by Howard Cohen, LMHC
I recently posed this question to a life coaching class, asking the participants how they create balance in their own lives. One of the class members said, “It starts with yourself.” I thought that was a fairly profound and simple answer as it does require you to get in touch with your own stability and self-awareness. I also asked, “What does the word “balance” mean to you?” One person said it meant “equilibrium,” and I then asked, what does that word mean to you? The reply was “an even amount of attention given to something.” I thought that was a great explanation of the concept of equilibrium. I went a little further and found that *TheFreeDictionary.com defines it as “a condition in which all acting influences are canceled by others, resulting in a stable, balanced, or unchanging system or mental or emotional balance; poise.” This was exactly what I was looking for as a definition; we need a steady, emotional balance. It is the key in achieving the status of a “master juggler” in life!
Most of us are familiar with the term “multitasker” and how we have to bounce and manage many items on any given day. We also know that when we multitask, we don’t always take tasks to completion or handle them in a detailed or orderly way. It would be a wise idea to prioritize our responsibilities in order of their importance and necessity. The class felt we should identify do-able steps that were easy and reliable to work with to finish our goals. They were being SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) in their approach to creating a plan.
We kept talking about how we pull off our own “balancing act”, and another person felt we must have the appropriate proportion of challenges and rewards in order to be successful. Too much stress and chaos needs to be offset by healthy doses of lightness and fun. By the same token, frustration and depression need to be countered with clarity and joy. It seemed our scale was moving in the right direction.
“Homeostasis” was also mentioned as another definition for balance, a very scientific term which means “all variables are regulated so that internal conditions remain stable and relatively constant.” The group felt that we internally need to be in a more normal state in order to be balanced; in this way, we can interpret our individual priorities in a clear and level headed manner. We also discussed having a spiritual balance alongside our internal evenness; in this way, our thoughts about the importance of our purpose in life were being recognized as well.
At this point, we all understood the concept of being balanced, so I felt it was the right time to discuss what it’s like being personally out of balance. One group member mentioned that if you were out of balance or on shaky ground, you needed to take care of important matters like your health, living situation, and/or monetary matters. They felt it was never the fun and interesting issues that you had to prioritize but the tougher, more difficult ones that needed attention in order to be more secure and sure-footed. Someone else offered that the “to-do list” shouldn’t be too unmanageable, and should be broken down into more “do-able” items. I thought that was particularly good since smaller and less complicated goals are easier to manage and achieve.
There was a further discussion of the necessity of handling priorities and taking care of things that matter the most to you. The group also felt that you should be aware of the talents and abilities you have and put them to work for you. As well, they felt you should live your life in more of a middle range of energy and emotion rather than being in the highest of highs or the lowest of lows. Living in a more medium range seems a more balanced and comfortable place than in emotional extremes.
One of the most important things mentioned during the discussion was the need to find the “right tools”. Like a carpenter would use a level to draw a straight line or a chemist would use the proper ingredients to create a stable element, we must have the appropriate methods to deal with a topsy-turvy lifestyle.
Someone said that having too much stress was a lopsided way of living. We agreed that eating healthy, getting enough sleep, physical activity, taking prescribed medications and talking to a good friend or therapist were some effective tools. Taking a step back from what’s bothering you, looking at the reality of your individual situation, and developing a plan for action were other good ways to tackle an out of balance state of being. Confronting fears was the best course of action to get into solution mode. Our toolbox was really filling up for the unforeseeable future!
I also added that more times than not, we need to develop a better rapport with ourselves that will provide a more positive inner viewpoint. We need to talk calmingly to ourselves—I call it “self-talk”, and it needs to be kind and soothing. It’s not just muttering to yourself (that’s a whole other issue), but praising, thanking and supporting thoughts that reward and guide you through tough times.
When you become overwhelmed about something, think, “I might be making this worse than it really is!” and re-think, “I can really do this!” It’s fairly simple; if you are nicer to yourself, you’ll be amazed how much you can accomplish! Try it on for size and see if you can be your own friend.
Here are some other great tools for you to use:
1. Be more patient and eventually things will come more your way
2. Develop a gratitude list for what you are grateful for to offset negative thinking
3. Develop stronger relationships with positive minded family and friends
4. Create more personal rituals and add more structure and discipline in your life
5. Find some hobbies to do in your off times
6. Feed your soul by doing activities that you are passionate about
a. Take a cooking or dance class
b. Sing with a choir or learn to paint better
7. Start new projects that you’d like to partake in and be a part of
8. Take a good look in the mirror and start to focus on what you like about yourself.
9. Start to limit the amount of stress and responsibilities that weigh you down
10. Take charge of managing your time better
11. Simplify and normalize
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” — Thomas Merton
Yours in personal change and growth, Howard Cohen
Howard Cohen is a licensed mental health counselor in private practice with offices in Wilton Manors and Dania Beach. Cohen Counseling is a safe place for therapy with specialties offered in the areas of LGBT issues, career counseling, overcoming depression and anxiety, dealing with loss and grief, and addiction solutions. Call 954-980-9628 or email [email protected] to begin the journey of personal change.