Achieving a work – life balance is an important aspect of mental wellbeing and can easily become out of sync without us even realising it, particularly when we are feeling under significant pressure from one of these two areas – in other words, stressed. This imbalance can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety . One useful tool you can use to get some perspective and move back into a position of feeling like you have some control is by keeping an activity diary for a a week (and ideally longer) which can provide us with useful information on where the loss of balance in our life lies. It can be helpful to separate out the different needs we have into four distinct areas:
1/ Bodily Self Care – this includes how we look after our physical body, i.e. exercise, nutrition, rest and sleep, self-grooming, medication, etc.
2/ Achievement – this includes work, study, housework, any tasks / activities that give us a sense of having achieved something concrete.
3/ Connecting with others – this can be family, friends, work colleagues – in person, over the telephone or social media. It can simply be being in an environment where there are others as long as we feel connected. It can also include connecting with animals. Our pets can be very therapeutic in helping us to feel calmer.
4/ Enjoyment – hobbies, interests, fun activities, relaxing activities – anything that gives us a sense of pleasure and joy.
Categorise how you are spending your time each day into the four areas. Sometimes one activity may fulfil more than one category, e.g. walking the dog can be exercise so would meet bodily self care, it could also be an achievement if you really didn’t feel like going, it could be connecting with others as you may have met other dog walkers, and you may have enjoyed it.
By monitoring your activity according to these categories it will give you a useful overview of how you are spending your time and gain a sense of where there are gaps – where it might be necessary to make some changes to re-balance your life.
In my work as a CBT therapist one of the areas that I frequently see my clients neglecting is under the category of enjoyment, and specifically, in having fun. We can get so caught up with work and what we think we should be doing we can lose sight of enjoyment and connecting with others. Or we may have crammed so much into our day that we have no time to stop and just be.
Activity monitoring can be a useful tool for anyone who wants to take stock of their life and see whether they are tending to all the different areas in their life which, when combined, create a sense of positive mental well-being. If you would like a structure in undertaking this activity then you can use a form called BACE (https://www.get.gg/docs/BACEdiary-weekly.pdf) which is a daily activity monitoring form. You will notice that the word BACE is the acronym for the four areas.
Once you have gathered the information and highlighted the areas that need to be addressed you can use the same form as a daily planner to set manageable and achievable goals to shift the balance and address the gaps.
Sometimes the simplest strategies are the most helpful.
Rebecca Mead is an accredited, registered and experienced Psychotherapist offering Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) to individuals adults. Rebecca is available at our Brighton and Hove Practice.
Further reading by Rebecca Mead –