Increasingly, we find ourselves seemingly at the mercy of the busy schedules we have created, how can we find that ever- elusive balance?
I’m always acutely aware of the times when things feel ‘off’ or out of balance.
Sometimes you may feel stressed, struggle to arrange your thoughts or plans into a manageable check list, what’s worse is when we don’t know why we feel this way or, more importantly, we don’t know how to get back to a state of balance.
An interesting development I read about recently in the field of neuroscience seemed to provide some explanations for this. In times of stress, whether that be work related or otherwise, our Limbic System (the area of our brain, responsible for emotions, abstract & rational thought, etc.) is hijacked by our Brain Stem (aka ‘the Lizard Brain’, the oldest part of our brain, responsible for our fight or flight response). What does this mean? Your brain interprets stress as a threat, so in response your brain does what it can to respond to said threat; it doesn’t think rationally, but instead lets instinct take over and tries to fight it out or fly away.
Now that we understand a little bit more about how our brain responds to stress, let’s try to understand how we can develop a little bit more resilience upstairs so that we can try to return to that state of Balance.
Firstly: Understand that a little stress is a good thing.
Under the right conditions, pressure causes diamonds to grow. Humans are the same when it comes to stress. When we face adversity in small amounts, we can learn to adapt and deal with the problems in front of us. The real problems occur when we bite off more than we can chew. If you can first learn to solve smaller problems, you will slowly start to develop resilience towards bigger and bigger issues until the demands of a job, sport or discipline don’t throw your balance out. Sometimes this process can take years, sometimes months or sometimes weeks. It all depends on the demands you have on your time and what you are willing to remove to make sure that your stress threshold isn’t being pushed too far by unnecessary things.
Secondly: Make time for yourself.
One common statement I hear from friends, students, training partners and colleagues that feel stressed or ‘unbalanced’ is “I don’t have time to myself.”. Yes, humans are social creatures, but we are equally individual too. Intense social lives can dramatically throw people out of balance as they find themselves emotionally drained by too many social demands on their time. Learn to take time for yourself, even away from your partner or spouse if need be, to reflect and recharge. This took me a long time to realize, and even now I still make the mistake of not taking enough time for myself.
Lastly: Try practice mindfulness or meditation.
Up until last year, I had never paid any thought to mindfulness or meditation. Two things changed this for me: I tried floating for the first time and I tried guided meditation for the first time.
‘Floating’ for those of you yet to try it, has received a lot of popularity in recent years as a highly effective relaxation therapy. Suspended in salt water at body temperature in an isolation tank, your body is completely weightless and has zero stimuli in the lightless, soundless area. I found this profoundly refreshing for my body and mind and I would highly recommend trying it with an open mind before balking at ‘just another new age fad’.
Not enough can be said for meditation; taking some time out of your day to get back to some sound head space can go a long way towards maintaining a positive balance. I strongly recommend trying some guided meditation. I think a lot of people get the wrong idea about meditation and imagine some monk cross- legged and chanting. Once again; try it for yourself with an open mind and see if it works for you.
There are ever-increasing demands on our time and attention in the modern age. These are just some understandings and solutions that I have found that have worked for myself.
Finding that Balance is a constant practice, however I cannot imagine a more crucial skill to develop for your professional, personal or sporting life.