Today's work environment has permanently blurred the lines between our personal and professional lives, which requires us to be even more intentional and protective with our downtime.  

Burnout and mental health issues have reached crisis levels, with nearly 1 in 12 adults having depression.

The number of hours we spend online checking email or engaging in social media platforms continues to grow. Adults today spend an average of 11 hours online

What can we do to ensure we care for our physical and emotional health while still attending to personal and professional obligations? These 8 steps can help even the most stretched person regain control over his/her schedules and restore a sense of calm to their daily life. 

1: Prioritize your health.  Safeguarding your health should be the highest priority. When we proactively care for our health, we mitigate larger health challenges down the road. 
How to do it:

- Schedule required annual doctor's visits, and keep them. This comprehensive list of checkups explains every appointment you need from your 20's to your 70's. 

- Prioritize physical health. Join a gym class or fitness group to hold yourself accountable. Block the time on your calendar and treat yor fitness commitment as an appointment you can't miss. 

2: Put buffers in your schedule. Do your appointments bump up against each other? Take back control of your schedule. 

How to do it:

- Include at least a 15-minute buffer before and after each appointment to accommodate any meetings that run long or start late.

- Schedule 45-minute meetings instead of 60-minute meetings. Focus on covering only essential topics and do as much pre-meeting prep as possible. 

- Ensure every meeting has an agenda, and that only the essential people are there. Identify desired outcomes before the meeting to ensure everyone is on the same page. 

- Once a month, schedule a totally blank day, with no pressure. 

3: Stay true to your agenda - not someone else's. How much of your day is dedicated to fulfilling someone else's agenda? 

How to do it: 

- Start by saying "No."  "No" is a complete sentence. Don't add someone else's obligations to your schedule if you can barely manage your own obligations. 

4: Schedule touchpoints with your friends. Nothing puts life back into perspective than some fun or talk therapy with your friends.

How to do it:

- Schedule regular calls or lunches with your BFFs to remain connected to other parts of life besides work. 

5: Plan for long-term fun. Do you have favorite activities you've put on the back burner because life is pulling you in a million directions? Carving out time for small escapes is essential to remaining engaged at work. 

How to do it:
- Plan a vacation that occurs several months from now. Even if it's a small getaway, it will give you something to look forward to. 

- Get reconnected to the most fun part of yourself by booking an activity that brings you lots of joy, such as a concert or theater production. 

6:  Get your sleep. Sleep deprivation assaults all aspects of our health, including our mental and emotional state. 

How to do it:

- Be selfish. If you're exhausted, go to bed earlier. Create an environment conducive to good sleep:  no screens, no noise, good sleeping temperature, earplugs, eye mask, essential oils, music to help you drift off (I especially love the Calm app) - whatever you need to sleep. Work can wait, the family can do it all without you. 

7: Be OK with not getting it all done.  As your life gets busier, it's highly likely you won't ever complete your daily to-do list. That's ok! Somehow, you'll manage to address all of the high priority tasks, and make it all work. 

8: Remember the power of your thoughts.  Finally, remember that it is not our situations that cause us stress. It is our thoughts about our situations that cause us stress. No one really knows what the future brings. Our speculation only fuels our anxiety. 

In Summary

The busier life gets, the harder it will be to please others.

Our commitment to our health must be our top priority so that we can show up for others. 

Life passes by very quickly. Spending your days in an exhausted, over-committed, and overly anxious state is often a choice. Take back the control over your life. The quality of your life lies in your hands.