If balance means you somehow manage to give equal amounts of time to your children, partner, friends, family, work and yourself, I certainly don’t have it. There is no invisible scale that allows us to organize life’s weights so they are equal on all sides because life isn’t even.
We can sail along for days, even weeks at a time feeling like we are in control and balanced—errands run, schedules adhered to, homework finished and even the opportunity to meet a friend for coffee thrown in. But then life comes along and throws a pebble, and on occasion a complete landslide, into our smooth, calm pond causing ripples and discord. There are births, deaths, promotions, demotions, celebrations, moves, deadlines…or even simply running out of milk at ten o’clock at night. There is the realization that you have been so busy caring for everyone else, you have completely forgotten to take care of yourself.
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While I may never be able to achieve a perfect balance, I have come to learn there are certain checks you can use to ensure you’re not leaning too far to one side.
Listen To Your Body
Your body understands what the mind refuses to acknowledge. Stress can manifest itself physically, so while your mind is all “I’ve got this under control” your body is having you race to the bathroom, keeping you awake at night, making your hair fall out and giving you pimples. It’s basically saying “Stop the insanity and get me off this hamster wheel of hell.” Unlike your brain, you can’t reason with bodily functions and blemishes, so start listening.
Make An Appointment With Yourself
Oh, I know. You don’t have time, there’s too much to do, you can barely get it all done as it is. Let me ask you this…if you made a doctor’s appointment for your children’s yearly physical, would you not take them because you’re too busy or would you simply fit the appointment into your schedule?
You need to do the same for yourself but instead of a doctor’s appointment, it’s an appointment to meet up with a friend, exercise, take a class, go to dinner with your partner or whatever else it is you’ve been missing out on because you’re too busy. And when the date comes, don’t even think about cancelling it. You would never cancel your kids’ doctor’s appointment, would you?
Make An Appointment With Your Doctor
I know I said your appointment above should be for something other than seeing your doctor but you should make one with your family physician as well. The physical symptoms that are manifesting because of stress can also be due to an underlying medical condition so you need to get it checked out just in case.
Same rule above applies: no cancelling.
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The Three-Month Rule
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed, ask yourself this one question: Three months from now will this really matter?
It’s 5:00 p.m., you suddenly realize there’s nothing for dinner so you feed your kids cereal. In three months will this really matter?
Nope, doesn’t matter because your kids were fed. Plus there’s the added bonus that they will think you’re the coolest mom ever for giving them breakfast for dinner.
You’re exhausted because you haven’t slept for the past week (see Listen To Your Body above) and decide to take a mid-afternoon nap. You’re awakened by a phone call from your kids’ school principal because school has ended and nobody picked them up. In three months will this really matter?
Somewhat. The kids will be mad you didn’t get them and it’s a bit embarrassing but the reality is everyone is happy, healthy and safe.
The three-month rule allows you to see that something you’re taking seriously in the moment has no real life-altering consequences.
Take A 15-Minute Break Each Day
You can actually make it more than 15 minutes but I’m almost 100% positive that each and every one of you can take 15 minutes during the day to focus on yourself What you do with that 15 minutes is up to you….read a book, surf the net, meditate, or simply sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee. What’s important is you use those 15 minutes to unwind, de-stress and not think about your to-do list.
Leading a balanced life is like being in a good relationship. Everyone says that it’s a 50/50 partnership but the really good relationships are never divided up equally because there are times when your partner depends on you and there are times when you need and depend on your partner. Some days it’s 80/20 or 40/60 or 99/1. Then you look back over 10 or 20 or 30 years, see the sum of the whole and realize that, yes, it was 50/50. Just not all at once.
Balancing our lives is like that. We don’t get an even 50/50 split every single day. It sometimes feels like you don’t get that even split ever. But if you’re doing it right, if you remember to find that time you so desperately need for yourself, for that person you were before you had children—the woman who had dreams, passions, loves and aspirations—you’ll look back over time and realize that even though there were days when it was 100/0 you still managed to lead balanced life.