What’s so important about achieving balance?
I talk a lot about the importance of achieving a balanced life. I do recognise of course, that there are lots of other demands – those of work, study, family or other people. However, setting aside some time – even just a little time to achieving this balance is usually possible with some determination.
Consider why you are doing this. You are protecting your wellbeing and when you live well and with balance, everything else becomes easier. We become more resilient, less anxious, experience more positive moods and can engage better with activities and other people. For many, it will require a shift in thinking.
I have heard clients say, ‘I try and spend an hour doing x, y or z on a Saturday, but sometimes other things come up’. I say, make that x, y or z thing the default and ONLY cancel it in the event of an emergency. PRIORITISE yourself. The following are the components that need to be considered:
- Hobbies, charity or community
- Work, study or volunteering
- Family and or partner
- Physical health
- Psychological heath including downtime and mindfulness
- Friends and social
- Learning, self-development and progression
It would be impossible to achieve an equal balance of all of these elements; however, the aim is to have something of all of them. Let’s take each one at a time:
Hobbies, charity or community
If you have no hobbies or general interests, then it is highly likely that your source of positive emotion (if there is any) is limited to one or two other sources. This puts you in a vulnerable position. When we are interested or engaged in something, it creates immediate balance. We know that pushing through lethargy or lack of motivation and making ourselves go and do something we enjoy changes our state of mind for the better and the effects will last for several hours.
Work, study or volunteering
Many of us have been in work that we haven’t enjoyed, but I’m not talking about that here, I’m talking about what happens when we have nothing to get out of bed for. We see this a lot at retirement or when we have no work to do. Unless we can afford to travel the world or indulge our ultimate dream (which also may become tiresome eventually), in time our sense of purpose becomes challenged and as a result our self-esteem and self-worth will be impacted. As humans we need to feel that we are valuable for something, so make it part of your balance if it’s not already. For many, it’s the part of life that is overly dominant and this in itself is problematic. If this is you, force yourself to integrate some of the other elements, otherwise your potential for burnout is huge.
Family and or partner
This part, for many people is in place – although clearly not for everyone. So, it will very likely form part of your balance already, however, without the other elements it can become overly intense and focussed. If all you are doing is working and going home, your balance is off – simple as that. Work in some of the other parts. If you are someone without any family or a partner to spend time with, the other factors become especially important.
Whether you are a gym goer (more about this later) or a gardener, what is important is getting your body moving. When the body is inactive, the mind suffers – simple as that. Some activities cost money such as memberships or subscriptions, but others cost nothing, and they are just as beneficial. Just getting outside for a walk, run or cycle for 30 minutes a few times a week should be a priority and will help keep everything balanced. The mind-body connection is huge – when our bodies let us down, we feel low, and when we are anxious or overstressed our bodies react. It’s that simple, so start with moving your body.
Following on from the above on physical health – we’ve already spoken about the importance of getting moving, and the psychological aspect is huge, it’s a two-way street. We have to attend to our psychological needs. This includes paying attention to our mood, our thoughts, our feelings and allowing ourselves to feel them. Evidence shows that blocking or avoiding our feelings by employing overly distracting activities only results in an underlying sense of anxiety or feeling low. Deal with the feeling, cry, shout and do whatever it takes to own it. Dealing with emotion is NOT a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of humanness. Additionally, take time for mindfulness throughout your week. On your walk or run, check in with yourself. Ask yourself ‘how am I feeling today’? We have an emotional part of our brain for a reason – honour it. Do not deny it.
You might find that stilling your mind is a helpful practice, for many it is the very thing that prepares them for a stressful day ahead or helps them to recover from a stressful day. We cannot flick a switch to turn our minds off, but we can get better at allowing it some downtime – try a meditation – a guided meditation is great for beginners and there are some great apps out there such as HeadSpace.
Friends and social
Number one rule – as with the hobbies part – LOSE THE GUILT. We need other people – simple. Yes, people upset us, yes, we fear judgment and yes, we compare ourselves to others wayyy too much. But without human interaction we start to feel alone, unloved, unlovable, isolated and of course ultimately our self-worth is challenged. Get out there, meet people, have a chat, just interact.
Learning, self-development and progression
As an existential therapist, I understand that we need to live with purpose and I understand that as a highly evolved species, we need to feel that we are developing. If we are not developing ourselves, we are essentially stuck, and life loses its zest. What are you getting out of bed for today? What have you achieved or learned this week that you couldn’t do or didn’t know last week? Do not under-estimate the importance of this.
Our sense of achievement is directly linked to the idea that we are moving towards a more developed version of ourselves. This may be linked to traditional learning, it may be linked to creating a different body for yourself, it might be about learning a new skill or starting a business. WHAT it is, is irrelevant, what is VERY relevant is that you have something that you are aiming to achieve. Your negative feedback loops will be challenged whenever you reach a new goal or milestone. Not having this in life results in a feeling of boredom and stasis, which means staying stuck – except we are not staying still, we are getting older. Use your time, it’s valuable. And set goals to keep moving forward.