In past blogs, we’ve chatted about procrastination and time management. That’s all fine and dandy, but no matter how good you are at managing your time, you are bound to end up doing some juggling. And that’s okay as long as it doesn’t become a habit or take over your life.
The secret is balance. That’s nothing new, and we know we need to have balance. So, how do we go about finding balance in our lives? For years, I tried to find the proverbial work/life balance. I failed miserably. You would think that retirement would negate the need for balance. With this new freedom, there should be plenty of time to do everything. Nope. I can see the tendency to try and do too much, especially in the early stages of retirement before the novelty wears off. It can be exhausting. . . .go here, go there. Do this, do that. Now, it’s all about finding a balance between staying active and enjoying free time without burning out or being exhausted all the time.
When we enter retirement, focus shifts to more of a “me” image. Now is a good time to visualize your ideal life. What activities interest you? How do you want to spend your time? Traveling? Sports? Grandchildren? Volunteering? Cooking? Art? Starting a business?
Larry Jacobson, retirement coach, has developed a Retirement Wheel that helps plot various areas of your life and examine how you are doing. You can get a free download of the wheel and chart your time. I gave it a try and was quite surprised to see how off-balance my life is right now. Hmmm. Time to work on that! There is also another article on the Wheel of Life that is based on similar principles.
Before we can live a balanced life, we need to know what that means. The answer will be different for everyone. For me, a balanced life is a calm life. One where I don’t lose sleep over deadlines or face anxiety for several days in a row. A balanced life allows me time to do the things I want, whether that be a new art project, walking, geocaching, playing pickleball, playing mah-jong, doing housework, cooking (I love to try new muffin recipes!), visiting with friends and family. For me, when the joy of doing those things begins to crumble, it is because I’m stressed and out of balance.
Jasmin Tanjeloff, a licensed psychotherapist, sums it up nicely in her article posted on Tiny Buddha. “To me, it means that you have a handle on the various elements in your life and don’t feel that your heart or mind are being pulled too hard in any direction. More often than not, you feel calm, grounded, clear-headed, and motivated.”
Sounds good, right? But, if you aren’t all that in tune with your inner self, how do you know when you are off-balance? When things don’t feel right and we feel butterflies in our stomachs, we don’t usually examine the balance in our lives. We are more prone to reacting to something of a physical nature. It sure is easier to treat an upset stomach than try to re-evaluate how you are spending your time. But, if you really think about it, life is a process of keeping balance. When you are cold, you shiver to bring your body temperature up, and when you are hot, you sweat to bring your body temperature down. You sleep to reset your energy. This process of maintaining balance by adjusting to the external environment is known as homeostasis. Too bad we can’t use this process to adjust our internal environment. So, what else can we do? I mean, look at how much dogs pant. They are balancing their body’s reaction to whatever is happening in their world, whether they are hot or cold, happy or sad, afraid or excited.
True, we can’t go around panting, but think of maintaining balance as how you react to your world. There are internal and external factors to keep in mind, such as heart, health, mind, work, social, and family. When all is right with your world, it means that all these pieces are in balance with each other. When one piece gets more attention than another, the balance is broken. When I was working, for example, I spent far too much time after work hours thinking about work. Other things that were important to me suffered because they did not receive enough attention. There was no balance.
A balanced life will bring fulfillment and purpose. Obviously, being balanced means less stress, and we know how harmful stress is to our mental and physical health. Stress leads to depression, anxiety, and discontent, which can lead to a myriad of negative reactions. When you are content with your life, you are more likely to be engaged and happy, which leads to positive reactions.
Okay, so we know we need to strive for balance in our lives. How can we do that?
- Declutter your space, declutter your mind.
- Say no. Don’t let others take advantage of your newfound freedom and time. Set your priorities and don’t take on any projects for at least a year, and say no to things that don’t interest you.
- Know what needs to be done. Follow your passion, but don’t let the little things slide.
- Nurture yourself. Rest, exercise, and eat properly. Spend some time relaxing at the end of the day. (It is also wonderful to do this in the middle of the day!)
- Be spontaneous. Instead of thinking how cool something would be, do it. Within reason, of course.
- Become aware of your limits and don’t take on too much at a time.
- Allow more time for recreational activities and spend more time with family and friends.
- Be flexible. Life happens, and we need to learn to roll with the punches.
- Don’t let things get you down. You may not be able to stop those negative thoughts, but you can control how you react to them. Picture your mind as a hotel. Allow the thoughts to come into the front desk, then tell them you don’t have any rooms and tell them to leave. They can try the hotel up the street. Trust me, it works.
- It’s important to keep your mind sharp. Try to read a news article or watch a “how-to “video each day.