Balance and why we need it

Ever felt like there’s not enough time in the day? Or packed in so much that suddenly you feel exhausted – mentally if not physically?

Chances are, you’re sitting looking at your screen nodding. Our modern lives are so busy; work takes up the majority of our time and we frantically try to fill the rest of our diaries with exercise regimes, socialising and those must-do chores. Thanks to technology too, we hardly ever switch off completely.

I’m the sort of person who is always busy… A typical day for me includes a two hour commute into work, a full day at work in London, a two hour commute home, cooking dinner, prepping breakfast and lunch for the next day, working-out and then trying to unwind for about an hour before getting to bed in a reasonable time due to an early start the next day.  But if other things need doing, then the thing to disappear is usually the time to unwind.

Things can feel pretty hectic sometimes…

On top of that, my job (like many others out there) involves lots of extra hours – working occasional evenings and weekends. And then of course, there’s also quality time with friends and family members to squeeze in.

So with all that considered, how many hours do I actually spend fully switching off and unwinding?

The truth? Probably not enough.

Taking time out is so important but it also seems to be increasingly difficult when distractions are everywhere. Which is why ‘balance’ has become a bit of a buzzword, and which is why I’m dedicating an entire blog post to it.

For me, achieving balance is like looking at my life as a pair of measuring scales. On the one side sits work and commitments like blogging, writing, volunteering and maybe working out. On the other, sits my emotional, physical and mental well-being including socialising with my nearest and dearest.

The trick is to make sure you do enough of each to keep some sort of equilibrium. If we don’t, well, hello burnout.

For me, yoga is a blessing. Some nights I get home from work and I’m too tired to workout properly, so I’ll do a guided yoga routine instead. Without fail, it leaves me feeling relaxed or energised and also noticeably calmer about everything.

Surfing has the exact same effect. I find myself focusing solely on catching a wave, and when I do, I experience ‘flow‘.

Unfortunately, surfing for me is an activity I can only indulge on holidays, so I need to find other ways of switching off entirely and just being me.

*

Recently, I read Thrive by Arianna Huffington, author and co-founder, as well as former editor-in-chief, of The Huffington Post. 

Thrive was all about Arianna’s personal experience of burnout and how to avoid it, providing tips on achieving balance in a busy, modern life.

Arianna went from being a successful media mogul and an incredibly impressive female entrepreneur to breaking her cheekbone after collapsing with exhaustion – her burnout. Her book was all about the need to see ‘wisdom’ and ‘wellbeing’ as importantly as we see professional success.

“Right now the cultural norm is to brag about how much work you’re doing,” Huffington says. “We want to change that cultural norm so that people feel like they have permission to take personal time and to be undistracted.”

It’s all about taking time for you (without the distraction of your email or your phone!) and working smarter.

I’ve done a lot of reading up about this recently – the importance of ‘me’ time and well-being. It seems balance is all about making sure you balance the things you have to do, with the things you want to do.

If I took time out, or spent an evening just doing the things I wanted to do, I’d feel like I was wasting time – there was always something that needed to be done so why wasn’t I doing it?

The same goes for work. I hardly ever take a lunch break because there’s always something else to be done.

But breaks are good. They refresh our minds and our bodies and leave us feeling more energised and focused.

The main thing to consider when it comes to balance, seems to be time and a knowledge of what makes you happy.

Time

Although it feels that there’s never enough, it’s all about how you use it. Have someone you need to see this week, or a family member you’ve otherwise neglected recently? Schedule time into your week to see them. The same goes for physical activity and any other hobby you want to make sure you do, alongside work, each day. It’s not easy, and sometimes schedules change due to reasons beyond your control, but if you have a busy life and feel like spare time is minimal, scheduling these things in gives you something to look forward to and also reduces your chance of stressing that you don’t have enough time to do it in the first place (you do).

What makes you happy?

This needs to be something that leaves you with a positive feeling – whether that’s happiness, a feeling of calm or excitement. The reason for this is that, if you worked a full week of work and did nothing for yourself during that time, chances are you’d be feeling pretty unfulfilled and unsatisfied with your life. These actions can be anything from dinner with a friend, reading in bed, gaming, or going to a yoga class. Whatever it is, schedule time in each week for it and enjoy it as ‘me time’. Turn your phone off (or on silent) and fully embrace whatever it is you’re doing in that moment.

There’s nothing wrong or selfish about making enough time for yourself. After all, we only have one life so we need to live the best one we possibly can.

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