What Is Balance, And Is It Possible To Maintain In Everyday Life?
It’s not an invisible energy coursing through your very being, nor is it some magical ratio of sleep to exercise to work. But society often talks about balance without thinking about its meaning or its practical implications. The fact is that balance will mean different things to different people, merely because of their commitments, responsibilities and physical needs. It’s easy to neglect your health, for example, when work is so busy that any leftover waking hours are spent digesting addictive TV shows. Or when you are generally lacking in motivation, you may abandon a career path that you’d previously envisaged for yourself. Perhaps you lack the confidence, or maybe just the focus to make change. When you think about the things that drag us down and hold us back, it might just be best to think of balance as tending to all of your needs, not just the basic ones.
Planning and Scheduling
Have you ever noticed that many of those who complain of having no time tend to flitter away the precious moments they do have? And that relaxation often takes on the form of an entirely forgettable sedentary activity? At the time they’ll reboot and start again, but they haven’t tended to any of their many neglected needs like socialising, having new experiences and basic exercise, and these needs continue to be ignored until some indeterminate point in the future. Most of us are pretty busy, but we’re also really good at using our time poorly. We can be fantastic time-managers and planners in an office context, and then easily flick a switch the moment we leave. We turn our collective thoughts to what we’ll prepare for dinner and how quickly we can slow right down.
What if we had a calendar diary to plan out our waking hours and schedule even sleep into the day? It sounds endlessly boring, but suddenly you’ll find the lost hours that the day usually swallows up in deciding what to do/watch/read/post next. Need three hours a week of moderate exercise but never get around to it? Pencil it in. Have you imagined yourself doing the downward-facing dog in a local yoga class? Just two hours of your calendar time a week. Love reading but are too easily seduced by your smartphone? Well, check if you have an hour free on Sundays, right before the weekly shopping. If you start with a list of all the things you’d love to do if only you had the time, this is the real test – if you can afford it, can you schedule it? You’d be surprised.
Staying in Touch
Making time for good friends is a way of staying connected to ourselves. Friends, after all, are our chosen family. If the good old days were spent dining out, picnicking or at the beach with our extended circles, why does that need to change? Sure, careers and family are demanding, but if we deprive ourselves of friendships out of some misplaced sense of altruism, what are we teaching our children and those around us? The idea that friends are a luxury instead of a necessity is to ignore the human need for connection, the desire to share our lives and general social discussions. It’s like putting vegetables in the pointy end of the food pyramid – the balance is way off.
Through reflection and relaxation we importantly take time to slow down and re-energise. We cannot realistically be on the go all of our waking moments, and even with that calendar filling up, we must have down time. For some, being still and quiet and alone will act as a form of meditation and reduce the stresses accumulated through the course of the day. Others see time-out as a nightly four-hour couch session, with plenty of relaxation but strangely lacking in re-energising value. Take a different approach and rate the quality of your relaxation time. As little as fifteen minutes at the highest quality of relaxation can radically change your day. Good old-fashioned meditation for those who can switch off, stretching or singing (or dancing!) to your favourite music, or a long, hot shower with plenty of aromatic body gel are some of the ways to regain your sense of self and the drive to push forward.
If you work and play hard, acknowledge it. Long hours at the office or a schedule dominated by the needs of others will exhaust you and you shouldn’t let it go unrewarded. A monthly massage or a new item of clothing can seem shallow and tokenistic, but it can serve as a gift to yourself, a kind of self-congratulations for doing what you needed to when you didn’t necessarily enjoy it. It doesn’t even need to be materialistic – taking a bath with a good book can feel just as luxurious. The most contented people don’t perpetually feel as though they are doing something for nothing, so nor should you. The other necessity to achieving balance is having something to look forward to. This could be a weekend with friends, a holiday, a short course or even a cinema session, as long as it’s keenly anticipated. If you look through your calendar and fail to find anything that excites you, it’s a dramatic sign that you need a change.
Once you arrive at a place where you don’t feel like you’re neglecting your needs, you can fine-tune your daily life and aim for a balance that suits you and keeps you going. If something isn’t working, tweak it. At least you’re not starting from a point where life is overwhelming you and most ideas never make it past conceptualisation. You’ll possibly never hit a sweet spot where everything works harmoniously. Life is never like that, no matter how diligently you schedule. But that’s why we refer to maintaining balance, not achieving it.
There is no reason why you can’t have a more balanced life starting from this very moment, and to take stock of your family and your collective future, visit comparethemarket.com.au’s Life Insurance section and examine why security and peace of mind are commensurate with the goals of finding balance.