Balance. It can be a tricky thing to find. On the one hand, it can seem liberating—making sure to fit more personal and family time into the week or indulging in a great meal here or there sounds great. For some, it can feel limiting. Sacrificing a cheeseburger for a salad doesn’t always sound like the most fun thing to do.
You may wonder, what does “balance” mean in practice? Not surprisingly, a balanced life looks different for everyone. But the repercussions of not balancing your life look similar for most people: stress.
Studies show that moderate stress is healthy for you. This type of stress is called eustress. When your stress levels tip over from eustress to distress, it can jeopardize your health. Too much stress in your life can lead to heart disease, respiratory problems, accidental injuries and even suicide. In other words, living a balanced life is integral to optimal health.
Dr. Grover describes the concept of balance as an octopus. “You put you in the center. Then you have all these tentacles that would include work life, family life, friends and a support system, hobbies, medical problems, and then exercise, sleep and meals. A balanced life cannot be successful or healthy if any one of these aspects is off,” she says.
The Practice of Balance
Practice is a good word when it comes to living a balanced life because it takes time and practice to get there. You don’t have to address all parts of your life at once. Grover says the first step to creating a balanced life is to reflect on the important things and take note of which aspects need attention. Is it that you’re not getting enough sleep? Has it been a while since you’ve seen a doctor? The next steps toward creating a balanced life include:
Set manageable goals.
For example, if you need to get more sleep, try turning off the TV or your electronic device a half hour early so you can go to sleep and get up earlier. Getting up earlier can give you more time in the day to tackle more things, which can free up time for self-care.
Set boundaries between work life and family life.
“A big problem with lots of people is that work consumes them, and they don’t have time for these other things,” explains Grover. Scheduling a date night with your spouse to check out a new restaurant or taking your family to a film festival can help make sure your family life gets equal billing with your work life.
See your doctor.
Health is an important part of creating a happy, balanced life. Make sure to schedule regular doctor visits for yourself, and not just your children or other people in your family. Seeing your primary care doctor regularly can help prevent health problems from developing or getting worse.
Take care of yourself.
You can’t take care of your family or focus on your work if you’re burnt out and rundown. Do something just for you if not daily then several times a week whether it’s taking a yoga class, going for a walk or just sleeping in.
Indulge, in moderation.
If binge-watching your favorite TV show gives you pleasure, then indulge for a day — or two. But balance that indulgence with reading, visiting a friend or exercise. Watching TV for hours every day is not a balanced way of consuming media and may leave you with little time to address other important parts of your life. If you love cheesecake, for example, by all means, have a slice now and then, but try to go for a walk after your meal or indulge your sweet tooth next time with berries.
So, whether you’re heading out to enjoy something delicious at Longmont Restaurant Week or finding yourself knee-deep in a big project at work, remember to find your own balance. Don’t guilt yourself over the delicious plate in front of you. Remember to take breaks during your work sessions.
Find your balance, and you’ll find yourself happier and healthier, no matter what you’re doing.