Are you like me? Do you have this nasty little habit of putting everyone’s needs above your own?
I’m here to tell you a secret. Ready? It doesn’t work. If you are constantly putting your needs last, you are going to become an unhappy, unhealthy individual. I’ve been there and it sucks.
For the past couple years, I’ve been trying to put myself first – or if not first, at least in some respects a little closer to the top. If you learn to balance your inner and outer lives, you will be much better able to regulate your emotional reactivity (ie – not snap at your kids, maybe?) and reduce exhaustion and burnout.
Here are a few tips for finding balance in life. These tips work whether you are a teacher, business professional, stay at home mom, whatever. The key is finding what works for YOU and making it a habit.
- Simplify your life where you can. Learn to recognize that you really CAN’T do everything and accept that. Is this easy? Heck, no. But if you can eliminate some things that stress you out – like that committee you don’t really need to be on, or that carpool that never seems to work out, you’ll find yourself happier.
- Use pencil, not pen, when making those “to do” lists. If you can learn to be more flexible, erase and move things around, your stress level may drop.
Meeting Our Basic Needs
You’d never expect your car to run on an empty tank or bad fuel, so why do you expect your body to run efficiently if you aren’t meeting your basic needs?
- Sleep – figure out how much you need and do what you can to get it. For me, this means going to bed around 9:30 or 10 each night because I like to workout in the morning.
- Eat a balanced diet – I know this goes without saying, but it’s really easy to grab crap from the vending machine. Make extra dinner at night so you can take a healthy lunch to work the next day. Prep veggies on Sunday and you’ll have fresh goodies for salads for the whole week. Don’t forget about hydration! Keep a water bottle with you and fill it up! Then – this may seem crazy – but you have to remember to drink it 🙂
- Exercise – If you get in at least 20 minutes a day, you will have more energy, be in a better mood and be less affected by stress. Schedule a consistent time and make it non-negotiable. It doesn’t matter what the exercise is, just make sure to move your body – go for a walk, ride a bike, yoga, go for a run. I literally write my workouts into my planner because if I don’t, they are easy to miss. Find a workout partner – you’ll be less likely to skip it if someone is at the track waiting for you.
Build Healthy Relationships
- You have a great start already – you’re a part of the Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans community! An online network of supporters can be huge in helping you find balance. Struggling with something? Ask one of us here or throw it out on Twitter, I’m sure we’ve dealt with something similar.
- Seek out colleagues with interests similar to your own. Like to run or walk? Get a group together to exercise after work. Like reading? Start a book club. Like Happy Hour? Invite some friends to go out for margaritas, chips and salsa (just not too many because that defeats the whole “balanced diet” thing).
- Are you in a toxic environment? Try to avoid becoming negative yourself. Find at least one positive colleague/family member/friend with whom you can connect. If you need to get out, leave. Easier said than done, I know, but if you cannot take care of yourself, you will be unable to care for those around you.
Managing Our Time and Energy
It seems as I get older and my kids get involved in more activities, more and more gets piled on my plate. We need to learn to manage all of this and find that balance.
- Make a list of all your roles and responsibilities and see if there is anything you can eliminate. For the nonnegotiable, carve out a time for them, make them a priority, and put it on the calendar. This may be a committee you are on or Sunday night dinner with the family. If it’s important, make it happen. Learn to say “No” and mean it.
- Work more efficiently. If you are most productive in the mornings, schedule important work at that time. Minimize interruptions when you can.
- Relax a little! Learn to ignore your schedule from time to time. Is it a beautiful day and the kids are clambering to go have a picnic? GO! A friend calls to go for a walk? GO!
What does the flight attendant say when giving the loss of cabin pressure speech? “In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, the oxygen masks will deploy — please secure your OWN mask first before assisting others.” I think this is a great metaphor for the need to take care of our own lives before we can assist others. What is one tip from this post that you can try this week to help yourself achieve balance in your life?
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