People often say their lives are out of balance. We over do things so often. Stretch ourselves thin. Multi-task. Say yes when we really need to say no. These habits become so familiar that being out of balance feels normal.
Pushing hard all the time causes our adrenaline to surge and then tank. When our batteries hit empty, emotional and physical hardships multiply. We lose the ability to be kind to one another. The ability to think clearly. The ability to make good choices. Over time, running on empty can lead to burn out, anxiety, depression, and dysfunctional relationships. We become physically sick, we damage our relationships with loved ones, and we inflict shame and stress onto ourselves.
Finding balance requires monitoring our energy levels. Keeping our energy levels high enough allows us to take on unexpected stressors. Research indicates that having a reserve of energy improves accuracy, innovation, and patience.
Step One: Learning what drains our batteries.
Step one is paying attention to what charges our batteries and what drains them, including \people, activities and thoughts. Do we feel higher or lower after interactions with others? With our work? With our family? Successful people monitor their energy with a goal of being energized and renewed daily.
Learning about what depletes us is an ongoing task and constantly changing. It might vary depending on your season of life. I find myself growing more introverted as I get older, for example. It may also vary according to weather. To the amount of daylight outside. The cycle of the moon (and monthly cycles for women). It could relate to patterns of stress at work and in the lives of your loved ones as much as your own.
Step two: Acknowledging when we are drained.
Step two is acknowledging to ourselves and others when we are drained and unable to be our best selves. When we have no energy left to give, we must learn to say no to avoid depletion—for the sake of others as much as ourselves.
I have been working on this process with my own family. When I know I have depleted myself, I try to say out loud: “I have nothing left! I need to recharge my batteries. ”
Sometimes such conversations do not always go well. The response from a child is sometimes: “How dare you take a break from being a mother?” But by doing so, I’m showing that they can create boundaries themselves.
Flexing new muscles takes practice. I don’t always get it “right.” But I’m learning when it is necessary to pause a decision. I’m noticing the choices I made in that day that caused me to say I needed to take a pause. And I hope that I’m learning to adjust my schedule so that I have less days when I need to take that pause because I’m too depleted to make healthy choices and to hear my loved ones.
Step three: Notice when we are numbing.
Often we think we are giving ourselves a recharge but we are numbing ourselves. (a distinction that Brene’ Brown has discussed). Numbing occurs when we think we are giving ourselves a break, but we are bringing ourselves further down instead of up. Scrolling through social media endlessly. Pouring that extra glass of wine. Eating the whole tub of ice cream. Binge-watching television for hours. Most often, these actions began with a small break for ourselves, but shifted from a short respite to numbing. And we feel worse.
Step Four: Finding true energizing strategies.
We need day- to-day strategies to have the agency to re-balance in the moment. We gain energy from activities that spark creativity, according to the research. We are inspired from work that feels like we are making a difference. And we re-juice from unplugging through mindfulness and peaceful moments.
Recharging rarely needs to all day or all weekend. It can be stolen in quick moments. Ten deep breaths. Prayer and affirmation. A talk with a close friend. At work it might mean excusing yourself from a meeting for a five minute walk around the building to regain composure.
To discover new ways to find energy, be curious about all of your senses. A song that lifts your spirits. Moving your body—dancing, walking, swimming. Essential oils can uplift (citrus) or calm (lavender) in the moment.
Recharging can also occur from stopping the numbing habits. Unplug from social media. Stop drinking the glass of wine after work. Taking a deep breath instead of a puff of a cigarette.
In those moments when you find yourself saying “I don’t have time to take a two minute break!”—that’s exactly when you need to do so. Give yourself permission to recharge in the moment, in the day, in the week.
By following these four steps, you can begin the path to finding balance. Even in the darkest days of February. Notice how your relationships improve. Your productivity improves. Your peace and happiness grow.
Ready to take the next step? Contact me for a consultation on how to move from where you are to where you want to be: firstname.lastname@example.org
Great post Dana. Made me realise I’m doing a lot of numbing at the moment. Something I can do something about.