It is a beautiful sun shining morning! I am sitting on my deck listening to my rooster crow, enjoying a morning coffee, the beautiful Alberta summer weather (even if momentarily), and working on refreshing my blog space. If the weather holds, I am looking forward to heading to the water, spending time in nature, with my kayak.
When I reflect on the last several years of my life, I am proud of the progress I have made, and that I can take time to ‘smell the roses’ as they say. I had a good life, but it had become totally out of balance. Raise your hand, or your wine glass, if you can relate? For me, this imbalance was beginning to manifest in physical ways. I began to investigate what I could do to support wellness in my life. Illness is not always in our control, but our personal power lies with controlling the things we can. Personally, this included taking a look at my life balance in a very intentional way, discovering what I could be doing better, or what I needed to do less and more of.
As a teacher, most of my students were indigenous, and much of what and how I taught was culturally inclusive. One of the elements of indigenous worldview that I learned about, related to wellness. This was the teachings of the Medicine Wheel. Indigenous worldview is holistic, as is the understanding of personal wellness. Very simply, this means that overall, wellness is a balanced state of being. The Medicine Wheel symbolizes this as emotional, physical, mental and spiritual human / life elements, balanced on a circle or wheel. There are non-indigenous versions of this, which were introduced to me by Michelle Wright, a life coach from www.wideopenspaces.ca
If this is an area of consideration for you, it really doesn’t matter which model you use. The models symbolize the interrelatedness of human elements. Individual life elements become unbalanced, because of the interrelatedness all the other aspects of life are affected. To use the analogy of a flat tire, if one side of a tire goes flat, the entire wheel function is off. For example, if something unstabilizing happens in a person’s life that affects emotional health, physical ailments can manifest as well.
My goal was to sort out what wasn’t working, and be intentional about creating a life that worked for me. This really is the foundation of self-care. My priority became maintaining life balance. No matter what external expectations, requirements, obligations cropped up, my intention was to approach them in a way that supported my wellness. This was a process that required dedicated effort. I had no idea how long it would take to master, or if it could be mastered at all. Sometimes the process was messy, in other words the journey did not look perfect. After two years, the strategies that I employed became innate. They have become a natural way of being, and the process has become easier, my health has improved, and I have more to offer the world from a grounded and balanced place. I have found that following some of these simple strategies has also built up my resiliency. When life gets busy, or something destabilizing happens it is easier to get back into a state of balance.
Here is my top 5 tips for creating and maintaining a more balanced life!
In what ways is your life out of balance? Where are the problem areas? Conversely what is working well? Find a model, or tool that resonates for you to evaluate this. There are many free self-assessments available online. If you have the financial resources to pay for support to get started, find a life coach to help you. Some coaches are completing practicums and may offer sessions for free. Or, maybe the imbalances are really obvious to you and you already know what they are.
2. Take your power back and prioritize
Consider what is in your power to maintain and adjust and what is not. Prioritize those items. Begin intentionally working at the items that you can control. Items of high priority often offer a domino effect on other areas; whereas when one thing comes into balance many others fall into place. Figure out what your key dominos are.
3. Create / maintain flexible boundaries
Be sure to set boundaries that are manageable. You have to be willing and ready to maintain them. Recognize that people will not always like or respect the boundaries, and will push against them. Are you ready for the resistance? How will you prepare to reinforce them? I suggest practising this ahead of time. Especially if you are going to be dealing with dominating people. Additionally, create room for flexibility in the boundaries if it supports your goals. For example, I created a boundary around how long I would work each day after school. The times differed each day. Thursday was my late night, Tuesday I left early in order to be able to attend a group exercise class. Whatever didn’t get done would still be there to do the next day or become irrelevant. Surprisingly, when I stopped working until 2 a.m., things still managed to get done, and I was able to fit in many other activities….. like getting proper sleep!
4. Embrace your inner ‘No’ …
As I became more adept at this the word ‘no’ became my best friend. Say no to things that do not align with your priorities. At the time I was working on this, the Meghan Trainor song ‘No’ became popular. My students would tease me, and ask if ‘No’ was the only word I knew. I would tell them, “My name is no”, which is a lyric from the song, and that I was getting them to graduation one ‘no’ at a time. All joking aside, let go of things that are extraneous, time consuming and joyless. Do more of what works and cut out what doesn’t.
5. Be kind to yourself …
Let’s face it, life gets busy and destabilizing things happen. We cannot control every challenge. But we can control the way we respond to the challenges. Learn to forgive yourself. If there are setbacks, and you find yourself fallen off the wagon, forgive yourself, brush it off and start again. This book, Radical Self-Forgiveness, by Colin Tipping, was a helpful resource. I’m sure there are many other good ones as well.
Each of us will have their own vision of wellness and each journey will not be the same. Do what works for you. Remember to celebrate your successes along the journey! Maybe you have been through this process? I would love to hear your tips for living a balanced life.