I don't know if you know this, but 2017 is my year.
I'm going places this year. I'm meeting new people. I'm taking chances with my career. I'm seizing opportunities as they place themselves in front of me.
One of the things I'm pursuing this year is balance. I am a self-proclaimed work-a-holic (I blame my childhood; see: Sweet Corn Season post) and I'm not very good at rest (see: Rest post) even when I say I am.
I've been reflecting more on this aspect of life recently - my own challenges and how I'm working towards a healthier life this year.
Sometimes it feels like everything I do takes a lot of brain power. I work a full-time job helping patients problem-solve weight loss strategies and review patterns in blood sugar logs. I come home and switch creative gears to write a blog post or play my clarinet. I listen to podcasts in the car and I love engaging in meaningful conversation with family and friends.
There's nothing bad about any of those things - except sometimes I spend all of my mental energy and hit a wall, then spend six hours binge-watching my latest Netflix show (and staying up way too late) or mindless scrolling through Facebook all day long.
For me, I feel a big reason for this lack of productivity is my lack of productive rest.
Oh boy. As I write and reflect I'm realizing that I have a lot to work on in this area. Here are my strategies for engaging in Mindful Balance:
Limit social media. I implemented a Facebook-only-once-per-day-rule in college to stay on track while studying. I only checked Facebook once per day and I could be on Facebook as long as I wanted, but I could only check it once. It really, really helped my focus. I see a version of this returning to my life...
Allow "veg" time, but keep a limit. I practically need to schedule Netflix/TV time because I simultaneously A) feel guilty for watching TV and B) can't seem to help myself sometimes when it's been a hellish day.
Engage in mindful rest. I'm talking meditation, reading "candy" books (the kind that don't do you much good, but are simply enjoyable), practicing yoga or other exercise to relieve stress.
Your strategies for balance are probably different than mind. If you tend to swing the opposite way and feel that you need to actively engage your mind more, I would suggest scheduling an activity that stretches you. Sign up for painting classes or join a political movement that you're passionate about. Pick up a non-fiction book that you've heard about but never taken the time to read. Schedule something to force you outside your comfort zone and embrace the challenge.
When I say "body" I mean your physical self: your actual physical health as well as your perception.
Exercise: I tend to be all-or-nothing when it comes to exercise. I had strep throat last fall and for the six months after it derailed me from my exercise plan. So in January I signed up for my second half-marathon this year. Now the pendulum has swung and I *think* I may be giving myself tendinitis in my hip from too much exercise. See? I desperately need balance.
Food: Typically, this is my strong suit. However, I have been living by myself for the first time ever this last year and it's been a challenge to learn balance when I don't have the motivation of planning meals or cooking for someone else. A very, very common challenge I encounter when working with patients is to find the balance of eating for health (i.e. Fuel Food) and eating for enjoyment (i.e. Soul Food).
Perception: I have to include the importance of how I view myself when it comes to balance because perception is reality. How much make-up should one wear? How much to spend on clothes? Hair? (BTW - if you'd like to do some shopping, go check out my Products page...). Where is the line between looking presentable/feeling attractive and vanity?
Exercise: The balance I'm striving for now is between Cardio -- Strength -- Stretching -- Rest. Although I've been running more to train for this half, I've started to intentionally incorporate other kinds of exercise: snowshoeing, bicycling, rock-climbing and yoga. Yoga has honestly been one of the best things for me, as it not only is great strength/stretching/balance, but it is also an active way to rest my mind. If you've never done yoga, I'd recommend to start with a class to learn some basics to prevent you from hurting yourself. I now use an awesome app I found that only costs $4 (shout out to Yoga Studio).
Food: If I could, I would live off cheese quesadillas. (No lie: sometimes I eat them for both breakfast and supper...) Although it's a good balance of protein + carb, it's a little lacking in the fruits & veggie arena. For easy balance ideas, check out my Survival Mode post, which walks you through simple ideas for healthy, easy, no-cook meals.
I also think it's extremely important to find your personal balance between Soul Food & Fuel Food. It's not black and white; everybody lives somewhere on that spectrum - and neither extreme is healthy. Fleshing out this conversation will take another post itself, but this idea has to do with mindful eating and each person must find her own balance.
Perception: Most of my life, appearance has not been terribly important to me (which unfortunately has resulted in some pretty bad haircuts); I was taught that it's what's on the inside that counts. As an adult woman who interacts with other adult humans, I've found it challenging to remain true to this sentiment. I don't have to tell you how many messages I'm sent from the media, other adult humans, advertising (in my inbox and my mailbox!) - not to mention the messages I tell myself - about physical beauty.
My strategy to find balance in the physical perception of myself is focus on health first. When I eat well and exercise, I know my body is where it needs to be. Sometimes I wear make-up and sometimes I don't. And when I feel stressed about people judging me for not wearing make-up/wearing too much make-up/not being curvy enough/not being fit enough/not being stylish enough/not being trendy/having split ends/etc. etc.... I remind myself that it's what's on the inside that counts. And I continue to focus on eating to fuel my body/soul and to pursue a balance of exercise.
I am a very soulful person. I lean very far to the extrovert extreme of the scale and my number one way to nourish my soul is to spend time with quality people. Also by nature I am a very caring person; it's easy for me to give at the expense of myself - and give and give and give until there's just not much of me left.
My challenge is I often take care of others at the expense of myself.
Boundaries: This is one of my biggest struggles and something I work very hard at: setting healthy boundaries with people I love. No, I can't go out tonight is tough for me to say - both because I genuinely love people, but also because I never want to let someone down. So in 2017 you'll hear me decline more often as I learn to listen to my body (but don't worry, as and extrovert I'll still usually say "yes!").
Meditation: As I mentioned regarding exercise, I've been participating in much more yoga recently. This is such an excellent exercise for not just the body, but also the mind. You can practice meditation, too - by praying, by sitting in the mountains in silence, by drinking your coffee on your front porch. Find a way to quiet your mind and still your soul.
Friendship: The easiest, most meaningful nourishment of my soul comes by the way of my friends. It comes from late-night conversations over a glass of wine. From women's group where we challenge each other to grow. From long runs when we figure out life and love. It comes from conversations about politics and economics, from brewing beer and hiking together.
My greatest happiness is investing in people who invest in me. Let me give you a secret about this: choose people by the quality of their hearts - not the quality of their personality or their job or their age or their intelligence or their lot in life - and invest in those people. Your happiness will multiply.
So what about you? Have you thought about balance in your life recently? What are your challenges and solutions?
With love from Peas and Hoppiness.