.S.W.
(Click for author bios in About us)

Few people would argue with this: A balanced life is a worthy goal. We all want to feel happy and effective at home and on the job.

But, how do you find that sweet spot? After all, tonight's dinner won't magically appear on the table. And, the project you're working on isn't going to complete itself.

For more balance, begin here
To become more focused and less frazzled, here are seven strategies to start today. You still may have days that derail you a bit — when, despite your best efforts, you're stretched too thin. But, over time, these practices can help ease your mind and make you more productive, too.

1. Take stock. Make a list of your top priorities for work and home. Keeping these in mind can help you make choices that support your goals. Do this step regularly to help yourself stay focused on what matters most.

2. Reconsider your to-do list. See if there's anything you can scrap or adjust. For example, rather than signing up to head a fundraising committee, you might be a member. Or, volunteer for one specific event or task.

Also, identify tasks you don't enjoy or that could be easier. Let's say you often put off paying bills. Set up automatic payments — and save yourself some time.

3. Tap into teamwork. Sometimes, we feel the need to do everything ourselves. But, delegating can have real rewards. For instance, enlist kids, from preschoolers to teens, to help around the home. Show them how to pitch in with meals, laundry and other chores. You'll be giving them confidence and teaching them valuable life skills.

For some people, this might be an option at work, as well. Working as a team may help you be more productive — and give everyone a chance to contribute and grow.

4. Set goals you can manage. Do you have a long-desired project that never seems to get off the ground? Break it into smaller steps. Then give yourself a realistic amount of time to get each one done. As you check off tasks, enjoy your accomplishment. You'll feel more in control — and ready for the next stage.

5. Find moments to savor. Each day, do something that makes you smile. Step outdoors for some fresh air. Catch up with a friend — or get lost in your favorite magazine. Even mini breaks may lift your spirits and clear your mind.

6. Just do it: Disconnect. Laptops, tablets and smartphones can make it possible to be plugged in 24/7. And, of course, you want to be available when needed. But, if at all possible, try to unplug for at least some time each day. It's a good way to unwind and refresh.

7. Make yourself a priority. Do you think you're too busy to work out? That means you're probably too busy not to exercise. Being active is a great stress buster. It can make you stronger physically and mentally.*

And, here are two more musts for having the energy you need: Fuel up with nutritious foods. And, get enough shut-eye. If you're healthy and rested, you'll be at your best — both at home and on the job.

Know when to seek help
Are you struggling with stress, anxiety or depression? Talk with your doctor or a mental health professional. Check your benefits plan to see what services may be covered.

*Talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level.
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Quick tip

What's for dinner?
It's a feared question in many busy households. Take the dread out of it by setting aside a few minutes each week to make a basic meal plan. Not every evening may go as planned. But, you'll be more likely to make healthy menu choices when you're not always rushed — or winging it.

Give yourself transition time

Your workday is over — and you're headed home. But, how do you switch gears smoothly? One idea: Take advantage of your commute. Chill out with music or an audiobook. If you're not driving, you could even tackle a crossword puzzle — or meditate quietly. Once you're at home, put on some comfortable clothes. Then, take a few minutes to relax or check in with loved ones before you launch into household tasks or other activities.

If you have kids, you can help them make the transition, too. Greet them with a big hug or kiss. And, find out about their days.