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A few years ago, I read an article on balance and I remember thinking, “Balance? What does that even mean? And who has TIME to find this ‘balance’ anyway?? I’m a mom!”
Yet one of the most common goals I was hearing from readers is that they hope to find more balance…and I had to agree: I wanted it, too. So I started really thinking about it.
When it comes to finding balance, aren’t we just looking for a little more “zen” in our lives? We want to feel put together, more whole, more on top of it all, and less stressed.
…but we have our schedules, our families, our jobs, our homes, our churches, and our friends. We have goals we want to achieve, we have hopes and things we want to do with our lives—but also things we have to do to keep our families afloat and happy.
Balancing it all can feel challenging—if not impossible—a lot of the time.
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But there is hope! We can all start slow and add a little balance to our lives every day. Whenever we start to feel like things are out of control or we can’t quite get a handle on literally anything, there are some specific, simple steps we can take to perk ourselves up, feel calmer and more focused, and feel like we’re getting our “zen” back.
1. Get Some Rest
Whenever I’m feeling stressed out, one of the first things I look at is how I’m sleeping. Stress messes with our sleep patterns and leaves us feeling deprived and foggy.
When we have too much on our plate, we often think that encroaching on sleep time will make up for it. In reality, taking time away from sleep actually leaves us less productive and focused. So if you’re feeling imbalanced, one of the best solutions is to make sure you’re getting some rest.
If you’ve got too many things on your mind and you just can’t calm down, set the stage for sleep: drink some warm tea (caffeine-free), turn off electronics a few hours before bedtime, sleep in a cool dark room, and use white noise to drown out the world. If your brain still won’t stop, consider writing down your worries or “scheduling” time to worry about them tomorrow. Often, after a good night’s rest, you’ll find problems aren’t as insurmountable as they seemed in the dark.
2. Move More!
Even though we feel like we’re running around all the time, many of us actually lead fairly sedentary lives—at our offices, in front of our computers, and in front of the TV. Not surprisingly, sitting around can cause health issues like heart problems, high blood pressure, obesity, and more.
You don’t have to run a marathon or take up a major sport to get benefits from moving. Find ways to fit in more fitness. Simply going for a walk, taking more steps, and taking standing breaks every so often can make a huge difference when it comes to health, stress and balance.
Walking and moving gives us time to think and sort things out. When we stretch, stand and move, we break up our “stuck thinking” and start to see things differently. Think of how many times you’ve been working on something, only to walk away for a moment and have the answer come right to you! Sometimes getting up, moving around and stretching it out can be great stress relievers!
We’re very connected to the world around us, whether it’s through social media, the news, the television, or even the barrage of advertising we see when we walk down a city street. We’re constantly bombarded by what we should buy, eat, do, think, and deal with.
All of this input can leave us on information overload mode. It’s easy to feel like we’re unable to keep up with it all, especially when most of it’s accessible right from our phones in the palm of our hands.
Take an information breather. Put down your phone and even consider turning off your electronics a few hours before you go to bed. Use social media for positive interactions and to connect with friends and family, but if you find yourself getting too overwhelmed, turn it off, tune it out, and focus on “real life.”
4. Take a Break
In a world that’s constantly saying go, go GO!, taking a break can seem impossible, unproductive, or even selfish. We might beat ourselves up for not doing more, while continuing to jam more into our schedules.
Breaks are important. Giving ourselves downtime helps keep us fresh. It helps stave off the feeling of being overwhelmed and helps us remember that life is short and we have to enjoy ourselves along the way.
Rather than berating yourself for taking a break, instead embrace it! Think of how much you’re enjoying yourself and how calm and good it feels (rather than mentally listing all the things you need to do later). Just allow yourself to BE in the moment and enjoy!
5. Spend Time Outside
When we’re outdoors, we get vitamin D and sunshine. Our mood feels lifted and we may even feel more energized and calm. Nature is the anecdote to stress.
Now you don’t have to go all Call of the Wild, but getting outdoors in fresh air can work wonders for your outlook and your balance. It might seem like yet another thing to fit in, but an outdoor workout, a walking errand, or just time in the garden or the park can be a great mood booster.
When you’re outdoors, notice the sounds and sensations. Feel the sun on your face, the wind in your hair, or the rain on your arms and legs. Look at the beauty of the earth and ponder the cycle of living things.
6. Indulge Your Senses
Our senses can play a powerful role in balancing our moods and helping us feel grounded, calm and in control. Dim the lights, roll out your muscles with a foam roller, or sit back in a comfy chair or on a pillow.
Use your sense of smell through essential oils to add to your well-being and give your mood a boost. Lavender, frankincense and peppermint can all be used to help bring a sense of balance and peace. There are also oil blends that come in kits offering a fusion of oils that will help you feel more at ease.
Put on some sweet smelling lotion and some cozy slippers, or curl up with something delicious like coffee or a sip-able treat and give yourself time to really enjoy the moment.
7. Talk to a Friend
When I’m truly struggling with balancing it all and I’m feeling overwhelmed or defeated, I turn to a friend. Friends listen to our struggles, help us figure out solutions to our problems, and advocate for us and cheer us on.
It’s easy to feel like your social calendar is just another obligation or something you have to check off your to-do list. If you feel like you’ve got too many obligations and not enough connections, it’s probably time to get one-on-one with a buddy.
You don’t have to schedule a whole big to-do just to connect with a friend. You can simply find time to pick up the phone and chat, take an exercise class together, offer to go to the store, or get your kids together for a playdate while you talk it out.
Laughter is truly the best medicine. When you’re feeling stressed out or worn thin, it might be time to check out a funny blog, watch a few late-night show clips, or just put on a movie that makes you laugh.
Our kids can also be a great inspiration and source of joy—and sometimes that’s hard to remember when your tween is arguing about picking up her clothes or you’re on constant back-and-forth carpool duty to Little League. Kids know how to laugh and be silly, so by watching them we can learn a thing or two.
Try a fun family game, one that gets everyone involved and laughing, and just enjoy each other’s company. Watch a silly show or use a filter and see who can take the weirdest selfies on their phone.
You’ll end up in giggles in no time.
9. Evaluate Your “Time Jar”
We all have a time jar—the big things go in first, and then the little things get poured in around those. When our time jar is out of whack or we’re trying to fit in too much “big stuff,” it might be time to reassess our schedule and commitment load.
Look at your calendar and schedule. Find some little blocks of time you can book out just for yourself to gain some renewal. If you can’t find them on your calendar, it might be time to cut back on some of the bigger obligations.
Just like scheduling your appointments at the office or for the dentist, you have to schedule time for yourself. This might mean writing in a date night with your spouse or just making time for you to do something you really enjoy. If you schedule it in, keep your appointments with yourself!
10. Find Your Sanctuary
We all have a sanctuary spot: someplace that makes us feel calm, safe and balanced. For some of us, it might be in our yoga class, at a church service, in the kitchen making a fancy meal, or meditatively painting our nails.
Find your sanctuary. Find a place you can escape to that makes you feel calm, balanced and connected. When you have a place, even if it’s in your car with music turned up or on the couch make it your place where you recharge.
Your sanctuary should be a priority. Whenever you visit your spot, tell yourself that worry and stress aren’t allowed because this is where you recharge, heal, and renew yourself. All of that can go on “out there” in the real world, but here, in your sanctuary, you are safe, calm and balanced.
Can we eliminate stress from our lives? No! Of course not. No matter how hard we try, the toilet will clog, someone will be late for something, a bill will be due, or we’ll have an obligation we forgot. Life happens and stress happens.
The trick to balance is to work within the stress to find ways to heal and calm yourself—to nurture yourself through the times of stress so you can be strong enough to tackle whatever comes your way!