You know that feeling you get when your life feels totally out of control? When you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all the tasks on your list. Or you find yourself constantly putting off really important things?
Have you ever felt like there must be some secret-to-getting-it-all done out there that only a handful of people know about? A secret that can finally help you get work, parenting, responsibilities, relationships, and — dare I say it — a social life all running smoothly?
Ah, yes… the elusive “balance.”
But, what does being balanced really mean?
It’s something different for everyone.
No two people will likely have the exact same definition of what it means to have a balanced life.
My idea of balance is eating well, drinking lots of water, and telling my significant other to take a hike when I’m too exhausted to make dinner.
I’ll bet your version of balance is a little different, huh?
Fortunately, because it is so personal, there isn’t just one way to have a happy, balanced life. I do, however, have a few tips that anyone can use to find just a little bit more of it!
Take a Break
It all starts here!
We live in a busy world and have busy lives. Work is constantly demanding more, family obligations and responsibilities pile up around us, and we’re supposed to have rich social lives, too
(Social life? What’s THAT?!)
With so much going on, it might seem impossible to find the time to take a break. The pressure is there to constantly be “on.” You might even believe that taking breaks is a sign of weakness.
That couldn’t be more wrong!
Did you know that taking breaks is essential to how our brains store memories and process experiences?
Your mind doesn’t just shut down or go idle when you’re taking a break. It goes into what some researchers call “default mode,” and it’s how our brains are able to log new information, memories of a fun night, or how terrified and exhilarated you felt when you went base-jumping for the first time!
Regular breaks also give you time to recharge and make room in your life for things you want and enjoy to do.
P.S.: taking breaks can help you better understand novel ideas and be more creative.
Carve Out Alone time
Ready to take that break to the next level?
Use it to snag some alone time for yourself.
Now, I know it may have been a while since you’ve been able to do that. So here are a few ideas on what to “do” during your alone time:
- Pamper yourself (get your nails done, your hair did… Treat. Yo. Self.)
- Focus on hobbies that you enjoy
- Read that book you bought three years ago (you know the one I’m talking about)
Alone time doesn’t have to be all about personal hobbies or taking bubble baths. Spending enough time in solitude is a great way to think over any problems you might be facing or simply escape the pressures of society.
It’s also a wonderful way to rediscover who you are outside of work, relationships, or parenting so you can more effectively bring all that goodness back with you when you’re all topped up on you-time!
Tip: Does getting some alone time feel like an impossible task? Try booking a pedicure or scheduling a gym session into your calendar. Or book an overnight stay in a hotel and enlist the help of your mom-spouse-friend-neighbor to help with kid responsibilities while you get away from it all for a day.
Set Personal Goals
Know what alone time is also great for?
Time to break out that bullet journal you never used and start writing down some personal goals.
Goal-setting is a great way to evaluate the skills that you have and identify areas you’d like to improve. Want to know what makes goal-setting super effective? It encourages visualization!
Did you know that visualization has been proven to be one of the most-effective ways to achieve your goals? In some studies, research has shown that mental effort, i.e. visualization, might be just as effective as physical effort. Visualization allows you to put yourself in a “reality” where you’re reached your goal. You can take note of how it feels and even tweak aspects of your goal, if necessary.
Not only can it help you visualize your “end game” but it can also help you prioritize the things that mean the most to you.
Break It Down
Goal setting can be as short or as long-term as you want, and I strongly encourage you to get specific.
Say, for example, you want to win the Tour de France. Write that down! But, also brainstorm all the steps you need to take to get there, working backward.
Step 20: Win Tour de France
Step 19: Get invited/sponsored to participate in the Tour de France
Step 18: Become a well-known pro-cycler
Step 2: Buy a racing bicycle
Step 1: Learn to ride a bike
You get the idea.
You don’t need to set grand goals if you don’t want to.
Any goal will do as long as it’s something you want to accomplish. Losing weight, planning a dinner party, cutting down on your plastic use. Anything can be broken down into realistic, achievable steps.
Having goals can also help you have a more positive outlook and a sense of purpose, not to mention more control.
Give it a try with some of your personal goals!
Learn to Say “No”
The holy grail of all self-care steps!
Just like the constant pressure to always be “on,” the pressure to always be available and ready to take on commitments is always present.
All. The. Time.
Saying “no” might make you feel selfish. It might even make you feel like you’re not doing enough or like you’re not even pulling your own weight.
Don’t worry: that’s just your pesky brain telling you a lie —that saying “no” is somehow wrong or hurtful to others.
When you say “no” you’re setting boundaries not only for others but also for yourself. It helps you understand the dynamic in your relationships and might even reveal some relationships that you’re better off without.
Let’s be real: it’s hard to say “no”!
Hey, I get it. Saying “yes” is a rush! You’ve made the asker happy and you feel valued and needed.
Feels good, right?
Unfortunately, saying “yes” too much can take time away from things that are more important. Precious family time, breaks, alone-time, and personal growth can all suffer if you suffer from chronic “yes” syndrome.
Worse, saying “yes” when you don’t mean it can lead to anger and resentment.
Have a hard time just saying “no”? A study from the Journal of Consumer Research suggests using “I don’t” instead of “I can’t” when turning down an unwanted commitment. Saying “sorry, I don’t have the time” is easier to say than “I can’t do that this week…” and it just might alleviate feelings of guilt.
Personally, I love this because saying “I can’t” leaves me feeling like I have to follow up with a reason.
Pro Tip: you don’t need a reason to say “no.”
I’ll bet you already knew that having fun can have a big impact on healthy brain function in children.
Being silly doesn’t have to stop when you hit adulthood.
Grown-up life shouldn’t be all seriousness all the time. Not taking any time to goof off and grin a little can leave you feeling flat and just plain old boring.
Laughing and playing can help reduce stress, improve your relationships, and make you feel younger for longer. And guess what? There’s real science behind feeling younger and living longer. And guess what? There’s even a little science behind feeling younger and living longer.
You know how Grandma always said laughter is the best medicine, right?
Grandma may have been more spot-on than she knew: a 2016 Nord-Trøndelag Health Study suggest that laughter may help prolong your life, especially in people with cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers.
How does laughter help you achieve greater balance, though?
It’s simple: having fun, playing and laughing, releases endorphins (the feel-good chemical), leaving you feeling happy and relaxed.
Need a nudge? Try a few of these ideas to get back on the laugh track:
- Play charades (even thinking about it is funny)
- Goof off with your kids, your partner, or your closest friends
- Break out the board games (playing games like chess can help boost critical thinking skills)
- Watch a silly movie
- Dress up with the kids for Halloween
The list is endless.
Getting to a place where you feel the most balanced is a process.
There will always be times when you have to say “yes” and take on more to get where you want to be. That’s just how life works. It can get out-of-whack sometimes.
Take some time and space for yourself. Life is hectic; you deserve some balance.