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In a new study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, researchers found that the balance between housework and leisure activity played a crucial role in workload recovery and lowering stress levels.

Researchers found that in families where both spouses work, individuals who spent more time doing housework reported higher evening cortisol levels (a biochemical correlated with stress) and poorer afternoon-to-evening recovery.

While husbands often spent more time on leisure activities than their wives, the study also indicated that when husbands help out with housework this can lead to lower stress levels for wives (although slightly higher stress levels for husbands). In addition, husbands whose wives spent less time on leisure activities had better after-work recovery times.

There a couple lessons here. One is that a cooperative household where both husbands and wives share housework is better for overall reduction of stress rather than an uncooperative household (where one spouse has a significant more amount of work than the other). The second lessons is one that I frequently mention on this blog: leisure time is important for life satisfaction (and, my guess, probably overall productivity as well).

But here’s the thing. People always say they are too busy to enjoy themselves. They come home from a rough day at work to find more and more chores to do: pick up kids from school, help with homework, cook, clean, pay bills, etc. But I believe that however busy you may be, it is absolutely necessary that you find time for leisure and relaxation. Here are some suggestions to help get work done and still find time for relaxation:

  • Find ways to divvy up the work (have kids do small chores, carpool, etc.)
  • Try to only focus on tasks that are absolutely necessary.
  • Don’t let your inner clean freak get the best of you. Cleaning the house once a week should be fine.
  • Make a schedule and leave time to actually enjoy yourself.
  • The kinds of breaks you take are important: 20 minutes of meditation may be more rejuvenating to you than watching 2 hours of TV. Try new things and find what works best.
  • Conscious practice over time can build a stable routine.
  • Try to see if you can make some chores more fun by blurring the line between work and play.
  • Also lower stress levels by taking more quality breaks during your workday (start by checking out this list of 50 Stress Relievers That Take 5 Minutes or Less).
  • Don’t be afraid to take a 30-60 minute nap (when done right, it can boost alertness and productivity).

Again, these are just suggestions. And I realize some of this stuff is commonsense, but it’s worth reminding people about. I find people often underestimate the importance of leisure, but it’s something that – in my mind – is crucial to both productivity and life satisfaction. We need to know how to recharge our batteries. I’ve seen people just try to “push through” ridiculous work schedules; maybe sometimes it’s necessary, but it shouldn’t become the norm. Focus on smart work, not hard work, and part of that intelligence definitely includes well-spent leisure time. Enjoy yourself.


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