Life + Balance


We have all heard that life is a balance. But how many people actually slow down to hear what that really means? Life: work, school, relationships, etc.... it all needs to be BALANCED in order to live a healthy life. Lately, I have thought more and more on this and have started to implement little balancing methods to keep certain aspects of my life more in check (of course, I am most definitely not talking about my sugar intake! This one will be the hardest to "balance"). I wonder how many of my friends, family, and others out there could benefit from some all natural, healthy balance too?

No Rx required....

7 Thoughts for a More Balanced Life


1. Work

Yes, it is a 4 letter word, but it is a necessity in life in order to provide for yourself/family. It doesn't have to be such a painstaking task though! What is it about your work that is throwing you off balance? If it is something you can change, do it. If not, perhaps it is time to start searching for work that fulfills your need that is not currently being met. Many people think that in order to "make a difference" they must have a title that exclaims out loud into the world that they are making a difference. In reality, sometimes you can make a big difference in people's lives in a job where people do not have such huge expectations for you to do so. If it is meaning in your work that is throwing you off; find it or create it and see how that balances out your work in your life.

Another large part of work and balance is the work-home life balance. This is increasingly becoming a bigger problem as the standard of living is raised and the wages remain the same or even decrease. In the modern family, it has become rarer to see a stay at home wife/mother than both spouses/parents working. And working harder at that! But what is all this hard work getting us? Are we just working to make ends meet? Or are we working to have that new car and one up the Jones' next door with a bigger and flatter TV? And at what cost to our children? It is important to sit down and get some things straight at this point. Start listing your priorities as they come to mind. What are YOUR priorities? Now zoom out a bit, take a look at what you just wrote. Are they really your priorities, or are they society's? Start to implement balance strategies of how you can better manage your priorities. Whether it is cutting back on your hours at work to attend your child's field trip, or vowing to not work overtime any more so that you can focus on being the most productive you can be in order to come home to your spouse or have that alone time you've been meaning to have. It's all in your control.

2. School

You are attending school because you want to have more of something in your life. It might be money, prestige, security, or even just plain knowledge. Regardless, you are there to balance something out in your life. When I chose psychology as my major and decided to pursue a career in psychology it was from a place of hopelessness. I had gained hope through helping others and realizing my purpose, so in essence I balanced my own feelings of uncertainty with the gain of determination and purpose. To me, this is what school is about. 

For others, it may be to be at the very top of the class and to focus on getting the highest grade on every paper/test. That's ok. Hear me out again, there is nothing wrong with getting/wanting the very best grades. But ask yourself what you need to do to balance that need. Because I will remind you that at the end of your schooling, when you are sitting in that interview for that very important job you want so badly, they won't be looking at your grades. They will be listening to you and what you have to say. So get out from underneath those grades every once in awhile and get out in to the world and find some balance in a deep conversation with another human being. PLEASE. You may be a genius, but if you can't slow down enough to hold a conversation and genuinely relate to others you will have a very long and difficult road ahead of you.

Balance is needed for the other type of student as well. If you are a big and proud extrovert, no problem. But do keep in mind there are others sharing the experience of school on the daily with you as well, who every once in awhile may want to raise their hand and say something but you are often already talking all the while. This being said, balance can be found for by gaining a sense of conscientiousness through controlling the "blurting" impulse. It doesn't mean that what you have to say isn't important, it just means that maybe you should allow others the chance to comment every once in the while for the sake of balance. Who knows, maybe other people will surprise you by asking the same questions or coming up with the same conclusions which can lead to a whole discussion outside of class! 

3. Relationships

Whether its family, friends, work, or classmates; relationships are a two way street. Often when I have counseled, the main problem tends to be focused on an unhealthy relationship. Either the client does not recognize that the relationship is unhealthy or even worse, they know it is but they continue to be part of it. The balance is mostly summed up by one word, "Compromise."

Do you often feel drained, angry, lonely, and unsettled in a relationship? Perhaps it is because the fulcrum of the balance in your relationship is more towards the other person, leaving you with all the "heavy" feelings. A technique I have used in session with clients is to draw a line and put yourself and the other person at opposite ends of the line, now mark exactly in the middle. That's what compromise looks like. Each person gives some and gets some as long as that mark stays in the middle. Now, often in relationships there tends to be a natural giver or "diplomat" who may often see that the other person is asking for much more than what is being given at the line of compromise, but they don't make a fuss because they just want harmony and the relationship to continue. This can become an ugly cycle that repeats itself over and over until eventually the "giver" is now either completely fed up or they have become completely controlled by the other person and lost hope of getting out of the relationship. So what do your relationships do for you and what do you do for the people in your life? Are they healthy? If not, stand your ground until the middle point is reached. The relationship is not meant to be a tit for tat or an "I did this for you, now what are you going to do for me?" But at the same time, if one person is in large part dominating the other, something needs to change. 

However, if you are in an physical/sexual/psychologically abusive relationship, seek help and get out while you still can.

4. Personality

I am an ENFP (Extrovert/Intuitive/Feeler/Perceiver) according to 2 MBTI's and 2 KTI's. I enjoy being around people who often give me energy, I tend to think more abstractly and about a big picture, I value more personal considerations, and tend to holdback judgement/decisions until the bigger picture is seen. That's a nice neat box, isn't it?! The thing about personality is that while we can indicate our own preferences and compare them to those of others, we lack the ability to be able to touch the soul of the individual. In the biggest personality indicators there are 16 different personalities. If you study these instruments and have your results interpreted you will see that all of these 4 dimensions are based on a continuum. So, in reality there are many more than 16 specific personalities. For example; I am barely an Extrovert. My initial reaction to being out with people is that of excitement. But after awhile of being out, I may get exhausted and feel like gaining some balance back by going home and having some alone time. I used to give myself hell about this and wonder what was wrong with me. However, it makes sense to me that if I am barely an "E" on the continuum, why I behave this way.

How about you? Do you ever wonder why you do "off the wall things" that are characteristically "not you?" Perhaps it is your subconscious way of providing a balance when you walk outside of that noisy bar to catch a breathe of fresh air. Or maybe you get balance by listening to techno music while you fall asleep in order to cancel out all those thoughts that pop up in your head while you lay there at night. The human mind and body are fans of a natural homeostasis, so what may seem as "odd" behavior to ourselves or others may just be our personality keeping certain neuroses in check.

5. Leisure

Time doing something of your free will can be just as important as time spent making a living. Our whole lives we have been in a system of routine and structure. And to some degree, a good majority of us need that structure or we really would not get much accomplished! Leisure is what gives us things like creativity, deep thoughts, exercise, and anything else that you need but don't necessarily get paid for doing. And if you do get paid for any of the above, then I would argue that what you do for leisure may look quite different than what others do who do not have a job in the above fields. Leisure is our yin to our yang, the down to our up and at 'em, our much needed break.

It seems as though leisure is the natural way to balance out emotions, stress, and energy if you can identify your own balance needs. For example: I know some psychotherapists (myself included) who may not openly admit this but when they come home from a long day of problem solving and stressful situations, will leisurely watch what I like to call "mindless TV." For me, watching such staged events happen that I don't have to exert much of any thought about is highly entertaining and balancing. Can you think of any leisure activities you might take part in that balances out your day? Sometimes its just the contact with a boxing bag, the sound of a waterfall you hike up to, or the sensation of a board under your feet as you glide across a wave that can balance everything.

6. Nutrition

Sometimes when we eat, we may eat too much and it may result in a stomach ache or bloating. Other times, people may develop certain diet related diseases such as Type II diabetes. What seems to be lacking is a balance. Just like personality or personal priorities with work, everyone's bodies have their own unique balance. For the most part though, there are certain truths. I recently read an article about how certain foods can trigger anxiety. What if one or many of those foods happened to be your favorite and even though it caused you pain, you had a difficult time giving it up? Again, it comes down to priorities in your life. Is having the pleasure of eating your favorite foods worth more than a tiny bit of anxiety? How about so much anxiety it causes a panic attack? We must be mindful of what our priorities are in order to set clear boundaries, even with food.

For many people who tend to over eat, an obvious balance would be exercise (at least to the point where the excess calories are burned). For people who don't eat enough, perhaps supplementing with the right vitamins/minerals and vitamin rich foods would create a healthier balance. For many, change does not have to be something huge. You just have to change something in order to gain some form of balance.

7. The Mind

In psychology, there is a basic freudian structural theory of the ID, Ego, and Superego. The ID is more of an animal instinct, the Ego is more realistic and grounded, and the Superego is more about morals and criticism. In theory, the Ego plays the middle-man in creating a balance between the ID and Superego's needs. Do you have an overactive Superego telling you are not doing enough to accomplish XYZ in your life when in reality you know that you are giving it your all? Or are you following more of your ID instincts and lacking in a bit of restraint and guidance? Awareness is the first step to change. In reality, many of the topics above can be places on a line of continuum with the reality being in the middle (much like the Ego), and the other two extremes on either side. You can give into one side or the other, but you will still be off balance. One question is; how bad do you want balance? But in reality the bigger question is; who do you want to be and how will you find your balance in order to become that person?