Is your work-life balance feeling a little out of alignment? Here are five signs to look out for, from Life Coach Directory member Chris Cooper

New data from the Office of National Statistics shows that job satisfaction and security are much more important to young people than having a high income - and, worryingly, those factors were also rated as more important than having time for family or having lots of leisure time.

The ONS survey of 16-21 year olds showed that the most important aspect of a 16-21 year old’s future occupation is that it is an interesting job (71%) and secondly that the job was secure (60%). The third-highest priority was having time for family (40%), followed by having a job helping others, a high income, contribution to society and – lastly – lots of leisure time.

With studies consistently showing that anxiety and depression have become the most common form of work-related illness - even overtaking musculoskeletal disorders - the importance of keeping a good work-life balance cannot be understated.

Here are five signs to look out for that your work-life balance is out of alignment:

1. Being on constant call for work emails

Answering emails outside normal work hours is something many people do. Indeed, working through emails on your journey to and from work may be an efficient use of your time, especially if this means you can arrive late or finish early. The problem occurs when you find yourself checking your messages all night, getting involved in protracted email exchanges until late and hardly ever turning your work phone off. This creates an expectation that you will always be available. Soon you feel like you can never switch off from work.

2. Developing unhealthy eating and drinking habits to cope with stress

This creeps into your daily routine when you use sugary foods and alcohol as crutches to help you deal with the long hours you are working. At the office, this can include ‘treating yourself’ to muffins, chocolate and other snacks to help you get through the day. And when you finally get home from work, opening a bottle of wine or having a few beers becomes an ever more familiar habit to ‘help you unwind’ and reward yourself for your efforts. Pretty soon, this can turn into an alcohol dependency.

Taken together, eating the wrong things and drinking too much will take a toll on your health. Negative impacts may include weight gain increased your risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers and Type II diabetes.

3. Waking up during the night thinking about work

The more hours you work, the longer work is on your mind. If you’re working late, this means your brain will be processing information about work all through the evening, with little time to switch off before bedtime. This is especially true if you sit in bed at night answering emails!

Put simply, your mind is working overtime. This makes it more likely you will sleep fitfully and wake up during the night, worrying about what has happened today or what might happen tomorrow.

As well as adjusting your email working hours, try a short mindfulness exercise at bedtime to help your mind unwind and switch off before you go to sleep. These days it’s simple with smartphone apps such as Headspace, which provides short, tailormade pre-sleep meditations you can follow easily.

4. Feeling tired and sluggish all the time

The effects of habits like working too many hours in the office, eating unhealthy comfort foods, not exercising enough, drinking on weeknights and not sleeping enough combine to create one much bigger problem. Feeling tired and sluggish all the time and not having enough energy to get through the day means you do things like increasing your caffeine intake and have more and more sugary snacks to get you through.

This creates a vicious cycle which could have a significant long-term impact on your mental and physical wellbeing. It’s something you need to address right now, by focusing on each unhealthy habit one-by-one, including the root cause: working too many hours.

5. Friends complain that they never see you

One of the first things to get squeezed out if you work too many hours is your social life. Soon, you find the only time you see your friends is on social media. Weeks and months go by without seeing the people you care about most. Your Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of pictures of your friends out and having a great time – without you.

The paradox is that seeing the people you care about regularly is one of the best ways to reduce cortisol, the hormone released by your brain during stressful times. Seeing and talking to your friends is a better way to deal with tough times than alcohol or comfort food. It’s time to start marking out more time in your diary to see friends and family.

If you recognise any of these five signs, it’s time to act now and re-examine the relationship between your career and the rest of your life.

For further advice about how to improve your work-life balance, visit Life Coach Directory. Remember, work might be an important part of our lives, but it is just one part of our lives.