• Shona Dee

How I Find Balance in Times of Stress

How I find balance in times of stress

Regular readers of mine will know that I have been going through a bit of an icky stressful period of late – you can read about some of it here. Nothing overly serious in the grand scheme of serious life things, yet still enough for my sleep and appetite to be affected, and to make me more angry and irritable than I usually feel comfortable being.

Like a lot of women, I find it somewhat difficult to find balance during times of stress and upheaval. That’s because – again, like a lot of us – I have a tendency to dive right in to try to fix and solve everything.

When I am stressed, overworked and dealing with a tired and mixed-up brain, I think that if I can just get one more thing done, help one more person in my family solve a major life dilemma or cross one more thing off my list, then everything will return to calm, and I will feel better.

The bad thing about this? It doesn’t work. I do too much; I wear myself out and run myself ragged; I get way too emotionally invested in other people’s problems; I forget to set aside time for eating, sleeping and breathing. There is zero balance in my life.

The good thing? I’m aware of all of this. I’m aware of my tendency to overstretch myself and of my inability to achieve very little good when I’m stressed. And really, self-awareness is KEY. I believe that if we have a good understanding of our weaknesses and faults, then the battle is more than half won.

I also believe that finding balance is possible for all of us once we truly understand that the inner rush and turmoil we are feeling is in part causing the outer madness and turmoil. Once WE learn to slow the hell down… we will find that LIFE slows the hell down.

Here is what I know about finding balance during times of stress:

  • When your life is off balance, EVERYTHING suffers

  • Achieving balance can be as simple as squaring up what you need to do with what you want to do

And here are five signs that your balance may currently be out of whack:

  • Nobody in your world seems happy – least of all you

  • You RE-act to every little thing that happens. You no longer have any idea what constitutes a legitimate emergency – you respond to everything

  • Life seems to be happening to you at a ridiculous pace - you are often overbooked

  • You flit from one activity to the other – not a whole lot of conscious thought goes into what you’re doing – your modus operandi is ‘autopilot’

Too many of us seem to have fallen for the (I believe, false) belief that a hectic life is a productive one. Of course, it is great to be busy and to get things done and to help those in need. But there is a difference between productive busy-ness and WAY out-of-control busy-ness. There is a difference between consciously choosing what needs your attention, and unconsciously reacting to unnecessary drama.

When life crosses over to being out-of-control stressful… this is your wake-up call for more balance.

Here is what I do to find balance in times of stress:

  • I BREATHE. This may sound cliché or irritatingly obvious - but it WORKS. I honestly find this to be the easiest, quickest and most effective way to calm my nerves and bring myself back to balance when I’m feeling stressed. The best thing? It only takes minutes. When we’re stressed we incorrectly think that we must utilise our minds/brains to sort and solve everything. But if we can find a minute to close our eyes and take a few steady breaths - and actually concentrate on those breaths RATHER than on the crap floating around inside our heads – we will pretty quickly find ourselves calmer, and in a much better place to let the solutions to our problems flow naturally to us. In fact I’m going to do this now.

  • I let go of the need to control. Like a lot of us, when I’m stressed I get the impulse to control. Everything. I (again incorrectly) think that I personally need to sort and solve it all. Yet over the years I have learned the importance of just letting (at least some) things be… to let life pan out as it will. I now know that even the best laid plans are often thwarted by unforeseen happenings, and that this is OK. So. Plan and goal set by all means - but resist the urge to micro-manage every detail. The good news is that once you have achieved some balance, the need to control will naturally start to slip away.

  • I delegate. Yes, it can be easier to just do it all ourselves… until we are at the point of breakdown and literally CANNOT DO ANY FREAKING MORE! I have learned to hand over some things (both big and small) to the other people in my world. This has been a great lesson in humility for me – it has taught me that I’m not God and that the world will keep spinning with or without my input.

  • I practise self-care. A MUST: Look after YOU. The real you – not the ‘mum’ you or the ‘employee’ you. Whatever makes you feel good – do this. Take regular baths. Drink tea or wine with your girlfriends. Browse bookshops. Make time for spiritual practice. Exercise! Remember, you are just as important as all of the others in your world. In any case you won’t be much use to any of them if you’re critically ill or exhausted or both.

  • I spend time in nature. In our fast-paced 21st century electronic urban lifestyle it can be easy to forget this – but as humans we are actually wired to share a connection with nature. So make it a priority to spend at least some time in environments which have – for the most part at least – been untouched by the hand of man. I love bushwalks. But even getting away from my desk, taking my shoes off and eating my lunch with the ducks in the park is something.

Over to you - what do you think? Are you pretty good at maintaining balance in your life? Does it all go out the window when you are stressed? Please, let me know in the comments!

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