Occupational Balance and Stress
Occupational balance is recurring phenomena in current literature (Eklund et al, 2017).Occupational balance relates to health and wellbeing, which therefore makes it a key area of discussion within occupational therapy literature (Eklund et al, 2017; Erikson et al, 2009). Wagman et al (2012) defines occupational balance as the individual’s perception of having the right amount of variable occupations.
The term occupational balance was first introduced by Meyer (1927) and has been reintroduced in the 1990s (Eklund et al, 2017). Meyer (1922) discussed the importance of work, play, rest and sleep. He believed that there must be a balance of these domains. Therefore, it can be understood from this that a pattern of doing shapes either balance or imbalance (Eklund et al, 2017).
Christiansen (1996) later defined occupational balance as personally satisfying a pattern of daily occupations. Considering this definition, a literature review showed that an occupational balance or imbalance tends to be known as an outcome of the pattern formed when people spend their time on a variety of occupations (Eklund, Leufstadius and Berherholm, 2009).
‘Stress’and ‘burnt-out’ are concepts that have caused debate for many years (Eriksson et al., 2010). People with stress related conditions often experience occupational imbalance in their everyday lives (Ekstedt and Fagerberg, 2005).Studies have confirmed that individuals usually surrender leisure and social activities and spend more time on work activities (Sonnentag and Zijlstra, 2006; Van Hoodff et al 2007).
A study by Erikson et al (2010) was carried out which aimed at enabling clients to return to work, or to participate in to meaningful occupations through a rehabilitate programme. The clients had been focusing exclusively on work and on occupations that were for others rather than occupations and time spent on themselves to increase health and well-being. The programme used the educational approach to teach the participants to change their self-image, take control of their everyday lives, and revaluate occupations during rehabilitation. Furthermore,this programme showed to have a positive effect on their occupational balance up to 7 months following completion (Erikson et al, 2010).
A cognitive approach was used to emphasise the importance of developing strategies to counter attitudes towards oneself and reactions to stress(Erikson et al, 2010). It can be concluded from this study that different approaches to rehabilitation might motivate changes in everyday lives. The participants were able to participate in various activities throughout the programme and this had significant impacts on achieving occupational balance.
This study involved 15 participants; therefore, further studies will need to be carried out and this study should be treated as a pilot (Bowling, 2005). However, this study does show that an increase in participation of a variety of occupation sduring rehabilitation increased the occupational participation following completion of the programme. It would have been beneficial to have recorded information on a questionnaire using a Likert scale to show how they felt before, during and after the programme. An interview using open ended questions were used to understand the client’s experiences during rehabilitation, this was beneficial to the study as it provided qualitative evidence to support the intervention.The interviews lasted between 35 and 75 minutes, this is a large difference between the times and therefore a more structured interview would show more of a consistency (Bowling, 2005).
It is important to address the causes of stress before they develop into further mental health problems (NHS, 2018). Stress management techniques can be individually adopted which could involve meditation, walking, yoga, or swimming, for example. Therefore, incorporating occupational balance in to a person’s schedule could reduce stress, as shown in by Erikson et al’s (2010)study; however, further evidence will need to be gathered.
American Psychological Association. (2018) How Stress affects your life. Available at: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress.aspx Accessed on 5 December 2018.
Christiansen, C. (1996) Three perspectives on balance in occupation. In: Zemke R, Clark F, editors.Occupational science: the evolving discipline. Philadelphia (PA): F. A. Davis Company; 1996. pp. 431–451.
Ekstedt M, Fagerberg I. (2005) Lived experiences of the time preceding burnout. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 49, pp. /59-67.
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Eriksson,T., Karlström, E., Jonsson, H., and Tham, K. (2010) An exploratory study of the rehabilitation process of people with stress-related disorders, Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 17:1, pp. 29-39.
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NHS, 2018, Understanding Stress, Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/understanding-stress/Accessed 27 September 2018.
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