Work-life balance - 6 tips for handling life events

Medical Director Bupa Global and UK Insurance
14 January 2020

A close friend or family member is diagnosed with cancer, your relationship hits a rocky patch, or perhaps your partner loses their job, slashing your monthly income. Financial difficulties, relationship problems, illness and even bereavement are all things we experience at some point or another. Being able to deal with these challenges while managing your day-to-day responsibilities is no mean feat.

So if you find yourself at work unproductively typing away, plagued with unhelpful thoughts and worries or on the edge of tears, here are some things you can do to help.

a woman sitting at her desk deep in thought

1. Take five

Step away from what you’re doing, go for a quick walk or take a few minutes to work through a relaxation exercise. Try taking a few deep breaths, focusing on your breath as you breathe in and then out.

2. Try to be rational and prioritise

Feeling stressed or experiencing a traumatic event can reap havoc on our concentration and ability to cope, which makes managing our workload even trickier. Make a list of current projects and tasks and rank them in order of importance. Identify tasks that are a definite ‘must do’ and prioritise these over other, less urgent or important tasks.

Our bodies and minds are incredible; when met with times of trouble or distress, we’re often able to adapt and bounce back. Keep this in mind and remember that all of those less important tasks can wait until you’re feeling back to your best.

3. Boost your motivation and productivity

When a task is nearing its deadline and your mind is elsewhere, actively try to boost your motivation and productivity to help get the job done. The following may help.

  • Break your ‘must-do’ list down in to smaller, actionable tasks. Put a couple of easy-to-action tasks at the top for a quick win and motivational boost.
  • Focus on one thing at a time and don’t fall victim to the multitasking myth. When we try to focus on multiple tasks at one time, what actually happens is that our brain flits back and forth between them. Each time we divert our attention, it takes between 30–60 seconds for us to refocus.

4. Seek comfort in your colleagues

Each week we spend an average of 37.4 hours at work – nearly two thirds of our total week including the time we spend asleep. With so much time spent at work, it’s no surprise that many of us form bonds and friendships with those around us. In a time of crisis, your colleagues may be a great source of support. A problem shared is a problem halved and talking to someone you trust about what you’re going through might make things seem less daunting.

5. Source professional support

If you prefer to keep your personal life out of view from your colleagues, or need more help, consider reaching out for professional and impartial support. Your company may have an employee assistance programme (EAP) that you can access. Amongst other things, the programme may offer:

  • counselling in person or over the phone
  • money and debt advice
  • legal information or guidance
  • guidance around caring, for example, for elderly parents or children

You may also be able to find out more about local facilities and resources. If you’re unsure about what help and support is available, speak to your manager or HR department.

6. Proactively increase resilience

Difficult situations can strike at a moment’s notice, so it’s a good idea to take steps to build your resilience overtime. You can think of resilience as a toolbox, filled with lots of helpful tools and tips to help you bounce back and cope in the face of a setback. Building up a support network, adapting your mindset and looking after your physical health are all important factors. Try the following to help proactively build your resilience.

  • Eat well, get enough sleep and stay active. Physical and mental health go hand in hand, so look after your physical health to help strengthen your mind and mental wellbeing.
  • Challenge your mindset. Try to approach situations with positivity – easier said than done? Perhaps. But take small steps. Keep perspective on a situation and start to think about challenging situations as an opportunity to learn and develop. Your outlook and positivity may play a crucial role in helping you to bounce back after a setback.
  • Build up your support network. Picking up a new or existing hobby is not only a great way to take time out from the pressures you’re facing, but a way to meet new people and grow your support network too.



Mindfulness is a great way to nurture your mental health. Our health insurance allows you to skip GP referral in some cases, and speak straight to a consultant.

Dr Luke James
Medical Director Bupa Global and UK Insurance

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