It’s always the same story. A woman comes into my office feeling like she is having a “nervous breakdown” or as though her relationship is “on the rocks.” The problem is rarely that serious and almost always boils down to a lack of life balance. Her “recipe” for balance may be missing ingredients, or she may have the right ingredients in the wrong proportions.
We women are particularly poor at creating balance in our lives, as we strive to make it OK for those around us. And there is growing evidence that this “turning ourselves into pretzels” phenomenon may be biologically rooted. Nevertheless there is a way to feel more at peace and less frazzled.
Take time to reflect. Discover what key ingredients are missing in your recipe for balance. Exercise? Fun? Time just to contemplate the meaning of life? Develop a plan that includes all the elements you need to feel whole, and determine the proper proportions. Talk your plan over with a peer, a mentor or better yet, a “personal board of directors.” Enlist their help in refining and sticking to your plan. Establish a three-month time frame in which to live your plan. Here are some key ingredients to consider:
- Adequate sleep. Without this, small problems appear insurmountable and we become irritable with those we care about the most. Better to leave some tasks undone than to miss out on an extra hour of shut-eye.
- Have some fun. At least once a week do something fun, pointless, and definitely outside your normal repertoire. This will relieve stress and remind you not to take life too seriously.
- Learn to say no. Saying “no,” or at least “let me think about it,” gives you time before responding to a request and allows you to consider whether saying “yes” will help or hurt you.
- Do exercises that you love. No need to torture yourself. Make it something you enjoy. Are you a closet jump-roper or is skateboarding your thing? What fits most easily into your schedule?
- Do something for you, or nothing at all. Schedule time just for you and let everyone know they need to respect it. Take a bubble bath, read a steamy novel, meditate or stare out the window no apologies to anyone!
- Nurture key relationships. Don’t assume that a relationship with a partner or spouse will endure no matter what. It requires maintenance, and attending to this can be pleasurable and rewarding.
- Take it a day at a time. In the early morning or at the end of your day, leave a few minutes to consider the day’s events and your feelings about them. Better yet, keep a journal about them. What was great about the day? What could you have done differently to make it more balanced and satisfying?
At the end of three months, review your plan. Talk it over with your mentor or board of directors. Are there missing ingredients in your “recipe for balance”? Or do the proportions simply need adjusting?
Once you have gotten your plan in balance, the goal is to keep it that way. Remember that as life changes you will need to review and adjust your plan. Look for “symptoms” such as irritability, exhaustion and headaches that tell you things are off-kilter again.
If you follow these guidelines your life will be far more satisfying and manageable. And when problems arise (and they will!) you will be much better equipped to deal with them.