According to the Merriam-Webster, balance as a verb is defined as:

: to make steady by keeping weight equal on all sides

How does balance look in your life? Are you feeling out of balance?  Is your time monopolized by your work? Do you find that you don’t have any time for yourself or your needs? Do you feel that you’ve not seen your friends in weeks and you’re starting to feel disconnected? How much energy are you devoting to your intimate relationships (are they still intimate)? How much quality time are you able to spend creating meaningful memories with your children? Do you feel so imbalanced that you’re struggling to stay up at all?  Are you falling behind, feeling frustrated, losing ground or toppling over in your day to day activities? What do you do when you feel one area of your life tipping the scale and creating an imbalance?

By recognizing the ACTION of balance, we can better understand how to steady ourselves by distributing our time, efforts, energy and thoughts in such a way that it keeps us equal in all areas of our life. Some things are out of our control; kids, demands of the job, illness, finances, etc. But through an awareness and a plan of action to move back into steadiness, the imbalance can feel more tolerable and can be seen as “short-term” rather than looming over us and creating a sense of feeling “out of control”.

A few short years ago, my business was struggling (hello 2008…wasn’t everyone struggling!?).  With the business going through hard times, I wasn’t feeling very productive and I found myself just going through the motions to keep myself afloat. With the stress of work, I was irritable with my family, especially my husband. So not only was my work life draining me mentally, my home life was draining me emotionally. I was spending more time out with my friends; it’s much easier to commiserate and laugh at struggles when you’re out with girlfriends giggling over cocktails than to argue at home and explain to your significant other why you had a shitty day at work and how you just wish for once you didn’t have to ask for help with the house or kids. I also had a 1 year old and 4 year old and if you’ve ever been a parent, you know that those ages come with a whole other definition of “challenging”.  So, I was spending lots of time avoiding stress and doing all I could to “mentally check out”.  The friendships at the time provided me a place to vent, cast aside my worries and conflict and indulge in drinks and foods that made me “feel good”. I used it as a method to cope. Food was my drug. I could deny that I felt stressed. I could ignore that things weren’t great. I found comfort and validation that I wasn’t the only one that need a break from life. I could laugh and cry with others over yummy tiramisu and a bottle of wine.  Life was alllllllll good.

Another outlet for me was through my volunteer work. I could easily give more hours to my volunteer organization, say “yes” to more tasks and then in turn receive lots of pats on the back and “way to go” compliments that made me FEEL successful, productive, valued and appreciated. I was not feeling those things in my business or at home and I was drawn more and more to giving my time and energy to that part of my life. I began spending more time volunteering and taking on tasks there rather than focusing on solutions and giving my work and home life the time and energy needed to rebuild and strengthen those areas of my life.

I wasn’t able to balance. I couldn’t give all areas of my life equal effort and attention because I was avoiding the difficult times and aspects. The imbalance led to more avoidance, lack of connection in my marriage, lack of engagement in my work, less attentiveness with my children and over committing in my volunteer work. I’ll let you guess what happened next.

That’s right…I CRASHED.

Any time I spent with my friends was superficial because I wasn’t allowing anyone to know that I was truly struggling. Any time with my husband was tumultuous because beneath the surface we had animosity and turmoil from avoiding the real issues; I was emotionally, physically and mentally drained and unable to be the best mom I could be for my kids. My business was now severely struggling because I had not come to any solutions on how to overcome the challenges and because I had over committed with my volunteer work, I was juggling too much to keep up and was starting to let everyone down. Not to mention, all the time socializing and meeting up for dinners, happy hours, etc, added to my already post-baby weight gain. I was miserable. I was failing. I was FAKING that everything was OK and I started to unravel. Unravel I did, and I did it fast.

I could go on and on about the crash and burn. It was ugly. It was painful. It was a true sink or swim time of my life and thankfully, through the love of my husband and family, I found the courage to swim back to shore and rebuild my life. I had to look at my priorities, assess where I was spending my time and efforts and really evaluate what needed to be done to implement balance into my day to day. What were my values that made ME? What needed to be in balance in order for me to be my best self? I made a list of my values:

  1. Self-care (Health and Wellness)
  2. Marriage
  3. Kids/Family
  4. Work
  5. Friendships
  6. Serving Others (Volunteer work)

Knowing what was important to me and then taking inventory to the amount of time I was devoting to those parts of my life, gave me a very very clear picture of what I was neglecting and also showed me that when things got hard in one area, I gave more to the other areas because it was easier to just “feel good” than put effort back into trying to balance. It showed me that in order for me to truly feel at peace and have life fulfillment, balance needed to be a conscious choice that I made. We can’t avoid the hard times, because jumping to the other end of the scale isn’t going to make it better, it’s just going to make it all topple over.

I began focusing on myself; self-care is not selfish. In order to take care of others, you must first take care of yourself. I began exercising, eating well and resting when I needed to. This helped in how I handled stress but also helped me lose weight and get into the best shape of my life (bonus side effect!). My husband and I took a hard look at our relationship and developed a clear outline of what we needed from each other and also how we could support each other to make our relationship stronger. We made each other a priority, not just as husband and wife, but as friends.

When I thought about how I wanted to show up as a mother, I set boundaries for what I needed to do and be with my kids and never allowed myself to break those boundaries and commitments. I wanted to be present with them.  I worked to model to them the person I want to be and that I hope they grow to be; honest, kind, loving, caring, compassionate and hardworking.

I then committed to schedule time to focus on my work and really be present during those working hours. I broke larger tasks into smaller steps that allowed me to slowly chip away at the issues and be more proactive about the challenges I was having at work. Work time was time to work. I cut things out that distracted me from my work. I kept a detailed calendar and list of tasks that needed to be completed and I learned to make the best of my time so that my work couldn’t spill into other areas of my life.

The friendship value was really hard. I had to really evaluate my friendships. I invested in healthy friendships with those that I could be honest with and who truly had my back, through good AND bad. I surrounded myself with friendships that built me up and also allowed me to support them in positive ways. It was hard losing friendships during this process because I had hopes that they were stronger, but in the long run, I’m thankful for the lessons I learned and for the people that really showed the true meaning of frienship.

Finally, with my volunteer work, I learned that giving comes from your overflow, you can’t give when you’re empty. I practiced saying “no” and stepping back when I knew that if I said “yes” I might not be able to fulfill my commitment. That gave me comfort in knowing that if I was ready to commit, I was ready to take on the task with full confidence that I could give me best and do a good job.

balance 1Balance is a verb.  Balance is a choice.  So what areas of your life are you tipping too much and what areas are you not giving to, either through avoidance, neglect, guilt, or time? The beautiful thing about balance is that it is a daily act. We can start RIGHT THIS MINUTE and choose where we give ourselves and where our energy is placed. Even the smallest of changes, gestures and thoughts can tip us back to balancing ourselves out and regaining a steady stance in life!

For more information on Balance, email me at aliceanneloftus@gmail.com

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