Do you ever feel like life is a runaway train you’ve somehow managed to fall from?
Lately, I’ve had that all too familiar feeling that things are just “out of whack”. You know the drill: hitting snooze 20 times, playing “catch up” with my to-dos, and bemoaning my tiredness (despite said 20 snoozes).
Since I became an entrepreneur, feeling unbalanced has become almost par for the course. In the self-development world, there’s a real culture of “always say yes to opportunities”, or “when you have a big enough why, you can handle any HOW”.
It’s true to an extent, but with these maxims in mind, what typically happens is that I take on WAY too much. Before long, I’m eating dinner at 9 pm, and forgetting my own birthday, much less to brush my hair in the mornings.
Sometimes life can feel like that meme “adulthood is just repeating ‘but after this week things should slow down a bit’ over and over forever”.
I think we all aspire to living a life with plenty of time and energy for the things we love as well as our obligations.
In the past, feeling off balance would last months at a time before I felt I could breathe a little. Now, I know the warning signs to look for, the questions to ask to get back on track, and how to restore balance again.
These are the key questions I ask myself.
#1: AM I EXPECTING TOO MUCH FROM MYSELF?
I said to my husband the other day, “After this weekend, things should go back to normal”.
But then I paused. What is normal, anyway?
It’s like the verse goes: To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.
In the great theatrical masterpiece of life, it’s normal for one act to take center stage. Then the act is over, and a new act brings its own new storylines and conflicts.
Rather than struggling for perfect “balance”, aim instead for practicing balance.
Rather than striving to attain balance as a way of being, imagine it as a noun, a way of practicing - like meditation.
You may never be able to meditate “perfectly” - but the point of meditation is not to achieve perfection. The point of meditation is to practice meditation.
See the difference?
#2: WHAT DOES BALANCE MEAN TO ME, ANYWAY?
No matter what you want to achieve, it’s very difficult to get there if you don’t know where you’re going!
If you can’t be clear about what balance looks like to you, it’s going to be difficult - nigh impossible - to steer your ship in that direction, yes?
How will you know when you’ve arrived? Why, you might even sail right by balance and not even know it!
My definition of balance is: having plenty of time and energy for things that are important to me - both in my personal and professional life.
Balance means I have time not only for my business goals, but also to spend with my husband, family and friends, lots of "me" time, exercise, a clean home, pursue my hobbies, and sleep.
We all have different priorities. Some of us have young children, some run Fortune 500 companies, and some care for elderly or sick family/friends.
Thus, it’s no use Googling “what does balance look like” or comparing your life to someone else's definition. All you can do is get clear on what balance looks like for YOU.
Whip out your handy dandy journal and begin to visualize an ideal day in your life.
What do you have time for?
Who do you spend time with?
What self-care do you include?
What activities or rituals bring you peace/happiness?
How do you unwind?
How does your schedule look?
#3: WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME I MOVED MY BODY?
Our bodies always talk to us: relaying signals about our health, energy, mindset, mood, and focus.
This is why connecting to our bodies is important. When we’re connected to our bodies, we’re able to pick up on those signals much sooner.
When I haven’t exercised for more than a few weeks, I know about it - and so do the people around me. I’m grumpy, easily distracted, unfocused, and prone to overwhelm.
It doesn’t matter what you do: it could be going for a walk in the sunshine, gentle yoga, tennis, shopping, lifting weights, or krav maga. If you’re neglecting physical activity you usually enjoy, it’s a good sign you’re off balance.
Whilst it feels ridiculous trying to squoosh it into your already bulging schedule, the opposite is true.
Studies prove exercise relieves stress, boosts mood, sharpens focus, increases productivity, improves sleep quality, sharpens memory, helps you think faster, turbocharges your energy, and strengthens resilience.
In other words, exercise helps you conquer your to-do list more productively, efficiently, and effectively. It's usually the first thing to get bumped from our schedules when we get busy - but it’s key for getting back on track!
#4: HAVE I MAYBE BEEN ACTING LIKE AN UNSUPERVISED KID IN A CANDY STORE?
This is the part where I give myself a little bit of tough self lovery and ask the question:
Have I allowed myself to run amok?
When things get hectic and I skip a workout, miss an important to-do, or condense self-care, my Inner Critic pipes up and says “oh well, you may as well just write today off and start again tomorrow”.
The trouble is, if tomorrow’s just as hectic (and it often is), the pattern loops.
Before long, my good habits are unraveling.
Because I haven’t done one thing, I tend to let myself off the hook about doing anything.
Do you know what I mean?
I’m wasting the time I do have, getting distracted by shiny things, and procrastinating.
I’m letting myself get carried away in the chaos, instead of being the calm eye in the storm.
This only compounds my feelings of overwhelm and giddiness.
We can’t always control what’s going on around us but we can gently direct and manage our own actions and reactions (with self-love and compassion, of course). This means you've got to start proactively rebuilding structure and responsibility into your life.
Understand that in each moment we have choices. Even if we don't feel that way sometimes, but we do. They may not always be the choices that we want, but there are choices just the same.
What are you choosing to prioritize? Are you prioritizing short term relief over your long term goals? Are you prioritizing what’s “urgent” over what’s important (these are not the same)?
Where are you allowing yourself to get distracted? Do you catch yourself scrolling through social media or answering calls when you need to focus?
Where are you not honoring your boundaries, or maintaining them with others? You need them now more than ever while you’re trying to find your feet!
Make a list of your goals and values so that you can remember what’s a priority and what can wait, or be delegated.
When you have your priorities sorted, focus on those every day, no matter what else gets done. You will be amazed at how quickly this rebuilds your discipline, and gets you back on track.
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#5: AM I BEING PRESENT?
When life’s a mess, I sometimes magically transform into a hummingbird: constantly flitting about, doing, and never being still.
The problem is that I’m not focused on any particular thing long enough to give it my best.
The result? A lot of half-done things everywhere, and no one thing done well.
It’s the same socially. If I’m not present in social interactions because I’m checking my phone, or thinking about what needs to be done later, I rob myself of true connection.
Constantly refreshing your feed, stopping and starting projects, or multitasking might feel productive, but it’s not. It only compounds your inner chaos.
Wherever you are at that moment, BE THERE with your whole heart. Absorb yourself in an activity, give it your full focus and attention, and disengage when it's time to move on.
Without doing anything else to take the pressure off, you will be amazed at how this simple exercise restores balance.
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#6: AM I BEING CONSISTENT?
Consistency has got to be one of my soul assignments.
I go great guns with a new habit or routine for a while - weeks, even months. In the twinkling of an eye, as soon as life gets a bit chaotic, I glibly fling my good habits out the window.
Where do you find you are inconsistent, especially when things get hectic? Do you abandon your goals, start living off junk, stop moving your body, sleep less, or give up on skincare?
Although we can drop consistency like a hot potato in busy times (guilty), our habits are the comforting constant in our lives, no matter what is going on. These little habits keep us balanced and grounded.
On the other hand, when they fall by the wayside, even though they’re only small habits, life feels more topsy turvy than it is.
You don’t have to try and squish all your “good habits” back in right away. Pick one that feels best for you, and make it a daily priority.
#7: HOW ARE MY GOALS TRACKING?
Check in with your goals: have you been working on them, or do you feel like they’re leaping further away from you?
If you feel like you haven’t had any time to work on your goals lately, it can be very frustrating and disheartening!
Have you been putting your goals on the backburner recently? If so, it’s a good reason you may be feeling unbalanced!
You’ve been putting everyone else’s demands first and neglecting your own!
The only way to remedy that is to go back to Step #4 and start building in some discipline around your goals. It doesn’t take long!
Get clear on what you want to achieve by when, break that down into daily milestones, and then schedule it like an important appointment in your diary.
#8: HAVE I BEEN SETTING MYSELF UP FOR SUCCESS?
If you feel out of whack it’s a good sign you’re in reaction mode: that is, you’re running around patching up leaks instead of steering the ship!
Do whatever prep work you can to actively construct an easy week. Maybe that’s grocery shopping, meal prep, content batching, and so on.
Make time to sit down and plan out each week, including your goals. Brain dump what needs to get done, and then schedule it out!
Set little reminders in your phone, notifying you it’s time to move on to the next activity in your schedule.
You’ll feel nannied at first, but if nothing else, it will be eye-opening in terms of how you’re spending your time.
#9: WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME I TENDED TO SELF CARE?
When was the last time you treated yourself?
When life gets busy I’ll rush through a quick self-care routine - showering, cleansing, slapping moisturizer on my face, and calling it a day.
But I feel better when I take time to moisturize and oil my body, do face masks and hair treatments, paint my nails, and take bubble baths.
I notice a huge negative difference in my mood when I don’t do this.
So when I'm behind the eight ball, I ask, “When was the last time I did my bubble bath Sunday?”
I’m sure we can all agree on one thing when it comes to envisioning a balanced life: it usually involves taking the best care of ourselves.
Unfortunately, very few people (if at all) will fight you to take that time for yourself. It’s up to you not only to ask for it - but to insist upon it.
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#10: HOW DOES MY LIVING SPACE LOOK?
Marie Kondo says: a messy room is a messy mind.
It is an undisputed fact of life that when life gets messy, so do our houses.
I believe that our homes represent our internal world in a holographic way - they seem to mirror one another.
When life’s chaotic I’ve noticed that I tend to stop picking up after myself. I’ll drop things where I am, thinking to myself I’m too busy to put it away, and I’ll get to it later.
Except I don’t, the “things” keep piling up, and suddenly my cupboards are a shambles and my home looks like a bomb’s gone off.
It only adds to the overwhelm in a vicious cycle!
Even just 10 minutes a day of cleaning your space goes a long way in restoring balance. You could make a habit of one or two of the following:
Make your bed each morning
Do the dishes each night
Declutter one door
Do a 10 minute tidy before bed
Whilst doing one or two of these tasks won’t magically transform your home into a showroom, it will make you feel better - and boost momentum - without the overwhelm of tackling cleaning if it’s devolved into a big job.
Another little tip I love is the “two-minute rule”. I can’t remember where I heard it, but it’s great.
If you see a task needs doing, or if something only takes two minutes to put away, do it NOW rather than putting it off. You’re less likely to notice a little two-minute dint in your schedule than tackling a behemoth job later.
Life happens. Unexpected things take center stage in our lives and before we know it, everything’s thrown out of whack.
But with a little discipline, routine, and tending to self-care, you can be back in the swing of things in no time!
Now I’d like to ask you a question: where do you struggle most with creating balance in life? What have you found most helpful in dealing with it?
-keep discovering -
If you liked this article, you’ll find these useful too:
Is your “check engine” light on? How to listen to your body’s signals / Everyday Mindfulness / The Importance of Beauty Sleep / 57 Ideas for Your Self Care Sunday Routine / Self Care Routines for Busy People / 31 Ways to Save Yourself From a Bad Day / Amazing Time Management Hacks That Will Change Your Life / How to be Assertive: A Guide for Empaths
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