“Finding more balance” didn’t make it on my list of goals last year, but it’s near the top of my list this year. “Balance” is the oft-touted buzzword that can appear like an idealistic antidote to an overextended life. It’s the sought after state of being that lies buried somewhere beneath our packed calendars, productive natures, and overstimulated selves. It’s the common prescription for what ails us; the ideal overall condition:
“Stressed? Re-evaluate your work and life balance”…”High cholesterol? Try to maintain a balanced diet”…“Women should balance it all.”
How Can I Find Balance?
Though we may yearn for schedules and lifestyles that foster equal measures of work, play, and rest, the question that arises is, how? How exactly do we obtain balance if it feels unfamiliar or unattainable—or like something we’re not even sure we need?
If you’re like me and know your life could use a little balancing but struggle to define the “how,” the following tips provide a refreshing way to define and achieve the balance you crave:
Define “Balance” for You.
Achieving a “balanced life” is a subjective term that manifests itself differently for each of us. Personally, I view living in a balanced state as a process that will last the rest of my life rather than as a final point of destination. It’s fluid, symbiotic, in motion, and it’s a practice where I’m continually evaluating making time for the things I have to do with the things I’d like to do.
How exactly do we obtain balance if it feels unfamiliar or unattainable—or like something we’re not even sure we need?
To Define Balance, Answer These Questions:
• When you think about this year and look over events on your calendar, how do you feel? Excited, overwhelmed, indifferent? Feelings—though not the only indicator—can be an effective tool to assist you in evaluating the type of lifestyle you lead. Are there activities that elicit negative feelings? Consider scaling these back. Are there activities that create feelings of joy? Find a way to add more of these in.
• What are the activities you have to do? Are these activities required just for a season, or ongoing? Are you doing these activities because they are truly essential or because you feel obligated?
• What’s your personality like? Does your energy increase when you spend time with people and are constantly on the go, or are you a woman who needs more margin and time alone to recharge? If the latter (ahem…me), where can you schedule-in moments throughout each day for yourself?
• What are the activities you’d like to begin doing or do more often? What part of you feels alive by the thought of these things? How do these activities further your goals or resolutions?
• If you could design your perfect day, what would it look like?
As You Answer These Questions, Here Are a Few Things to Keep in Mind:
Pay Attention to Your Needs
Yes, girl, it is perfectly fine—and healthy, might I add—to consider your needs. By asking yourself questions (and answering honestly), you learn to pay attention to what feeds you and what activities deplete you. Having knowledge of your internal and external resources keeps you focused on maintaining a healthy dose of balance, while preventing you from being swept up in a state of exhaustion. Maintain aspects of your typical routine that are rejuvenating for you and discover new ones, like lighting a candle and doing some deep stretches, reading your favorite book from adolescence, or going on a 15-minute walk without electronics and just being mindful of nature. The point is to begin to do at least one activity a day that is enjoyable and restorative to your soul.
Spread Kindness + Do for Others
Finding balance also means adding more to your plate, in the right areas. Spreading love and kindness are key players in creating balance because both enable us to connect with another human while simultaneously orienting ourselves to what—and who—is right in front of us. Doing for others doesn’t need to be anything huge, but could simply be inviting a new friend over for a meal, taking time to visit with an elderly neighbor, reaching out to a friend struggling with depression, or offering a stranger a smile. Considering others and doing for them has the power to change their life…and yours.
Finding balance also means adding more to your plate, in the right areas.
Seeking a balanced lifestyle incorporates learning how to live in the moment. In the movie Kung Fu Panda, Oogway, the master, says to Panda, “You are too concerned with what was and what will be. There is a saying: yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” When we focus on the present—the people, the scents, the sights, the smells, the conversations—those moments become gold. When the busyness overwhelms you, try recalibrating with a deep breath, tap into your senses, and focus on the beauty of the here and now.
“Balance” is defined as “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” So, a final part of discovering more balance involves discovering where you are off-kilter and combining opposites. For instance, if the majority of your time is spent doing work-related tasks, add-in time for play or self-care to create more work and life balance. Too much focus upon yourself without investment in others also creates imbalance. Identify how you may be living an imbalanced life and devise a plan of execution for combining the parts of your life that seem to be at opposite extremes.
If “finding balance” didn’t make it on your list for this year, consider how your life could be different if it were. The key is to be realistic with yourself and at the same time imaginative about what this year could hold for you. So step into this year, day by day, with grit, grace, and a little more balance!
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