From juggling to balancing–how can we maintain our sanity and health with a crazy busy lifestyle?
By Jen Kahn
We’ve all been there. Something big changes in your life and suddenly it’s front and center; all other parts of life fade into the background. Like a new job, a new relationship, a move, a health-kick, a health issue, break-up, even a new puppy. Sometimes the focus can grow so big as to obliterate healthy choices we might otherwise make: like getting enough sleep, recuperation between workouts, maintaining relationships, making time for fun! Suddenly it’s six weeks later and you don’t know who you are anymore, and life feels out of control. You know it’s time for a change before one of the balls you are juggling crashes to the ground and takes something out – possibly even you.
So how CAN you turn your life from a juggling act to a balance, where all important needs are getting some sort of time and attention? It begins with slowing down enough to pay attention. With pulling back in your viewfinder so you can see a bit more of the whole picture, and with regularly spending time with yourself, by yourself, listening. Slowing down, you ask? How can you slow down when there’s so much to get done! The key to slowing down is not necessarily in doing less, or moving more slowly, it’s in taking a few extra minutes, or seconds, to breathe, and be, and check in with yourself, as often as you can.
In my life lately I have been in the midst of moving for a month. I work for myself, and sometimes with or for other people, for the most part on my own schedule. I’m also in the last recovery stages from a long-term illness, building my business, finishing up a yoga therapy certification, and oh yes – I have a relationship to spend time on, an apartment that usually needs cleaning, cats who need love and attention, friends and family to keep up with. At the moment I also have boxes piled all over my living room and belongings in three different states (did I mention I move a lot).
So how do I stay sane? I view balancing as more of a surfing exercise, or tightrope walking, than a teeter-totter. It’s not so much how much of any one thing occupies my time, it’s about being connected to myself enough to read the cues of what is working and what isn’t and making immediate adjustments. For example, I know I often get worn out during moving and overextend myself. So this time around, I have been vigilant with getting enough sleep, and avoiding the usual moving-traps of eating take out because I can’t find the frying pan by cooking simple dishes that are easy to reheat for a few additional meals. As a result, I actually have enough energy to get some work done, remember to take my vitamins, and go biking with my partner.
Another not-so-secret secret, and the way I stay MOST connected to myself and my needs, is by having fun, and having down-time. A walk, a bath, a fun movie, or some playing in my art journal helps me re-anchor every time in what is important to me, and my enjoyment of my life. Even when it’s chaotic.
Here are 5 tips to help you turn your juggling act into more graceful, high wire balancing acrobatics, avoid burn-out, and even have fun in your crazy, hectic life:
1. Commit to time for and by yourself, and follow through: Ideally you can schedule time with yourself every day to simply be and relax, and also time to do something you enjoy, whether it’s sports, or reading, or even watching tv. In truth, finding the time for something big can be a huge challenge, especially if you are allocating zero of your day to this pursuit right now. So start small – perhaps 10 extra minutes in bed, 5 minutes by yourself in the car in the grocery store parking lot, or an extra long trip to the bathroom with your favorite book or some art supplies.
2. Be present with what you are doing right here and now: Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzz word these days, but it’s for a good reason. What it really means is putting your attention on the place and moment you are in. When we have a lot on our plate multi-tasking often seems like the answer – and I’ll tell you I am the queen of making to-do and ‘don’t forget’ lists in my head while doing something else – all this does is keep you in tension and stress response and suck the joy and ease out of the rest of your time. If there’s a lot to do, write it down so you don’t worry about forgetting, and then be with what you’re doing. Set a timer if you have concern about losing track of time. When you do the dishes, really do the dishes! Enjoy the water and the soap bubbles and the prospect of a clean(er) kitchen.
3. Know your health points and prioritize them: I can’t say this one enough. Getting so absorbed in the busy-ness of life that the activities needed to keep you healthy fall by the wayside is a sure recipe for burnout and a big crash landing. Know your non-negotiables and figure out a way to keep them in your life. For some people it’s sleep, for others it’s the gym… anything essential to your health and well-being goes in this category. If you don’t know your health non-negotiables, it’s time to learn them. Stay tuned for my post in two weeks on this very topic!
4. Work in one thing a day that helps you to see your bigger picture: This one is in line with item one, but with a twist – the idea here is to set up a reminder of what’s really important to you to help keep all things in perspective. It can be as simple as a vase of flowers by your bed or on your desk, uninterrupted time with your child, or a five-second walk outside in the middle of your day. It does not have to be different every day (or the same) or take a lot of time or effort! It’s a reminder of the bigger picture of your life, of your ‘why’, so that your ‘how’ has a reason, a perspective, and a focus.
5. Know when to let go: Not everything needs to be done to 100% perfection. Know and choose where you give it only 80%.. or 20%, and let the rest go so you have time and energy to focus on what’s important to you.
And me? I’ve got a busy work day today so I’m taking a break to go to my favorite park and sit in the fresh air and enjoy the view for a while. I know I’ll come back refreshed, relaxed, and more productive than I’d be from just muscling through.
Jen Kahn is an integrative healthcare practitioner specializing in functional and behavioral nutrition, yoga therapy, and metaphysics with a focus on chronic health conditions and emotional eating. Through the blessings of modern technology she works with clients all over the world in private consultation and through online workshops. Her website is currently under construction, but you can find her latest event HERE or contact her by EMAIL. When she’s not working with clients, running events, or writing, she can be found biking, cooking, painting, snuggling with her cats or doing nothing at all in the Pacific Northwest.