Put your life back in balance
If you are feeling overwhelmed, pressed for time, anxious, and stressed out, you are not alone. In our fast-paced society, it is all too common to feel out of balance, which can affect our health. The good news is that there are some simple things that we can do to find greater balance and enjoyment in life.
Why you may feel out of balance
Most of us need help simplifying our lives, and learning to let go of the unimportant things. We also need to recognize that our sense of leading a peaceful, balanced life depends on many factors such as our personality, life experiences, belief system and coping mechanisms. Some of us seem to handle today's face-paced world better than others. There are those who seem relaxed and carefree and not easily rattled, and others overreact to the slightest thing.
Balance and Your Health
There is a well established connection between our emotional state and our physical or biological state. Many studies have found that people who are positive, optimistic and don't worry excessively (don't sweat the small stuff) have less chronic disease and live longer. When you feel out of balance, it has the very opposite effect on health. It impacts almost every system in our body causing minor to serious consequences. The most commonly experienced signs of a life out of balance are headaches, insomnia, anxiety, stiff muscles, and upset stomach. The stress that comes from being off-center may also hamper immune function, memory and concentration, impairs fertility and reduces sex drive, and it can accelerate the aging process. Leading a more centered, balanced life may also help you to avoid serious and debilitating diseases, namely heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Restoring balance to your life
There is no quick fix approach for restoring balance. A successful program involves learning strategies and tools to cope with stress, getting regular exercise, and following a healthful diet. Since we all have different triggers and ways of coping, you will need to experiment with various techniques and strategies to see what works best for you. Here are some suggestions:
Develop a positive attitude. Positive thinking makes you feel happy, and makes others want to be around you. Start off by saying positive things to yourself each day: things you like about yourself, your achievements, your family, or your plans for the day. When feeling anxious, take time to reflect on all the positive things in your life. No matter how bad things may seem, try to find a bright side or a positive thought to focus on.
Take charge. Express your feelings and be assertive. This will make you feel more in charge and less like a victim of circumstances. Deal with problems up front; ignoring them or keeping them inside can lead to anger, resentment, feelings of helplessness, and anxiety. Work on communicating your thoughts and feelings.
Schedule time for yourself each day. Even if it is only a half hour, make time to recharge your batteries and do something you enjoy.
Avoid negative people. Being around chronic complainers and those who are negative and criticize can destroy the calm you've created in your life. Limit the amount of time you spend with these people or stay away completely.
Improve your time management skills. Running late for appointments, squeezing too much into your day, and multitasking can be stressful. If your schedule is getting out of control, prioritize your activities and work on accomplishing only the most important items. Leave the extras for another day or cut them out completely by delegating.
Alter stressful situations. If you can't avoid a stressful situation then look for a way to make it more tolerable. For example, if dealing with traffic in your daily commute is a trigger, see if you can change your work hours to avoid rush hour or take a different route, even if it is longer. If that is not possible, try listening to music, news, or an audio book while driving to make the time more enjoyable.
Train your mind to react differently to situations that threaten to unbalance your life. Look at challenges in life as opportunities. Examine how you think and react in various situations, and come up with ways to change your reactions. For example, if your heart races at the thought of giving a speech, look at it as an opportunity to develop your public speaking skills.
Work on managing anger and hostility. Practice controlling or redirecting your frustrations into something that makes you feel better. If you have had a bad day at work, rather than get into a fight with your partner or children, go for a walk or a bike ride. This will help you re-direct your energy into something more positive.
Learn to compromise. When in a dispute, finding some common ground or meeting a person halfway can leave both of you feeling more satisfied.
Learn to say no. Taking on more than you can handle and being overextended, either with work or other commitments, can lead to stress. Set boundaries and stick to them.
Look at the big picture. Sometimes we get caught up in obsessing over the small stuff. When faced with something that feels like one of life's annoying complications, ask yourself if it is really that important, whether it will matter in a week or month, and if it is worth getting upset over. If the answers are no, then let your worries and negative thoughts go and redirect your energy to things that matter.
Make time for relaxation and fun. Set aside time each day to do something relaxing and enjoyable, whether it is yoga, meditating, stretching or reading a book.
Some things that threaten to overwhelm us are unavoidable or beyond our control, such as dealing with a serious illness, losing a loved one, or living in hard economic times. These are events that you cannot change. In these cases, it is essential to gain acceptance of the situation and move forward. Dwelling on the negative leads to stress, frustration, and feelings of helplessness. Here are some points to keep in mind:
- Rather than feeling stressed over things you cannot change, try to focus on the things that are in your control, such as your own thoughts, behaviors, and actions.
- Look for the positives in a situation. Even during tough times, there are opportunities to learn and experience personal growth. Try reframing the problem and looking at it in a different light.
- Learn to forgive. Holding a grudge or feeling angry and resentful leads to negative emotions. While not always easy, work on forgiving and accepting.
- Maintain a sense of humor. Being able to laugh at yourself when you make a mistake, and finding the humor and levity in challenging situations, is a great way to find balance.
Restoring balance to your life will take practice. Start each day with the goal of looking for ways to simplify. Set priorities and boundaries, and learn to incorporate coping strategies into your daily life. You'll soon feel more in charge, and you will finally have room in your life for the meaningful activities that bring you joy.
Biography – Sherry Torkos
Sherry Torkos is a pharmacist and co-author of Saving Women's Hearts, which was just published by Wiley. Visit www.sherrytorkos.com for more information.