Balance seems to be such an overrated word today, yet almost everyone, from lifestyle editors to life coaches and spiritual gurus agree that our modern imbalanced lives need a serious brush-up. There are various advertised benefits to living a balanced life, however not enough of us know where to start. What is a balanced life, after all? Isn’t it more like attaining the impossible?
As much as there is a cyclical natural order of things in nature, your life is pretty much the same: a constant hub of activity, rest and ups-and-downs. The natural law of balance refers to the equilibrium that exists in the rotating seasons, weather patterns, life and death cycles. Humans are known to create their life course (some consciously, others not so much), but often at the expense of overlooking or ignoring the natural balance of things.
If you are one of those people who are so overwhelmed by life’s calls to the point of giving up, don’t despair. There is light at the end of the tunnel. If you are overdoing it – over committing, over complaining, overworking, overeating, obsessively checking time, calories or your Twitter feed, stop. Likewise, if you are postponing things, not doing enough, not earning the six zeros cheque, not losing enough weight, not spending enough time with your loved ones, stop. Too much or too little creates an imbalance in your life, the very one thing you want to resolve.
Start by recognizing and accepting that you need a life-benefiting change and are willing to do something about it. Then look objectively for imbalances in all areas of your life, and begin with baby steps to repair the damage before it is too late.
1.Take Time Out.
We all need time out to recharge our batteries. We need a break to rethink, to come up with solutions and devise better plans of action. A well-deserved rest during the day will do wonders for our mood, whatever the challenge ahead.
A life coach I consulted once told me that growth happens during times of rest, not of activity as often believed. She used the analogy of the bodybuilder or athlete who knows that training is required to exercise muscles, but that actual rebuilding happens during restorative periods, not training. If you are a gym enthusiast or doing a form of exercise to improve your figure, you should notice the benefits of resting between sessions (but not for days on end either), and the increased endurance and vitality that follows.
Be the athlete, and take a break to refocus yourself. It can be anything from a cat-nap (maximum twenty minutes) to a walk in the park or a few minutes of silence holding your favourite cuppa.
2. Get Some Decent Sleep.
Your night routine is just as important as your daily one. Skimping on sleep is detrimental to your natural state of balance, as is sleeping too much when you should be awake and active.
Your hard working brain, which is responsible for millions of thoughts processes that require a great amount of energy, has to calibrate itself often to perform at its best, just like a computer does. The brain does most of its rejuvenation by reorganizing the information collected and improving your memory and cognitive functions while you sleep. However, not everyone gets enough hours of shut-eye or a good quality sleep.
Both conventional wisdom and sleep scientists agree that eight hours a night is enough for adults, but everybody is different. Ask yourself how refreshed you feel when you wake up and find your optimum hours of sleep by tracking your sleeping habits for a few days. Ideally, aim to go to bed and wake up at the same hours every day so your body can easily read the signals and get used with your active-sleep cycle.
There are many ways in which you can improve the quality of your sleep. For a better and sound sleep, try the following ideas before bedtime:
- Include a me-time routine before going to bed such as reading, taking a bath, meditation, or listening to relaxing music
- Avoid over-stimulating your body before bedtime and reduce the amount of exercise and caffeine intake
- Limit the usage of distractions, TV and light-emitting devices such as smartphones, tablets or laptops before bedtime (even better, remove them)
- Stick to light foods if you must eat and avoid overeating before bedtime. A glass of milk or relaxing tea is a good idea
- Make sure you are comfortable in your bedroom sanctuary; that the room is dark and quiet, and neither too hot or too cold
A good night’s sleep makes for a great start to the day. It is single-handedly the best and quickest way to put yourself first and reclaim some stability to your schedule.
3. Do What Motivates You.
Get honest about your motivation behind any action you take. Are you afraid you are going to miss out on opportunities and take too much on your plate? Or are you procrastinating because of pressure, money, or other issues? Don’t look outside for motivation; instead, look within yourself and do what is best for you. You cannot be expected to fill your calendar constantly and please everyone but you. Choose wisely.
There is a current obsessive I need it now mentality and a desire to have and do more to contribute to our personal success. Some experience the guilt or anguish of missing out on the best that life has to offer – now. There is even an acronym for this compulsive behaviour – FOMO – fear of missing out. Coupled with the desire to live an out-of-the-ordinary-life (read: not boring), it spells imbalance and burnout, especially if you are doing it on autopilot.
What motivates you? Once you know the answer(s), you can focus on the things that bring you more balance and happiness, and be assured that your actions represent who you are and what you want to achieve in life.
4. Simplify and Focus.
Whether you are a fan of to-do lists or not, it is a good idea to have some idea of where your time goes every day. This habit will help you use your time more effectively and restore balance to your busy schedule. Instead of piling up tasks to fill the day, and pray that you can complete them by next day, try this:
- List only 3 to 5 things maximum that you want to get done on a particular day and stick to those.
- The daily tasks can vary from easy or quick to do to ones that need more time and focus
- Include things that motivate you and are important to your growth (see point 3 above)
- Make sure that you cover various areas of your life, for example, career, work, health, relationships
- Take a moment in the evening to reflect on what you achieved during the day
Sounds good, but what tasks should you complete? What is important and what is not? You have a demanding career in a competitive environment, a difficult boss, a partner who needs attention at home, a child who needs care, a friend who wants your companionship. You cannot possibly exclude one from your list, can you?
Know that there will be times when you will have to make important choices, for yourself and your sanity. You cannot please everyone (see point 3 above). But whatever you focus on, do not lose sight on what is more important to you.
Yes, there will be times when the balance scale tips in one direction, or the other, and you should not feel guilty. But don’t let a bad situation slide to the point of no return. Make time for a friend if you have not done so in a while, or schedule a well-deserved break with your partner if you have been so distracted by a pressing deadline that you missed on spending more quality time together.
I strongly believe though that there are things that you should never compromise on, like health and relationships. Doing so comes at a very pricey cost. Being unhealthy throws your whole world out of balance, where you have to focus foremost on getting better, or worse, facing life and death situations you could have avoided. It is important to make time for your health, no matter how busy your life looks at the moment.
Relationship difficulties can create major stress and unhappiness since humans are social creatures in need of connection with others. Personal life issues can affect productivity at work, as much as work-related issues can put a strain on relationships. Yes, your career and work are important. But so are you, and the people close to you.
Strike a good balance you can maintain for the various aspects of your life, without completely neglecting one or another. If you find yourself falling short, you know what to do. Rethink, readjust, reconnect.
5. Become More Self-Aware.
An easy way to claim back balance in your life is to notice when things get out of alignment and intervene before the situation spirals out of control. Become aware of your thoughts and feelings in any given situations and any warning signs that you are overdoing, or underdoing it. Your body knows.
To do this, determine what is normal and acceptable to you, and then practice to look out for the imbalance patterns. You scheduled an hour to watch TV, but you ended up on the couch still two hours later in front of it? Did you overeat again at the restaurant? Are you drinking way over the limit? Are you still delaying sending that important email? Did you spend more money than expected while shopping? Take a moment and notice when something is up.
If you enjoy writing, journaling is a technique that allows for free-flow writing and engages the creative side of you. The process of writing things down – anything that comes onto paper – is a good exercise in recognising your deepest thoughts and reactions to what is happening in your life. You can always look back at your reflections on paper and write a different story the following day.
Practising self-awareness requires time, and you will get better at it eventually. Learning to pay attention to your feelings and reactions is important to address imbalances in your life. Once you are aware of the issue, the adjustments fall easier in place.
6. Be Grateful.
Balance is not only about finding your rhythm and paying attention to not overdoing, or underdoing things. It is important to see life in perspective, with its beauty and challenges. Cultivate a habit of being grateful for everything you are, do and have, even when you mess things up. Hey, it happens.
Express your gratitude in whatever way it feels good for you. You can say the words out loud, pray, write down a list of the things you are most grateful for, or try journaling (see point 5 above) to reflect on life’s happenings and express your gratitude for another day gone by. You could start a new journal solely dedicated to the practice of gratitude and let the whole family be involved in writing down the things that bring happiness to them. How about that?
7. Find Your (Spiritual) Fix.
For most of us, a balanced life includes a spiritual or nurturing connection; it can be with the divine, God; the guidance and support of a loved one; the network of friends we can count on; the wisdom of a role model, spiritual guru or a life coach.
Spirituality affords us an intimate way to open and shift our minds to comprehend the vastness of life and the power of our choices. Find the voice that speaks to you the most and invite it in your life to be a beacon of hope and strength in your quest to restore the natural order of things. Furthermore, this powerful connection you develop can help you to increase your self-awareness (see point 5 above) and to identify faster and easier a pattern or imbalance.
If you want to go the life coach or therapist route, know that a good specialist should be able to look at the obstacles you often and unknowingly set yourself in the way of living a more balanced life. With expert advice comes accountability, and it helps to prevent further slip-ups down the line.
Lastly, don’t feel pressured into embracing one path or another, and do what feels right for you.
In conclusion, there are simple and effective ways to bring more balance to your life. It is foremost important to accept the imbalances and work towards improving areas of your life that most need it.
People grow and learn all the time from these self-improving experiences. No one is truly blessed with the perfect balanced life. It is a step-by-step process and a lifelong commitment. Achieving balance is not an end-goal in itself. It is about constantly looking at aspects of life with honesty, and acknowledging that everything takes time, or requires some work to make it happen.
Balance can start with minor changes and a more flexible and organised schedule. It can mean compromises and sacrifices for your peace of mind, based on what motivates you to go further each single day. Most importantly, balance is about what is important in your life right now, and only you have the answer to this question.
Look at the pieces that make up your life. In the end, we all have to connect the same pieces of the puzzle. There is no universal recipe for doing so, but there is an effortless, stress-free and authentic way that guarantees contentment and peace of mind. Balance is the key.