DEAR NATALIE: Can we please talk about work-life balance? I am in my late 40s, and my parents are older and not in great health. I have been spending more time lately caring for them, and I feel as though my clients at work don't understand (I'm a social worker). They often text me or email me at all hours. I'm not sure how to handle trying to balance my busy work schedule with taking care of mom and dad. I'm an only child so it compounds the pressure. Any suggestions? -- BURNED OUT
DEAR BURNED OUT: One of the healthiest things you can do, especially as a social worker, is to create a safe space around yourself. That means that YOU have to set the limitations of how and when clients can reach you. First, get a cellphone that is just for work if you don't have one already. Your clients do not need to have a personal cellphone number. This will create some space emotionally. Second, let them know that after 7 p.m. (or whatever time works for the type of work that you do) the phone shuts off. If they need assistance or if it's an emergency, they can call another number that you provide or 911. Third, put the phone out of sight at that time to reduce your chance for engaging with it. Put it in your bedroom or in your briefcase or wherever else you won't be tempted to look at it. This goes for checking work email as well. Do not link your work email to your personal phone.
People will tug at you from all directions until you say "no." At first, you may frustrate some people and annoy others, but guess what? Over time, they will adapt. As for your parents, while I applaud you for stepping up to the plate, make sure you set aside some time each day for yourself -- whether that means 30 minutes to meditate or one hour to take a walk or watch an episode of "Game of Thrones." You deserve time to reflect, relax and renew so you can help your family in a more productive way. If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be good for anyone else.
Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)