As a therapist, I’m always surprised and slightly amused anytime someone I know is taken aback by my own human struggles. If I’m stressed, feeling down, or feel out of control, my friends seem amazed that something “like that” could “happen to you,” as if being a therapist means that I am impenetrable to the woes of everyday life. Let me be the first to tell you that I have ups and downs like everyone else, and that while I may have an arsenal of coping skills in my toolbox to help me manage, I am still subject to having problems.
Most recently, I’ve had a run-in with one of my most common hang-ups, which has inspired me to write this post and to share with you all: how to achieve balance in your everyday life.
When I get into something, it’s not unusual for me to get really into it, to the point where it’s all I’ve spent my time on and everything else has fallen by the wayside. Most recently, I’ve gotten into a project that I’ve been having so much fun working on, but it has been all-consuming of my time and energy, and important to-do’s began to take a backseat. It was when my husband offered to do laundry that I realized I needed a reality check, and get myself back on track of my everyday life, chores, and responsibilities.
Below I’ve compiled a list of things to try to restore balance in your life, if you ever find yourself “off kilter.”
1. Don’t spend too much time on any one thing: again, this is my first and biggest problem. I spend hours working on one thing, which more than likely turns into days, and sometimes even weeks. When you spend so much time doing one thing, other things you normally do aren’t a priority, and then they just don’t get done. My correction? Switch things up. Set a reasonable time limit ahead of time, and stick to it. If I want to work on a project, I’ll set aside one hour to do it, and stop myself at one hour (otherwise six hours go by and I’m still working on it). When your time is up, go do something else, but again, set a time limit for that. If you have hard time staying on track, set a timer or alarm, and stick to it.
2. Find equality between work and play. You know the saying about how all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy? Use your vacation time! Don’t put in more work, time, and energy than you need to, especially if it isn’t being appreciated. If you spent six hours on a free day doing yardwork, balance it out with some time doing something you enjoy- maybe 30 minutes of a favorite TV show, engaging in a favorite hobby, etc. Oppositely, make sure you have some work between your play, too. Don’t spend 10 hours a day playing a video game when you’ve got homework or other responsibilities that also need your attention.
3. Make goals for yourself. I’m a big proponent of goal setting, even if it’s “what I want to accomplish before the end of the day,” because it gives me direction and something to keep track of throughout the day, so my priorities don’t get away from me. On a bigger level, make a list of things you love doing and make a list of the things you spend your time doing. Adjust accordingly so that more of what you love is what you spend your time doing.
4. Break away from your attachments. I’m not saying abandon your jobs, family, and friends. If you find yourself overly “attached” to something, take a break from it. If you’re on your phone or social media all the time, take an hour break from it, and focus on something else that has nothing to do with technology or social media. Go for a walk, play with your dog or kids, or get together with a friend.
5. Know that it’s okay to say “no.” This one can be hard, but if your schedule is overrun with things you have to do for other people and you have no time for yourself, then start saying “no” where you can. “Can you help with this bake sale?” “No. I’m sorry, I’d really love to help but I can’t this time.” Your “no” doesn’t always have to be followed by an excuse, but if you feel like you need to provide your reasoning, keep it short and sweet and don’t feel guilty for prioritizing you and your needs.
6. Write things down. If you have a hard time staying organized or prioritizing your to-do’s, write them down. It’s so hard to keep track of everything in our head sometimes that certain things fall by the wayside. Writing them down allows us to not have to rely on our memories.
7. Try new things. If you’re stuck in a rut with your days, look for a new hobby. Join a new social group, or meet up with some old friends. Try a new TV, plant a garden, or volunteer somewhere nearby. If you expose yourself to new opportunity, you might find something new to be excited about.
These are things that I do to restore balance in my life when I feel things are a little too “one sided.” By having a balanced life, you may find yourself happier, to have more energy, and more motivation to get things done. What are some other ways you find balance in your life? Happy Balancing!
By: Lauren Buetikofer,, MA, LPC