We normally spend the most time thinking about balance is when it is absent but often that is also the point at which our reserves our low and making a change feels hard. What if you could spot the signs earlier so adjustments are easier to make?
What are the signs you are off balance?
It might be snapping at your partner over insignificant issues, a cold you just can’t shake off or repeatedly waking up at 2am. Perhaps even dark shadows, dehydration lines and spots. Our bodies send us lots of signs to tell us something is off. Sometimes the reasons are obvious, sometimes they are harder to isolate. And while the solutions may have some common themes, the signs and the answers are usually personal. This is because everyone’s definition of balance is slightly different.
What is ‘balance’ for you?
The word balance conjures several different images – a set of scales, a precarious balancing act. Changing the word to ‘balanced’ opens up different perspectives: a balanced meal with different bits coming together; or a balanced argument with a range of perspectives on the same issue; or even a balanced relationship – yin and yang (contradictory yet complementary).
With the search for balance held up as the Holy Grail of wellbeing, it’s important we each consider what it means for us, now.
Balance is about the parts of our lives that are important to us receiving enough attention.
If our interpretation becomes narrow or fixed or we drift towards striving for someone else’s image of what good looks like (our mentor’s, our best friend’s, the latest guru etc), we are less likely to end up satisfied or happy. We all live different lives with different needs which change over time and so balance has to be personal.
Finding your own recipe.
Let’s start by reminding ourselves of the basics – the five dimensions of our lives to reflect on:
- Relationships: Social interactions, personal and work, giving love & getting love
- Health: Eating, drinking, exercising properly, feeling in good health – mind and body
- Work: Challenging yourself intellectually, finding purpose, financial security
- Interests: Allocating time for things you enjoying doing
- Relaxation: Creating opportunities for rest – mind and body.
- Check in. You can’t fix what you don’t know. Observe what’s happening in your life and reflect on how you are feeling. What patterns can you see in the different areas? Look back at your calendar over the last couple of weeks and see how you have been spending your time. Try to keep a more detailed diary for the next week. There are many benefits to journaling but if this feels too much, just make better use of your calendar. Write down when you are getting up and going to bed, what you are eating, what you are doing with your time and who you are spending it with. Be sure to record how you feel at the end of the day – three words will do.
- Reflect. How happy am I with each part of my life? Is the overall balance right for me now? It can help to look through the lenses of pleasure and purpose. There could be activity in every area but if it all feels very worthy or dutiful, maybe it’s time to find ways to make some it more fun: swap the running for roller-disco. If work is placing a lot of demands on you, what can you do to make sure it feels meaningful?
- Take action. The real challenge is usually not with the awareness, it often lies with making the necessary change especially when you are off balance.
- Think small: Sometimes when you are feeling low, it can feel like only a huge change can make a difference. However, small shifts can be surprisingly impactful. Just like making a meal feel balanced by simply adding a portion of spinach or taking away a spoonful of pasta, the solution can often lie in some tweaking, informed by your own needs, targeted at the areas that matter for you.
- Start slow: It can feel less daunting to make changes one at a time rather than make lots all at once. Pick one thing that matters and get going. Substituting one activity for another can also make change easier. Use your commute time to do something you really enjoy – reading, a puzzle, listening to a podcast – rather than checking your email.
- Ask for help: Sometimes we need more objectivity, more discipline or more expertise and there are lots of different ways to get help. Talking things through with someone else provides another perspective, emotional support and perhaps some practical help. Signing up for a running club with a friend or pre-paying for a month of yoga classes can increase commitment. And sound professional advice about your finances, career or health is worth paying for. Think of it as an investment in your happiness.
This article is written by Lizzie Broadbent, a consultant and coach, applying behavioural science to make change easier for individuals, teams and organisations.
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At LBB, we believe in trying to find and maintain that balance wherever you can and bringing life’s little luxuries along wherever you go. Whether that’s 1 minute breathing in Flight Mode before a big meeting or Take Off-Touch down ensuring you can fit in that lunchtime exercise class. We know finding that balance isn’t easy and why we believe in the power of stories shared to learn and empower each other.
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