an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
"although her job was stressful, she maintained her life-work balance"
Okay, so that's the definition, but HOW?!
We have all these different "parts" of ourselves with different responsiblity in different realms: a "work" self, a "partner" self, a "parent" self, a "friend" self, along with whatever other identities are important for you to uphold. Maintaining all these areas of our lives can get SO stressful, and that is the case for the majority of people.
In the US alone, 77% of people experience physical symptoms of stress, and 73% experience psychological symptoms caused by stress (www.stress.org). That's crazy. We're really all walking around here stressed the hell out.
I have grown up in what was sometimes a chaotic and high stress household. My job as a social worker for the past 5 years can be stressful and at times chaotic. Because of this ongoing exposure to stress, I thought being stressed out was pretty normal and became desensitized to it. In the past I haven't even known that my stress level is rising, until I get to the point that I'm overwhelmed and start shutting down!
I have had to LEARN how to know when I'm stressed the hell out, and how to slow down and take care of myself before it gets to the point that I'm burnt out. Emphasis on learn, because a.) I'm still always learning about my process, and b.) ANYONE can learn how to do this too.
You are not destined to live a stressful life; you CAN learn how to manage it in a healthy way.
The other thing is, stress isn't bad. Sometimes it can motivate us to problem solve, let shit go that isn't meant to be in our lives anymore, and it is a normal healthy part of our human experience.
But when stress doesn't let up and it's constant, our body is continuously releasing stress hormones that literally eat away at our physical health, causing physical health issues and shortening the years we're alive. Stress can also lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
Externally, stress is always happening and is a daily reality. But internally, we do have a choice in how we respond to it, and those choices can either improve or deteriorate our lives.
Choices I've learned and am still learning.:
1. LEARN WHAT STRESS LOOKS LIKE FOR YOU: my stress didn't look the way it does for friends and family, and I've had to learn specifically what mine looks like so I can respond and take care of me when I need to. For me, when I'm stressed, I sleep more. I procrastinate. I want to order takeout. I cancel plans with friends. I have thoughts of everything being "too much". I've learned that when I start to notice these behaviors, I'm stressed the hell out! Take some time and even write it down: what does it look like when you're stressed out?
2. STRESS IS A SIGNAL to sometimes slow down. I used to ignore when my "check engine" light was going off and I was clearly getting overwhelmed. I'd assume that if I pushed through and ignored it, it would go away. It took about 28 years to learn that I have to pay attention to my body and emotions so that I can be my best self. I've learned that if I ignore the signs, it just leads to a bigger meltdown for me down the road. Nowadays, I notice the signs of my stress and make it a point to schedule a yoga class, listen to a podcast that makes me feel good and light hearted, or to hang out with a fun friend that I can just laugh with. Even though I want to curl up, order takeout cannolis (yes, I've ordered $12 worth of cannolis before to meet the minimum delivery total), and drown in a pity party of how hard life is, that actually makes me feel worse. So I listen to my signals and I respond to them by taking care of me in a healthier way than I have before.
3. CHANGE YOUR MINDSET. Our way of bonding as humans is often complaining about how busy life has gotten. I'm working on changing my language. I used to use a rhetoric of "ugh life is so busy, I have to do x,y, AND z" as if this proves some kind of worth or connection as a human. Instead, I'm working on noticing all the things I "get" to do. I get to make a living and have money to pay for my apartment! I get to have plans with people I care about! I get to have family members that I care for, and am fortunate enough to have the ability to help them with things. Instead of seeing certain responsibilities as duties or burdens, try to shift the mindset to seeing them as opportunities that other people would love to have.
4. BUDGET YOUR TIME. Anybody else ever ran their credit card bills up and figured out that they may need to write down some of their spending to figure it all out? (slowly raises hand). Time is no different. If you're feeling overwhelmed, your energy account is overdrafted. It's time to get intentional about where you're spending your time and what your priorities are. Try using a planner at the beginning of the week and budgeting out EVERYTHING, including relaxation, self care, work, family time, bae day/friend time, and email/call times. You'll be surprised at how much time there is that may not have been budgeted in to meet your priorities, and once you gain more control over your time, you will feel less overwhelmed.
5. BALANCE IS AN ILLUSION. You are ONE person. You can not give 100% to everything all the time. Sometimes, one area of your life may have to sacrifice some of your energy and attention so that another area of your life can grow. We live in a society of illusions: instagram feeds and snapchat stories, where people can show their results and not the messy process. Equal balance in all areas of life is a lie. Different areas of your life will go through different phases, where some will require more attention than others. The goal isn't 100% perfection in all areas, the goal is to be in harmony with where you are in your life and what brings you the most satisfaction.
6. BE PRESENT. Slow down, tune into what matters the most right now, and focus there. When you are ready to move on, move on and be fully present in the next step, next moment, or area of life. Sometimes we are thinking about so many different things at once, we cheat ourselves out of being efficient in what we're doing at the time, and also really enjoying whatever it is we're doing at the time! This includes relaxing. When you schedule in relaxation time, RELAX. This doesn't mean you are doing nothing while thinking about your to do list; it means you enjoy the act of simply being!
So here's to acknowledging that life is messy, we humans have complicated lives, and everything definitely isn't going to be equally balanced. STILL, that doesn't mean we have to feel stressed the hell out, or that we can't find harmony in our lives, because we absolutely can.
the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole.
"delightful cities where old and new blend in harmony"
"the harmony of the whole structure"
Wishing you harmony instead of balance,