We’ve all had times in our lives where we exert far more time and energy in one segment of our lives than we do in other areas. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of our lives resemble this model far more often than not. I’m not sure about you but I’ve typically tried to position my obsessive focus and behavior during these times as a “strength” to others. Like I was some sort of “bad ass” who had a special super power which allowed me to run hard and long without needing a break.
Again, yet another time where I was intentionally building a façade as if I was in a competition and there was a chance I’d be awarded a medal of social acceptance. The crazy thing about living up to this story, which I created in my mind, was that I started to believe it was true. I’ve recently learned that “pledging allegiance” to this belief is a certain recipe for burnout and stress.
The last couple years I’ve really tried to notice when my life was out of balance and stop to take note of how I felt and what I was experiencing internally. One thing I realized is how mental stress negatively impacts my physiology. The times I am “checked out” and obsessing over a situation in my life, I start to notice my shoulders getting tense and lifting up as though I’m shrugging, and I get a nervous feeling in my stomach that lingers on and on. The longer I spend in this state of mind the tighter my muscles become and that typically leads some type of back or leg pain.
I also noticed that whenever I get caught in these vortexes of stress, I typically don’t stay physically active because I feel overwhelmed and adopt the belief that I don’t have time to do anything but think about solving whatever challenge I happen to be in the middle of. Even though I know this is a ridiculous excuse (which I definitely don’t believe), when I am mentally exhausted, it’s very challenging for me to break free from this pattern.
I also noticed that I tend to prioritize stress above all else, and although I don’t believe I’ve done it on purpose, maybe I just enjoy the drama. Although I’d like to think I’m kidding when I say that, I certainly have no shortage of these situations which I’ve created. So it’s worth considering a possible drama addiction.
One thing I’ve begun to do lately is to prioritize what’s most important to me based on what I need for my own happiness. The old “socially focused me” would have steered clear of stating publicly that I made decisions based on my own happiness. I mean, if I told people that, they’d certainly judge me as selfish and who likes being associated with people who are self-centered?
Fortunately for me I’ve realized that unless I’m making decisions based on my own happiness, nobody else will. I finally decided that I either needed to resign myself to a life running around trying to make others happy (which is impossible) to the detriment of my own joy, or, I could accept the fact that to be in the best position to help others, I need to take care of myself better than anyone else first. Just like the old saying that to love others, you must first love yourself.
The following is how I look at balance. I’m not saying it’s the only way, it’s just the way I approach it and it has seemed to work very well for me.
I’ve realized that if I’m not feeling well physically, everything else seems to be out of whack. When I was young it was easy to ignore my physical health because time still hadn’t taken its toll on me enough to notice how things were eroding. As I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed how important it is for me to spend time each day paying attention to what I put in my body and brain, and also how important it was to “move.” I realized that the longer I sit around watching TV or came up with excuses to skip going for a walk, the worse I felt.
For me, if I don’t feel well, it’s very hard for me to focus on anyone or anything else besides myself and the way I feel. For that reason, I’ve realized I need to make sure I’m doing things throughout the day to ensure I’m addressing my physical needs. The old “use it or lose it” saying definitely applies when it comes to our muscles and especially our brain. This has led to me making a commitment to taking care of these areas of my life first and foremost.
Although I consider myself introverted, I still crave interaction with people. Especially those people I care about like my family and friends. There have definitely been times throughout my life where I’ve lost sight of how important it is to take care of and nurture these relationships. When I’ve lost sight of this fact, I’m usually reminded quickly as my social connections deteriorate after periods of time where I’ve lost this focus.
I’ve learned that it’s important for me to spend time each day evaluating my personal relationships, as well as the relationships I have in the communities I function within. It’s my goal to make active effort to nurture these relationships in an intentional way. I’m not saying I run around checking boxes in a transactional manner. I work hard to be relational because I truly value my connections with these people.
This can be one of the biggest challenges for me because I run extremely intense, most of the time (ok…all the time). I’m committed to life-long learning and work very hard not to drift through life. I try to learn from every experience so I can continue to optimize my life to ensure I’m constantly moving forward in a positive direction. Frankly I obsess over this far too much which can lead to an overly critical view of myself.
I find that it’s extremely important for me to find time to decompress throughout the day or else I end up building and building toward a feeling of overwhelm that leads to either paralysis or a state where I’m highly unproductive. Whether it’s standing up from my desk and walking around the office, or driving to a local park to meditate next to a pond. I’ve found the more intentional I am throughout the day at decompressing, the more successful I am at steering clear of the verge of a mental breakdown.
When I talk about spiritual health I’m not necessarily referring to religious studies. I’m referring to your relationship and position with and within the universe. I personally believe that we are all connected with each other and everything else within the universe. I believe that every action we take has the ability to impact everyone and everything else in some way. Like the butterfly effect.
I’ve found that I gain a tremendous amount of energy from nature and have felt the closest to understanding my place and impact within the world while I’ve been immersed in the beauty nature offers. I believe it’s important for each of us to explore the reason for our existence as we work towards figuring life out. The more questions we can get answered within ourselves, the less clutter we’ll need to sift through as we try to enjoy life.
The people I’ve connected with who seem to be at peace, are those who have arrived at a place where they have a solid belief and understanding of what spirituality means to them. Although this is an area that’s easy to pass by, or not allocate time and energy toward, I believe you’ll find a much greater sense of peace if this is an area you focus on when you’re approaching a balanced life.
The bottom line is, with balance you’ll feel as though your life is a well-oiled machine. Without it, you’ll probably experience fatigue, and that fatigue will result in symptoms of unrest and stress. Feel free to leave a comment below about experiences you’ve had when you’re feeling unbalanced, or if you think I’m crazy and being unbalanced is the only way to live. Thanks for reading!
Until next time … Enjoy each moment!