Occupational Balance

Happy blogmas day 5! It’s no surprise that I’m taking some time during blogmas to talk about occupational balance. I talk about occupational balance a lot because I truly believe that it is so important for an individual’s well-being. Let’s talk about what it is and how I like to maintain occupational balance.

Occupational balance is achieved when there is balance between the occupations that a person participates in. In other words, the proportion between things a person NEEDS to do and WANTS to do is balanced. This leads to improved well-being. Occupational imbalance would occur if a person is under-employed or over-employed. For example, if a person works more than 1 job and does not have time to participate in occupations/activities that they want to participate in (leisure, social participation, rest and sleep, play, etc.). This could lead to decreased well-being, including both physical and mental health.

A small study published in AJOT found that occupational balance is correlated with participation, quality of life, health, and stress, and can be used as a therapeutic frame of reference in OT for health promotion and prevention (Park & Park, 2019). I love that occupational therapists can use their knowledge and expertise to promote a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Put into practice, occupational balance can be confused with general self-care. However, it is important to remember that maintaining occupational balance is much more than just doing a face mask once a month and posting a picture with #selfcare. To maintain occupational balance, you should take a look at your daily or weekly responsibilities and think about how much time you are spending on things you NEED to do versus things you WANT to do. Things you need to do may include working, education, child and/or pet care, housework or maintenance, etc. Things you want to do may include leisure activities or hobbies, social gatherings, sleep or rest, exercise, etc. Ideally, you will be able to participate in some things that you want to do, in addition to the responsibilities that you need to fulfill. If you never have time to participate in anything just for fun, you may experience increased stress and/or decreased health and well-being.

How I Maintain Occupational Balance

Below I’m sharing some things that I do to try to maintain occupational balance. This will look differently for everyone, and some people’s circumstances do not allow them to maintain occupational balance. Even if you cannot achieve true occupational balance, I encourage you to review how you spend your time and make some intentional choices to participate in a few things that you WANT to do each day/week/month. Here are some things that I like to do to maintain occupational balance:

  • Exercise daily
  • Go for walks
  • Go for bike rides
  • Walk on the beach
  • Read for pleasure
  • Listen to audiobooks/podcasts on my commute
  • Say “no” to responsibilities/social commitments when I cannot extend myself any further
  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day
  • Ensure 7-8 hours of sleep every night
  • Participate in leisure/hobbies daily/weekly (needlepoint, embroidery, sewing, reading, playing flute/piano, blogging, etc.)
  • Time alone to recharge
  • Seek social support from friends and family
  • Plan 1 fun social gathering per week/month
  • Positive self-talk
  • Don’t put pressure on myself to be “perfect”

How do you maintain occupational balance? Do one thing each day just for YOU.

References

Park, S. & Park, J. (2019). Causal effects of occupational balance (OB) on participation, health, quality of life, and stress with people in adulthood. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 73. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2019.73S1-PO6042

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