I felt unbearably claustrophobic even though I was sitting alone in a dark room. My breathing was faster than normal with quick short breaths over and over, never taking in enough air. Exhaustion filled every part of my body and I knew that no amount of sleep would make it go away. My life had become a marathon through thick, sticky, black tar, and the harder I tried to push forward, the more entangled and stuck I became. As I laid on my bed choosing to give up the metaphorical race, I felt as though I was drowning in tar as my life came crashing down around me.
Yep, that was me… having a total breakdown.
Look, I had a total breakdown. Actually, let’s be honest, I had a lot of breakdowns during that time period. Why? For a lot of reasons, but one of the big causes was the fact that I couldn’t manage my life. I never had enough time in the day to complete everything that needed to be done. The more I tried to juggle everything on my to-do list, the more I dropped the ball. It wasn’t until I had a total breakdown and had to start from scratch putting my life back together piece by piece, that I learned how to truly succeed at finding actual balance in my life. Here are eight discoveries I made on my “finding balance journey” (aka breakdown) that no ever told me before I got to that point:
1. Understand that it is impossible to truly balance everything.
Say what? The secret is that it’s impossible to find perfect balance in life? Then, why am I even reading this?
Trust me, knowing that it’s impossible to be totally balanced in life helps alleviate the shame around never achieving balance. I now understand that I can’t have complete balance, so I don’t feel pressured to be perfect at it. It’s just simply something I can make more of an effort for in my everyday life.
2. Take balancing life day-by-day.
There is constantly so much to balance! Instead of trying to deal with it all at once, focus each day on only a couple of things. My day may consist of going to school and work, then later coming home to cook dinner, and throwing my clothes in the washer before I finally fall asleep. The key is the next day to try and include other aspects of life that needs attention. For example, my next day might look like getting some homework done before going to work. Then, on the way home realizing it’s been awhile since I’ve talked to my mom so taking a moment to call her before going to sleep.
The goal of balancing life day-by-day is not to accomplish everything in one day, but accomplish a couple of things every day. If I try to accomplish too much in a day I feel too exhausted to do anything else. On the other hand, if I sit at home all day and just watch Netflix I feel less satisfied. If I instead wash some dishes or go on a short walk before I spent the rest of the day on a Netflix binge, then I find I am more content with how the day went.
3. Do everything to only the best of your ability.
When I focused on giving half of myself to everything, I was less fulfilled and more stressed. Now when I do something, I take time to do it to the best of my ability. For instance, if I’m at work, I focus on only work. When I’m with friends, I concentrate on them and try not to worry about other things.
The biggest point about this secret is that everyone’s capacity is different. I know if I work hard I can get an A on a paper for school. But, I also realize that when I do my laundry the clothes will never get folded or hung up. Instead, I have a clean clothesbasket and a dirty clothesbasket and I am okay with that. That is the best I can do right now when it comes to laundry and that’s fine. Don’t mistake thinking that the best of your ability means that things should be completed a certain way.
4. Don’t feel pressured to live your life a specific way.
It is so easy to feel like a failure when everyone else seems to be succeeding at other things. A roommate might be on a certain diet that makes them feel great! Why aren’t you doing that? A friend is volunteering to build up their resume and find it super rewarding! How could you not be making time for that? The news says that a person should be exercising for X number of hours every day to be healthy. Don’t you want to be healthy too?
Listen to me… forget all of that! You live your life your way. Don’t be shamed into feeling like you’re not accomplished if you’re not doing X, Y, and Z because it’s only going to make you feel worse. I still struggle not comparing myself to others, so I get that it’s really hard to let go. But, I promise that if you live your life your way, you will be happier.
5. Make take time for yourself, especially when you need it most.
I use to think I couldn’t make time for myself because A – I felt selfish doing it, and B – I didn’t have the money or time to get a pedicure whenever I felt stressed. The reality about self-care is that it is a universal need that can be simple and free.
Making time for myself could be as easy as, getting stressed at work and taking a break to get a cold drink. When my homework becomes taxing, stepping away to take a shower or walk around the block. My spouse is driving me up a wall, so I take a moment listening to my favorite song.
The moral of the story is, when you need a moment take it! It’s not going to make anything better by fighting through it. Do something simple that you enjoy for less than five minutes or until you feel a little better.
Also, every couple of days, plan on doing something that you enjoy that is more time consuming. These things could be painting nails, going for a run, taking a bath, coloring in a coloring book, watching a movie, or visiting with a friend.
*Continue reading tips 6 – 8 on my original post HERE on the UVU Women’s Success Center’s Blog Site.