Strike a Balance: 5 practices to Recalibrate
Last Wednesday, I had a my star chart read. I am a casual consumer of astrology. I have three horoscope apps on my phone nestled in a folder with the Hamilton app, but don’t take any of it seriously (just like the idea of winning the Hamilton lottery). I love reading what someone thinks is going to happen in my day/week/month and do a reality comparison, but I by no means put stock in what they say. Anyway, when Jennifer Racioppi read my chart last week at a Well and Good event, she broke things down for me and shocked me with information it was impossible for her to know (but by magic she did). I am a Gemini with a Libra Moon and a Leo rising. Basically that means I flit between extremes, am constantly searching for balance, and like to be seen. All of these things I know from my limited dips into astrology and my experience of myself as a person in the world, but it hit me differently to hear someone else speak those words, particularly bouncing between extremes but striving for balance.
I am a doer. I burn the candle at both ends and still feel like I could take on more, be more places, show up in more ways. I rotate through a cycle of hyperactivity and burn out. Recently, the time between these phases has shortened. After a yummy savasana one day, I had a thought: WHAT IF this was not the only way to live? What if I could find a consistent balance of doing and rest in my normal life that didn’t require a burn out period? Truly, a novel concept. Here are five practices I integrate into my daily life to help find and keep balance.
1. Read some books. I love to read. I didn’t used to. When I was a child, reading was the absolute last thing that I wanted to do. I found my way into a love affair with reading through the Harry Potter series, which transformed into a loved for Victorian literature, poetry, plays, and somehow transformed into a love for nonfiction. Reading anything, but particularly nonfiction, is critical to finding balance and finding perspective. There is something comforting about reading facts, data, research, theories. It is so easy to get caught up in our own dramas, the smallness of our immediate circumstances. Reading gives us a larger perspective, asks us to engage with material that can challenge our worldview, and ultimately makes us smarter more empathetic people. Usually, the books I read are the science behind empathy, connection, community, and trauma. I feel out of balance when too much of my energy and time is spent on trivial dramas, when my focus is microscopic on my own perceived limitations and struggles. Reading immediately transports me to a place of empowerment through a broaden focus on the state of the rest of humanity.
2. Write in the morning, or at night, or both. Because I have a blog and publish articles for other national distributors, this may come as a shock. I also hated writing when I was younger. I never thought I was good at it. I felt that I was better at speaking the words of someone else with intention, conviction, and honesty (hence the acting school). What I found as an adult is that saying someone else’s words, playing the role in someone else’s story, feels like a waste of the voice I’ve been given. Out-of-balance can show up as feeling disempowered. When we continue to parrot ideas other people have made popular and stop an inquisitive investigation of what we believe to be true, we lose part of ourselves. I start and end my day with aa writing practice. Sometimes it’s an account of my day. Sometimes I engage with big topics and try to suss out where I stand on the spectrum. Even if I am the only person who sees hose thoughts, I reconnect to them as my own. I come back to myself and back to balance through understanding my own unique way of interacting with the world.
3. Map it out visually. I loved, and still love, planners. They make me so happy. Since the advent of Gcal, I’ve migrated from physical planners to digital ones. Because I’m a freelancer, a ton of my work is done on my own time. Out of balance feels like I’m running out of time. To reclaim my time, I peak at my digital planner. My Gcal is color coded to help me see where I’m spending the majority of my time. If it looks like I’m spending too much time taking care of other people’s problems, or spending a crazy amount of time traveling to get to meetings all over the city, I do what I can to restructure and move things around to be the most efficient. Visuals help. What color is the loudest on the planner? Is it something that causes anxiety? If so, what can I do preemptively to balance out? Sometimes, though it’s rare, there is nothing to be done. I have to go to all the meetings. I have to take all of the calls. When that is the case, make a point of it to plan in extra time for self care and time outs.
4. Give yourself a time out. Time outs make me think of getting in trouble. Well, feeling out of balance is kind of like being in trouble. Instead of someone else calling me out, I am calling myself out. Something about the environment is making it hard to find the ground. Tempting though it is to continue and push until burn out, I find it more helpful in the long term to give myself a time out. I call time outs whenever/where ever. As soon as I notice myself starting to spiral (read: get rigid in my mindset, imagine only the worst possible outcomes, cry on thee subway/street/savasana) I ask myself to be still for just a beat and breathe. When was the last time I took a full deep breath? If I’m spiraling, probably not for quite some time. In that time out, I don’t view it as a punishment. Instead it’s a moment to pause, check in, and take care of myself. In the pause, I ask myself to look at the cause. (Do I need to rearrange my schedule for success? Is it something said to me? Do I feel like I need to have a conversation with another person?) Then I ask myself to come up with my game plan to feel solid again. (Can I reschedule 3 meetings or calls to free up breathing room? What doe the feedback actually mean? Can I find a way to have the conversation or at least set a date for it?
5. MOVE The research is clear. Moving makes people happier, healthy, and more resilient. It’s great to try to address the idea of balance from the inside out. Sometimes that doesn’t work and what I really need to do is move my body. Runners, yogis, cyclists, and swimmers alike speak of the clarity and simplicity that they gain during a session. Much of this is because the body is so smart. It knows exactly what to do to simplify. When I feel particularly out of whack, I hit my mat or go for a run. The breathwork, the singular focus, the intentional moving all help put things in perspective. Physically moving the body relieves me of patterns I stick myself in; it shifts the energy inside of me. Sometimes all I need to find balance again is the understanding that I have choices, I have power, and I get to decide how I move and when.
Finding balance is an ongoing conversation between what I am doing, what I want to be doing, and my higher purpose. I recognize when I’ve done too much or put too much energy towards something that doesn’t fill me up. It’s apparent because the way I perceive the world and the way I show up in it is drastically different from balanced me. I use those moments as learning opportunities. What were the circumstances that led me to feel out of balance? What actions can I take to find equilibrium again? Learn. Grow. Keep finding balance.