Believe it or not, the pandemic-induced hybrid work life has its challenges. While it might sound ideal, many people who work from home have a hard time logging off when the designated business day is over. Some say they work more at home than they do when they’re in the office because the hours extend well past “quitting time” and there are no chatty colleagues distracting them. I recently read an article that examined how commuters use their travel time to decompress and disconnect on their way home. This is a healthy boundary, but it’s difficult to enforce when the commute is nonexistent and business calls and meetings are conducted on the living room couch. When intrusive emails appear late at night and the computer is in the same room as the bed or kitchen table, it maybe difficult to disengage.
Centuries ago, Chinese medicine theory clearly identified the causes of disease. Overwork and stress were labeled as such pathogenic factors. Overstrain/stress consumes vital energy and when prolonged, weakens the protective qi that acts as a barrier against illness. In other words, it compromises the immune system. This might result in “loss of weight, lassitude, disinclination to speak, palpitations, insomnia, dizziness and blurred vision.”
On the other hand, lack of physical activity negatively affects the circulation of qi and blood and weakens the spleen and stomach. This might happen if you’re consumed with sedentary duties from the moment you wake until well after dinner (all in the comfort of your sweatpants)! Inactivity may lead to “low energy, poor appetite, lassitude, obesity and shortness of breath on exertion.” So, there you have it: ancient Chinese texts outlined what we now know about the repercussions of overwork, stress, and burnout.
Many patients have recently raised concerns about career stress affecting their health. I have witnessed serious illness and mental health consequences from job-induced stress. The work-life balance is a dilemma which requires some finesse and planning. One solution is to find a way to officially logoff on wfh days. For example, turn off notifications after hours, go for a walk, or use making dinner as the time you separate yourself from the workday. Designating the time when you disconnect may help, as well as scheduling breaks, delegating, and prioritizing effectively. Planning time off and arranging vacations so that you can truly recharge are imperative (that’s what vacations are for!). These efforts may feel uncomfortable at first, but the long-term rewards of having a satisfying personal life are worth it. You will be more effective personally and professionally if you feel rested, energized, and refreshed.
*This concept of healthy boundaries applies to all types of work and all aspects of life and a variety of situations. Social obligations, over-commitments, and excessive social media or tech usage in general can also be energy-sapping, so be mindful of all endeavors that drain you and upset the balance in your life.