Experts say it’s important to protect yourself from letting problems in one area of your life affect the other areas, especially now that the borders between every aspect of our lives are blurrier than ever. A bad week at work is a drag on your mental health, but if your work is only a part of your identity, and not defining it completely, the overall emotional impact of that bad week is less severe.
“The problem with having your identity tied up with your job is that it’s not fully within your control,” Ms. Green said. “If things start going badly at work, it can affect your mental health in ways that it wouldn’t if you weren’t so deeply invested. So it’s giving work a lot of power over your happiness in ways that can end up hurting you.”
She added that centering your life on a job may even make you act against your own self-interest and happiness, perhaps by working long hours or accepting behavior you normally wouldn’t.
Not only does that compartmentalization help protect yourself from the lows of one area of your life creating lows in another, having space can improve your performance overall, according to Mr. Markman.
“The brain needs a little downtime,” he said. “You can’t sustain concentration. Unless you can get away from the problems you’re trying to solve in your work life, you don’t give your brain a chance to reset and come up with a different way of characterizing what you’re dealing with. So even if your primary goal in life is to be as productive as possible at work, you need some time away to make that happen.”
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be invested in your work or not care about your career and the people you work with. That investment can be an asset, and being passionate about one’s work can help lead to better output. Rather, give that investment a ceiling.