None of us are strangers to the need for maintaining balance in our lives. Balance supports better health and promotes mental clarity. It keeps our emotions from running rampant when we need to keep our cool. But, when push comes to shove, it’s hard to do. Often, we think that there’s too little time, too many demands, too much riding on what we do and too few resources for us to keep our equilibrium. Yet, we need to stay balanced even more when the stress goes up. Here are a few pointers on how to stay calm under fire.
Breathe. Taking a few deep breaths when things get sticky allows you to step back and assess the situation before you act. This is a lifesaver when it comes to maintaining relationships.
Take breaks. Staying at a task for a long time ups the stress and lowers productivity, especially if you remain job requires you to remain stationary. A good rule of thumb is to take a five-minute rest for every hour that you work. If this isn’t possible, at least stop what you’re doing and shut your eyes whenever you get the chance.
Listen first, speak later. This works to your benefit on several levels. First, when you state your thoughts first, you put others on the defensive. This can shut down honest communication. Second, waiting to speak last gives you time to think while you are listening to the others. Finally, speaking last may allow you to change your mind to another way of thinking, giving you a stronger and more respected opinion.
Count to ten before you bite someone’s head off. You’ve heard this before, but it’s a good rule-of-thumb when emotions are running high. Giving yourself space to collect yourself allows you to organize your thoughts and respond from your intellect rather than from emotions that stem from anger.
Take some quiet time for yourself daily. I can’t stress this enough! We cannot maintain equilibrium without balancing the busyness of our lives with some quiet time. Our society doesn’t put enough emphasis on having allowing us to collect to turn our minds and bodies off. Optimally, we need 30 minutes a day of personal, quiet time. But, even 15 minutes of uninterrupted quiet in a pleasant setting will do wonders.
Intersperse high activity with inactivity or low activity. When I’m at our house in rural West Texas, I take Pilates in a little town 20 miles north of where we live. One of my favorite times is driving back from my one-hour class of extreme workouts through the farm and ranch land listening to jazz and watching for wildlife. I’ve seen eagles, hawks, coyotes, roadrunners, quail and deer, in addition to horses and cows. Rarely do I see another car. By the time I get home I’m relaxed and ready for whatever the day brings.
Pick your battles. This was hard for me to learn because I feel strongly about a lot of things and come from a lineage of women who actively championed various social causes. However, taking and defending a stand at every hand was exhausting. It rendered me unable to put my full energies into the things that meant the most to me. Over the years I learned to weigh my values, time and abilities against the odds of being successful as well as what I’d risk losing if I joined the fray and lost.
Unplug and do something you love each day. We’ve become so used to being tuned in 24/7 that most of us have lost the ability just to be with ourselves and our thoughts. Yet, we’re not made to be on call and/or entertained every waking minute. At least once a day we need to turn off TVs, shut down the Internet, turn off iPhones, pull out ear buds and and simply be. If sitting still and doing nothing isn’t your style, take a walk (sans the electronics), journal, do artwork or engage in other creative projects or outdoor activities. Trust me, once you overcome the desire to be wired all of the time and allow yourself some space, you’ll never go back to your old ways.
I hope some or all of these suggestions about how to maintain balance in your life will work for you. Certainly, there are others. But, these offer a good starting point.