2018-08-01 / OnCall

Balancing Act

Maintaining good health and peace of mind is tricky in today’s busy world.
Tamar Baitel, MD

For many people, the pursuit of a healthy work/life balance seems like an impossible goal. With so many of us torn between juggling heavy workloads, managing relationships and family responsibilities, and squeezing in outside interests, it’s no surprise that more than one in four Americans describe themselves as “super stressed.” And that’s not balanced — or healthy.

Over time, stress also weakens our immune systems and makes us susceptible to a variety of ailments from colds to backaches to heart disease. According to Mental Health America (, research shows that chronic stress can double our risk of having a heart attack. That statistic alone is enough to raise your blood pressure.

Here are a few practical steps we can all take to loosen the grip that stress has on us and win back the balance in our lives.


Set manageable goals each day. Being able to meet priorities helps us feel a sense of accomplishment and control. Be realistic about workloads and deadlines. Make a “to do” list, and take care of essential tasks first and eliminate nonessential ones. Ask for help when necessary.

Be efficient with your time at work. When you face a big project at work or home, start by dividing it into smaller tasks. Complete the first one before moving on to the next. Give yourself small rewards upon each completion, whether it’s a five-minute break or a walk to the coffee shop.

Take five. Taking a break at work isn’t only acceptable; it’s often encouraged by many employers. Small breaks at work — or on any project — will help clear your head, and improve your ability to deal with stress and make right decisions when you jump back into the grind.

Communicate effectively. Be honest with colleagues or your boss when you feel you’re in a bind. Chances are, you’re not alone. But don’t just complain — suggest practical alternatives.

Give yourself a break. No one’s perfect! Allow yourself to be human and do the best you can.


Unplug. The same technology that makes it so easy for us to perform our jobs and organize our calendars can also burn us out quickly.

Divide and conquer. Make sure responsibilities at home are evenly distributed and clearly outlined — you’ll avoid confusion and problems later.

Don’t overcommit. Do you feel stressed when you glance at your calendar? If you’re overscheduled with activities, learn to say no. Resist the Superman/Superwoman urge!

Get support. Talking with friends and family can be critical to your success at home or at work and can even improve your health. People with stronger support systems have more aggressive immune responses to illnesses than those who lack such support.

Stay active. Aside from its well-known physical benefits, regular exercise reduces stress, depression and anxiety and enables people to better cope with adversity. It’ll also boost your immune system and keep you out of the doctor’s office!

Remember, if you’re regularly finding yourself overwhelmed, it may be time to seek professional mental health assistance. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness — taking care of yourself is a sign of strength. •SCM

Tamar Baitel, MD, Mount Nittany Physician Group Family Medicine sees patients at the Mount Nittany Health – Penns Valley location in Spring Mills.

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