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11 science-backed tricks for finding work-life balance.

How to turn off your screens, work with focus, and take care of yourself.

Today, most employees can work out, eat, and even drink a beer without stepping outside their offices.

With digital technologies available in more and more careers, you don’t even have to work for a giant tech company to feel like you’re always at work, even when you’re not at work. Anyone who finds themselves checking their work email before they get out of bed in the morning can tell you that.


"Wait, you mean your job doesn't have unlimited access to bicycles and 24-hour gyms?" — people at tech start-ups who inspire rabid jealousy in me. Photo by Travis Wise/Flickr.

But even if you love your job, failing to take time away from work can cause burnout. It’s important to establish boundaries to make sure you have a healthy work-life balance. So here are 11 science-backed methods for making sure you have a healthy relationship with your work.

1. Get enough sleep.

If you find yourself working until midnight and waking up at 5 a.m. to put in a few more hours before heading to the office, it's time to take a step back and re-evaluate. When work hours start to eat into your sleep hours, your health, mood, and even the quality of your work will suffer. You're not doing yourself or your employer any favors by being sleep-deprived.

2. Take a lunch break (and actually leave your desk).

OK, I know most of us are guilty of eating a sandwich in front of the computer at least once. Or maybe twice. Per week. But it's important to actually take a break during your lunch break. Your lunch hour is a time to let your mind recharge, not just a time to eat.

3. Make time for exercise.

Studies have found that even light exercise can improve your mood, stress levels, and productivity.

4. Stop checking your email at home.

It may be hard to completely avoid reading work email at home. But set limits: Only respond to urgent emails, don't check them after 9 p.m., and please for the love of all that is holy, don't start in on your work emails before you've had your coffee.

You could just say that this is your phone. Photo by Billy Brown/Flickr.

5. Meditate and be mindful with your work.

I don't need to sell you on the benefits of meditation — you've probably read a few dozen articles already about mindfulness and wellness. Developing a meditation practice can help you deal with work stress, even if you start with just a few minutes every day.

6. Commit to eating healthier.

I'm going to take a wild guess and say that the idea of cooking healthy meals at home and preparing cute bento-box lunches is the first thing you sacrifice when you're slammed at work. No, I'm not psychic; I've just been there. And from experience, I can say that a key part of work-life balance is treating your body to a balanced diet. (And if you really don't have time to cook your own healthy meals, at least aim for a nutritious choice on Seamless.)

If you don't have time to make a healthy lunch, browse "#healthylunch" on Instagram while you wait for a salad to be delivered to your office. Photo by Jeremy Keith/Flickr.

7. Take your PTO.

You get it for a reason. Studies have shown that vacation time (as in using it, not just accumulating it) does wonders for your stress levels and decision-making abilities.

8. Stop multitasking all the time.

Tuning out your boss's emails might actually make you a better employee. If you try to do several things at once — work, email, tweet, listen to a podcast — you're actually less productive and your body goes into anxiety mode. So try to focus on one task at a time (protip: turn off your push notifications).

9. Call in sick.

When you're sick, call in sick! Going into work when you're not 100% is bad for you, your company, your co-workers, and your family. And let's be real — you're not getting any work done when you're miserable.

10. Get a hobby.

Having a creative outlet improves your psychological health and helps you to relax. Plus, your co-workers will think you're really cool if you have to duck out of work a few minutes early for band practice.

11. Re-evaluate your job.

OK, obviously take this advice with a grain of salt. But if you can feasibly do it, there are many cases where you would probably be happier if you looked for a new job or even retired early. If the thought makes you giddy, it's worth exploring.

This is what retirement looks like. (I think. I'm at least four decades away.) Photo by Barbara Ann Spengler/Flickr.

The core of work-life balance is investing in your own well-being just like you'd invest in your career.

So go forth and invest! And let us know what other tricks you use to take care of yourself when work gets stressful.