Finding Balance – Life’s Juggling Act

This week’s blog theme is Finding Balance – Life’s Juggling Act. Under this topic we will be exploring all areas of our lives that can get off balance and how we can try to bring some of that balance back. Last week Michael Dante, Director of the Faber Center, and I did a talk on balance through Marquette’s Grow program. The focus of our talk was how to lay the foundation for obtaining balance in your life, and why it is such a difficult task. Here’s a bit of a recap for those of you that missed it.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines balance as “a state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance.” I like this definition because it uses the term “equal or proper amounts.” We are all individuals. We lead different lives, and we have different priorities. Each of us needs to decide what the “proper amount” is for us. So let’s look at all the areas we might be trying to balance each day. For this talk, I used six categories: (1) Family/Friends; (2) Career; (3) Finances; (4) Fun/Leisure; (5) Personal/Spiritual Growth; and (6) Health/Wellness.  In each of these six categories, you could be dealing with multiple tasks that could be causing your life to become unbalanced. If you are a busy mom, you may be spending so much time running kids around, taking care of the household, working, etc. that you don’t take the time to care for yourself. Major life events can also throw us off balance. You may feel that you have everything somewhat together, but all of a sudden you are now having to deal with aging parents, a sudden loss of a loved one, or a health problem. Having a strong foundation for a balanced life can help when life throws these curveballs at as. There are four areas that I am going to discuss below that can help you build a strong foundation.

1) Self-Care Practices: When it comes to taking care of ourselves, this may not always happen. Taking care of ourselves allows us to be a better wife, husband, friend, mother, father, coworker, etc. This means that it’s important to see the doctor on a regular basis for physicals and preventative screenings. It also means going to the dentist and the eye doctor regular check-ups, getting enough sleep each night, exercising regularly, eating healthy, and taking time to for rest/renewal activities. Finding pleasure in life by taking time to enjoy some of your favorite things on a regular basis is important. This may mean working on your hobby, reading your favorite book, or taking a hot bath.

2) Monitoring Work/Family Expectations: It’s important to talk about expectations and clarify responsibilities at work and with your family. Does your supervisor expect you to be at work from 9 to 5 or is there some flexibility? Can you work from home once in a while? Can you work different hours? At home, this might mean that you are talking to your significant other and your children about who is responsible for various household chores, or you are talking to your children about expectations for their behavior or grades. Establishing limits and boundaries early and upfront with your family, colleagues, and manager(s) is important, and there may be times that you need to re-negotiate. Putting these practices into play at home and with your family can help you live a more balanced life and decrease stress.

3) Stress Reduction: Stress can happen in all areas of our lives. Controlling stress is important because the health effects can wreak havoc on our lives. Headaches, backaches, stomachaches, tight muscles, low energy, trouble sleeping, stress eating, etc. are all things we can experience when we have uncontrolled stress. Once you get into this vicious stress cycle it’s hard to get out of it. It’s important to know what your warning signs are, what triggers your stress, and what stress reduction techniques you can use. Having some emergency stress stoppers can help you. For example, if you know that traffic causes you stress, plan a different route that is more relaxing. Do you notice tight muscles in your upper back and neck? Maybe take a stretch break and do some deep breathing throughout your day so this doesn’t happen. Does being late cause you stress? Leave 10 minutes earlier.

4) Connect to Your Spiritual Core: Spirituality is a vital component of our well-being. Some questions you may want to ponder to help you connect to your spiritual core are: (1) How do you find meaning and purpose in your life and how does it relate to your work? (2) What are your life’s priorities and what really matters? (3) What are your passions and what animates you or gives you life? 4) What past experiences of balance or unbalance have you experienced in your life and how you responded?

Laying a foundation for a balanced life requires some work, but it is possible. Having a strong foundation is important, so that when life happens and you are thrown off balance, regaining your equilibrium is a bit easier. Start by making small changes in your life. You may want to keep a journal of how you spend your time so you can see areas in your life that are off balance, or notice what your time wasters are. Make a list of work and family expectations to discuss with your boss and your family. Keep track of your triggers for stress and identify some emergency stress stoppers that work for you. And finally, explore the questions above to connect to your spiritual self. From there, you can decide where you need to make some changes to lead a more balanced lifestyle.

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