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Ask A Therapist: How Do I Find Balance Between Work, Life, and Sleep?

Coping Skills, Career, Ask a Therapist
4 min read

Dear Therapist: I’m feeling incredibly sleep deprived because I have so much to get done in one day and it’s impossible to fit everything in. How do I find the balance between getting enough sleep but also feeling like I accomplished enough in a day?

Frame Therapist Ilona Varo weighs in…
Thank you for this question. This is incredibly relevant in a society where productivity is worn as a badge of honor. Ultimately, you are going to have to really tune in to your own physical, psychological, and emotional needs to make the most informed decision. 

I want to begin with the importance of sleep and sleep hygiene. While it might seem obvious, your overall productivity really starts with how rested your brain and body is. There’s no such thing as “catching up on sleep,” so having a routine sleep schedule and a reliable amount of sleep daily really is a priority. I would start by deciding how much sleep you know you physically need and protecting that time at all costs during your busy seasons. While getting into a routine, it can be helpful to have a fixed wake-up time and bedtime. We function most optimally when we have reliable sleep. This means, you may have to start practicing saying no to plans that impede on your sleep hours and having firm boundaries with what you say yes to. 

Experts often say that it is much more valuable in the long run to focus in on singular tasks. Multitasking taxes our brain too much and as a result we get fatigued and lose focus. There’s a quote that says “it is more important to manage your focus than your time.” This is where I suggest you start. It is more important to manage your focus than your time. Prioritize, categorize, and identify what tasks, projects, and engagements you really need to focus on daily, weekly, monthly, etc.

To manage your focus, get in the habit identifying and reviewing daily tasks the night before. People who create to-do lists in the morning (for a day-of tasks) tend to get overwhelmed and exhausted after writing out all they need to accomplish. This makes it harder to feel motivated to act due to subconscious overwhelm. Creating a list is a much better thing to do the day before so that you can implement strategy and action when you are ready to face the tasks in the morning.

Also, it may be important to reality check your energy reserves, time, commitments, and values. Sometimes is quite impossible to get everything done. It is a valuable skill to learn discernment, prioritizing and practicing radical acceptance around our human limitations.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and sleep deprived, I would also suggest reviewing your boundaries. Reflect and create insight around where your energy tends to seep out. Who, what, where, when and how do you tend to lose focus, energy, and motivation? Some examples of boundaries to review include physical boundaries, mental boundaries, emotional boundaries, time boundaries, commitment boundaries, etc.

As you can see, this topic can be complicated and intricate. Take a moment to drop into your own needs and desires. Trust and listen to your own internal wisdom. Chances are, you already know what you need to do, it’s probably more a matter of resistance and acceptance which gets in the way.

Good luck on your journey!


About the author: Ilona Varo is a Therapist & Coach based in Los Angeles. Her approach includes EMDR, self-regulation and mindfulness practices to deal with challenges including: women’s issues, body image, eating disorders, anxiety/depression and phase of life transitions. To learn more about her approach, and explore additional content she has authored, view her Frame profile here.


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** This series is not suited for people who are in immediate crisis. If you are in crisis, please call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or contact Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.