Updated: Aug 24
When I was a young girl, mum told me “Life is all about balance.” At the time I thought I understood what she meant – do my homework, go to sport’s practice, catch up with friends on the weekend – it seemed a pretty easy concept to get behind and follow. Fast-forward a few years to university. Juggling newfound freedoms and responsibilities, the making and breaking of friendships, all while trying to pass assignments and exams – suddenly it was easy to see how the scales could tip and life could become a little unbalanced. Through it all, mum continued with her mantra and upon hearing it so often, I found myself sticking the word ‘balance’ around my room; a constant reminder to stop and reset when things started to get shaky. Thinking I had things figured out, it’s only now looking back that I’ve realised I didn’t give mum’s advice the appreciation it deserved. Then, balance meant a good study session in the library or a quick trip to the beach when things got especially stressful. Now, out finding my place in the world and experiencing all the highs and lows that life provides, I’ve finally realised just how valuable and encompassing her wise words are – and that life really is all about balance.
Some lessons we have to learn the hard way. For someone who doesn’t like saying no to people, I discovered that trying to please others all the time sometimes jeopardized my own wellbeing and health. I believed that this was all a part of my balancing act – that in making sure others were happy, I too would be happier. While giving your time, attention and help can promote feel-good endorphins and strengthen relationships with others, if not reciprocated you may find that you spread yourself too thin, “burning the candle at both ends” and resulting in stress, fatigue or a breakdown of your own wellbeing. Finding myself headed in this direction, I confided in mum that I felt off-balance. Looking me in the eye, she told me that “You can’t be all things, to all people, all the time”, and that sometimes the best and most important thing you can do is to put yourself first. Here I started to prioritize self-care, and it was in this space that my understanding of what balance really meant, began to grow.
Many of us look at self-care like a luxury escape that we can’t afford, dismissing it only a fleeting second after we’ve considered the idea. But self-care doesn’t have to be an indulgent massage or a weekend getaway. Self-care can be as simple as prioritizing the essentials we need in order to remain happy and healthy in ourselves. This could include getting a good night’s sleep, maintaining regular exercise habits, eating a balanced diet and/ or ensuring that you take time out of your busy day to do something you enjoy. Focusing on ourselves isn’t selfish or self-centred; instead it can help to make sure we are in the best possible place to flourish and succeed with whatever life throws at us. Boosting not only us up, self-care can have a ripple effect on those around us too. If we are happier and healthier, we have more energy and time to put into activities and relationships of those around us, benefiting multiple people, teams and/ or projects. So how do we balance self-care with our hectic day-to-day? When things start to feel a little frantic, remember that this can be the best time to simply stop and reflect. Ask yourself what stressors you have got in your life currently, and compare with what self-care principles you are implementing into your daily life. If the first list is longer than the latter, it might be time to reassess and bring some balance back into your life.
With continual changes, challenges, mistakes and unforeseen difficulties, it can be easy for life to throw us off-balance at times. As we age, our daily stressors alter to fit the stage of life we find ourselves in – but by no means become less important. From worrying about an upcoming test while studying, to repaying a mortgage or looking after young children, stress is nothing if not a constant companion with us through life. But it is how we find balance amongst such troubles and worries that can help us continue forward and shape the future we want to have. Just like yin and yang, life is full of both good and bad, and is often out of our control. But by understanding and accepting the ‘bad times’, we can further learn to appreciate the good. Without sadness there is no happiness, without failure there is no success and without fear there is no love. When things start to get hard and the balancing act of life starts to feel a little unstable, it can help to look for the good in the bad – as more often than not, each of us has something to be thankful or appreciative of. Read here for some simple tips for improving your day.