Friday, October 1, 2010

Baby Step to A More Balanced Life

My life issue has always been balance. For most of my adult life, I struggled with how to “do it all”; how to take care of my family, be involved in community, and have a meaningful career, yet, still have time for me. There were so many responsibilities, so, many hats to wear on any given day. Life often felt like to a teetering house of cards, ready to tumble with the slightest gust. Does this scenario sound familiar?

Thankfully, today, I find myself on the other side of this issue and balance no longer concerns me—well, on most days, that is! This breakthrough came only when I began to understand how, as creatures of body, mind, and spirit, the only way to achieve a sense of balance in life was to take good care of our selves in each of these three areas. In my own life, for example, it seemed balance was never really achieved because I would care for one part of me and not another. If I was getting a decent amount of rest and relaxation, I wasn’t exercising, and I gained weight. Or, if I was engaged in mind-fulfilling activities, like reading, I found myself on mental overload, no time for much needed quiet time.

Somewhere along the way, I began to notice that I literally felt better when I had done something each day for each part of me—body, mind, and spirit. But because I was a busy woman with three children and a career, I did not have large blocks of time for exercise, mind expansion, or spiritual nourishment. Though I did have five minutes here and there. So, that is where I began, with five-minute increments of self-care—with “Baby Steps”—as I have come to call them. In time, I began to feel less stressed, more at ease in my world. If you are a balance-seeker as I was, might I suggest these ‘Baby Steps’ for beginning the journey to “living well.”

Nurture Your Body

”Take Five”—five minutes a day to move! Full-blown exercise is great, but for slow starters like me, just moving in some creative way can seem a lot more fun—and motivating. Try dance, walking, yoga, T’ai Chi, or water aerobics. When my children were little and there was no time to go to a gym or take a class, we put on music and jogged around the room in circles. They loved it and I got my exercise!

Eat for Longevity—Honestly assess your eating patterns and how they impact your health. Food, for most people is an emotional issue. Get clear about how you eat and why. I recommend, Constant Craving: What Your Food Cravings Mean and How to Overcome Them, by Doreen Virtue, Ph.D, who maintains that, “Your entire body, including your appetite, reflects the level of peace of mind in your life.” Commit to healthier eating habits, one Baby Step at a time: reduce portion size, eliminate one unhealthy food item per week, and introduce one healthy choice along with it.

Love Your Body—Send messages that say, “I love you” to your body through pampering and self-care. Engage in hot tub soaks, massage, or aromatherapy. Create a “Just For Me” space in your house where you can relax. Take naps. (I prefer to call this “Sacred Rest.”) Gift yourself with Jennifer Louden’s, The Woman’s Comfort Book: A Self-Nurturing Guide for Restoring Balance in Your Life and have fun! Begin to treat your body like a temple and it will be one. You’ll like living there a whole lot more than in a neighborhood tenement.

Feed Your Mind

Fill Your Mind—Become aware that you have choices everyday of what to put into your mind: positive thoughts, experiences and people. Fill your mind with good books, stimulating conversation and meaningful activity. Spend time with uplifting folks and move away from those who are toxic. Take a class, create a hobby, learn a skill. Read, listen to music, visit a museum or gallery. Turn the television off and curl up with James Allen’s classic, As a Man Thinketh*, and discover that you really do have the power to choose your thoughts and create the life of your dreams.

Flush Your Mind—Take time each day to empty your mind of its busyness and the 70,000 thoughts a day that occupy it. If you continually fill your mind, with no time for “flushing,” you may be destined to live with stress and overwhelm. Give yourself a break from mental activity and bask in the quiet. Meditate, reflect, journal, just sit quietly and do absolutely nothing. Breathe. Just “be.”

Enrich Your Spirit

Slow Down—In a world that continues to pick up pace, make the choice to get out of the fast lane and live life on your own terms. Constantly “doing” can create disconnection from our true self and others. Take steps to eliminate unnecessary activities and busyness. Drive more slowly. Walk instead of ride. Breathe deeply while waiting in line. Repeat this mantra as your day begins: “I want to live my life fully, instead of my life living me.”

Connect with Nature—Notice how much better you feel when you are out-of-doors. Allow the healing power of nature to work its magic upon you. Spend at least five minutes each day with your face to the sunshine, your ear to Mother Nature’s sweet refrains, and connect with the beauty of creation. Time spent in nature is truly restorative.

Engage in Spiritual Practice—Explore your relationship with the Divine, your Higher Power. What does that concept mean to you? How do you connect with it? Prayer, solitude, song, dance, worship, devotional reading, or meditation—done regularly—can bring you into the heart of who you truly are. Ponder the reason you are here and what your life purpose might be. Spend time in retreat (alone or with a group) and feel your energy soar.

I believe wholeness is our birthright. We are not destined to live lives of fragmentation and stress. Peace and inner joy can be ours with a few simple adjustments and a renewed commitment to personal well-being—five minutes here, five minutes there—each increment moving us closer to a life well-lived. Balance can be yours. It’s just a Baby Step away!

*There is a wonderful version of this book for women titled, As A Woman Thinketh, by Dorothy Hulst.


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