How to bring more balance into your life
For me, finding balance can seem like a never ending and hopeless mission. As someone who has a strong tendency to like to complete my to do list before I take any time out for fun or relaxation, learning to live a more balanced and blended life is a constant bind. I keep going and going until I get overwhelmed and then I have to work harder to deal with the impacts of getting close to burn out on my mind and body. I get snappier, more emotional, less patient with those that I really love and care about because I’ve put all my energy into everything else. My body gets stiff and aches more and I start to feel really tired and lethargic. I think a lot of people would recognise this cycle of events.
I think I fool myself that I find balance on holidays where the sun is shining and I can take my time over my morning routine, spend some time stretching and exercising, be more mindful and in the moment. But in reality, that’s not balance either – that’s a holiday!
Balance has also been heavily compromised during lockdown as everything becomes more intertwined and the boundaries between work and home even more blurred. On reflection, I have noticed the conflict many times between what I am actually doing/sorting/fixing/completing versus what I think I should be doing at that moment, and that has actually caused me quite a bit of stress. My brain is telling me that in the ‘old world’ I would be focusing on work during these times, whereas in lockdown, I’m having to field a number of different responsibilities all at once. And actually although before lockdown, the boundaries were clearer, the same challenges with balance existed – the pressure around them has just been notched up a good few more levels!
So where to start with bringing a bit more balance into things? Here are three questions to consider…
What do I want more balance in my life to really look like? Spending some time working out what balance really looks like for you can also sort your head into having a clearer approach which will help you with two things. Firstly, it means that having created that vision of a more balanced life for yourself, you are much more likely to achieve it. Secondly, it helps the brain focus on what’s important to you and deprioritise all of the other noise and demands that are constantly circling and demanding attention. I know that balance for me has to involve time out for myself to sleep, exercise and restore. Sometimes I might feel guilty about this but I know that if I don’t do it then I will end up feeling stressed and overwhelmed and problematic physical symptoms manifest themselves quite quickly which means I can’t operate at my best.
What might the first small steps look like to help me feel better about this? As with any change, especially when it’s linked to habit and routine, small steps are best. Identifying the small changes that you could put in place that are achievable and not too overwhelming and that focus on an action you can control rather than the overall outcome. An example of this for me is not spending time and headspace beating myself up for not doing some yoga everyday but every morning rolling my mat out on the floor and if I get to do some stretching on it then making sure I recognise this achievement. And if I don’t, reminding myself that I can try again tomorrow.
How do I respond when I can’t or don’t keep to my plan? We’ve already identified that life is messy and boundaries are blurred at any time so achieving balance is always going to be challenging. It’s important to remember that living in a way where you can be present and mindful to enjoy what’s happening right now versus constantly thinking about 'what ifs 'and 'I should' takes time for your brain to learn how to do. Just like training your body for a marathon, your brain needs time and effort to retrain itself to think differently. I have started to become aware when my brain is finding something problematic. Not at first – I get frustrated and upset – and then I stop and realise, my brain is feeling uncomfortable here and it’s having to get used to accepting a new way of doing things and a new response. I note the feeling and the thought and try not to judge it and see by acknowledging that where it takes me next. Any time I try to put pressure on myself, I can feel myself losing my sense of balance and presence and what I’m trying to achieve feels even further away which is more unhelpful.
How do I know if I’m achieving balance? You’ll feel it straightaway but remember achieving balance is rarely a constant – even for the Buddhist monks! Balance for me is a moment of time when I feel a sense of peace, calm and control but it fluctuates up and down and needs constant attention to maintain it. One tool that really helps me is colour coding my diary – I can then see at a glance whether I am carving out time and space in the right amounts for everything that is important to me. Setting intentions and thinking about the week ahead can also help you get ahead on this front and put you in the driving seat – but don’t forget to also carve out time for unexpected challenges along the way!