Balancing Act

“Zero plus 100 equals 100. But so does 50 plus 50, only with more balance.” -Jarod Kintz

Balance is such a tricky subject; even when we think we’ve got a handle on things, some extras invariably are thrown in to kink things up. Whether you’re talking about schedules, work/life, or work/fun, balance is integral to our well-being. Given our ever changing environment and our changing selves, we are constantly reassessing what we need and what needs to go.

Invariably there are times when things will be temporarily out of balance.  When we bring home a new baby, the house will not get cleaned, we will be behind on laundry, and we will eat frozen chicken nuggets for a few weeks until we can get a little bit more organized.  The same occurs when someone is sick, or we experience a death of a loved one, or another major life event happens.  Things are out of their homeostasis for a bit, and it feels off-kilter. 


The problem comes when we can’t get our footing back quickly or it is an ongoing issue.  Maybe our sick family member is chronically or terminally ill, or the baby we bring home has special needs that require a major lifestyle overhaul.  Maybe we live with a mood disorder that drains us more easily or we require more energy to care for ourselves.  Perhaps we are just plain busy- like most people- and that “one more thing” tips the scales in the unfavorable direction. Kids have to learn how to balance on one foot-they can’t just do it naturally. Similarly, we have to practice how to maintain the best balance we can psychologically.

Here are a few thoughts: 

If you truly feel that there is too much, try to eliminate or get some help with the workload. 
Easier said than done when it comes to single parents or primary caretakers of loved ones. But asking for help is crucial, whether it be from respite care, a paid caretaker, or a friend or family member. Even if there is something you are capable of doing, simply doing less can make a big difference. Paying someone to help with a few dinners, housecleaning, or dog walking can go a long way. If you can’t afford it, perhaps you can barter services. Pick up a neighbor’s groceries if you’re already going, and ask that they houseclean in exchange while you’re gone. Sometimes it’s a matter of doing less of what you don’t like that can help. 


Remember the things that comfort you. 
I love to organize, and I’m good at it. If I’m feeling bothered, sometimes just cleaning out a closet or sorting for a yard sale really helps me to feel productive and more in control of a chaotic environment. Remember the old standbys: alone time (or social time if that recharges you), a shower or soak in the tub, music, exercise, and eating well all make us feel good physically and mentally. Know yourself and what feels comforting to you, so you can have a list of things available. 


Don’t put on the pressure. 
Ever notice how a long string of negative thinking can really snowball? “Why am I feeling this way? Why did this happen? I just can’t exercise today. I should really journal” and on and on. Once the “shoulds” start, I know I’m in trouble! Pay attention to what is going through your mind and try to refocus. If you can’t exercise how you normally do, perhaps you can still be active but change what you’re doing. Something is better than nothing, and nothing can sometimes make us feel worse. 

Keep your appointments.
When the calendar gets full, we are tempted to cancel or postpone our appointments. Try to see when you can fit them in, especially if you think it’s a good idea to see your behavioral health provider. Sometimes the urge to avoid therapy comes when things are out of balance, and it’s good to reflect on this. Is it time for a new therapist, or are you too overwhelmed or tired to confront an issue? 


Take advantage of the apps and other technology. 
Find some apps that help to track your mood, or forums that you can visit online for support and education. If Facebook is upsetting or a negative influence, trim down your friends list, limit your time on it, or cancel your account altogether. I’ve been very impressed with the app Virtual Hope Box.

Check it out and see if it’s for you, and ask others what they have found useful.

This too shall pass. 
The only guarantee is that life will change. Whatever is happening now will end at some point. Try to see the good and enjoy what you can before things shift again. Remember that when we think something is negative, we see in hindsight a reason or a way of growth. It’s not comfortable, but it helps us become who we really are.


Laugh and celebrate your flaws.   
If you messed up, pat yourself on the back. You’re wonderfully and beautifully human, and you’re still here to talk about it. Don’t spend energy on your mistakes- once you apologize and try to rectify the situation, look forward. 


Balance takes work, it takes practice, and it takes flexibility to change and reassess. Moreover, it takes courage that may require some digging, but it’s in there. When we’re tired, the last thing we feel like doing is thinking more and trying to make changes, but the payoff is huge. Ask for help and realize things will not change overnight, but they will change-all because of you and your strength to take on your mental health.

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