Recently, I’ve been feeling stuck in a repetitive cycle, similar to a hamster running on a wheel without making any progress.
It takes constant surrender, connecting with something larger than myself, turning off my head, and moving my feet to make any real progress in life.
In other words, I have to get out of my own way.
I am a thinker.
When I’m overwhelmed with stress, I’m not centered with the world around me. During high-stress times, it’s easy to start projecting my inner chaos outward.
It might be as simple as looking at someone, determine what they must be thinking about me, then be upset with them based on what I’ve decided they think about me. I mean how dare they think what I think they think about me, they don’t even know me!
That’s just one of my favorite examples of how off course I can get if I’m not in a place of peace and centering, simply because it’s so absurd, but still so true.
Maintain balance or feed the stress
I don’t want to be the person scowling at everyone they encounter. I want to show up heart-centered, able to look at another person, regardless of who they are, and authentically feel peace, love, and well-wishes for them.
Showing up with love instead of a scowl
It’s human nature to strive for control1, but trying to control everything feels like swimming upstream. It’s a miserable battle. I have very little control in this world. I can control my actions and reactions, but it requires practice and discipline.
I have to surrender. Right now, things are more hectic than ever and I feel like there’s little balance. I have an endless list of things that ought to be done, that need attention, that I want to do. And it isn’t going to calm down any time soon.
It’s always been my instinct to tell myself “I just need to get through this and then things will be better”. That mindset is a fast track to burnout and chronic stress.
I want to be present in my life. Yes, it’s a lot, but I have worked VERY hard for my bursting-at-the-seams life! From summer camping and kayaking trips, to full-time work and college, to parenting two young adults, preparing for grad school, not to mention the emergency surgery a few weeks ago that brought everything to a grinding halt, it makes my body clench just thinking about everything that’s fallen out of alignment with my plans.
As hard as you try, you can only live one day at a time
We don’t have to do it all today. We don’t even have to do it all this week.
There’s nothing in that mix that need I to figure out. If I just shut my mind up and focus on what is right in front of me, right now, it all gets done.
Here is a secret: My life looks just the same to an outsider, regardless of whether I feel it’s on the verge of falling apart or I feel completely put together and polished2.
How I feel is not relevant to reality. It doesn’t make a difference at all unless I act or don’t act based on my feelings. What it is relevant to, is my level of peace. Usually my stress level is directly connected with my level of surrender.
How is being present and in balance related to stress?
When we’re not wasting all our time speculating how things are going to work, current events, or what may or may not happen…
But instead, taking action based on what we need to do right now, in this moment…
We’re able to reconnect with ourselves. It allows us to become fully present in each moment. There’s little room for stress when we’re grounded and not preoccupied with uncertainty or overthinking. Then, life naturally seems to fall into balance3.
I do keep a daily task list, a schedule, and goals to keep on track, but they are also always changing. I have to remember that everything’s always tentative. If something changes, I have to let it go and move on. Otherwise, my misguided sense of control throw me into a spiral of how it affects my day, why it should not have changed, and so on. None of it makes a difference, it is what it is. That’s all there is to work with.
Suggestions to stress less and bring more balance into your everyday life
Meditation, mindfulness, and deep-breathing exercises work wonders with being in the moment. It’s a waste of time and energy when you’re focused on what isn’t real or what you can’t really control. Plus, it’s amazing how much time you have to tend to all areas of your life when you aren’t trying to take responsibility for and trying to manage everything and everyone!
It all starts with being able to admit to yourself when life is starting to fall out of balance.
Right now I have a ton on my plate and I am overwhelmed. But if I lie to myself and try to pretend like I am superwoman, I’ll only pile more onto my plate that I realistically can’t take on.
No one is perfect. Mistakes happen and it’s essential to accept that. Instead of making excuses, learn from them and take appropriate action. Dwelling on the past only wastes time, adds to your stress, and prevents finding balance.
This includes sleep, physical activity, time, emotional, and physical boundaries. I personally want to help everyone and be there for everything, but I have to know my limits. And I have to advocate for them. It’s my responsibility to take care of myself.
It is NOT selfish to take care of yourself. If the oxygen masks in a plane come down, you put yours on first then help others. You have to have personal time, take time for relaxation, and have regular activities that help you recharge. It’s near impossible to show up for others if we aren’t taking care of ourselves.
Know your priorities and check in with them regularly.
For example, spirituality and work are both priorities to me. Sure, I can knock out an extra hour or two of work if I skip my morning meditation, my evening reflection, and a little sleep, but the quality suffers (and my health), I’m likely moody, less rational, and have less patience with my family.
Developing more effective time management skills and allocating time to each priority and sticking to it can make a huge difference in your levels of stress.
This is where surrender comes in. Stressful events are a part of life, but that doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to live in excessive stress. If you face each curveball and challenge with the mindset that you can choose your reaction even if you can’t change the situation, it’s empowering and can leave you with a strong sense of accomplishment – even though things didn’t unfold your way.
Having goals, action plans, and ideals is important, but it is also necessary to be adaptable. Life can be unpredictable, and sometimes we need to work with what we have rather than dwelling on things we can’t change.
It's all about progress
Practice embracing these seven things and you’ll find that your life almost naturally comes into balance. At first, if you aren’t used to doing them, it may be a little weird or uncomfortable, but I promise that with regular practice, this gets a ton easier. Soon, after a little while of doing these exercises consistently, you will find that practicing them is as natural as breathing!
By regularly practicing these suggestions, you’ll notice that your daily life starts to find a sense of balance. Initially, it may feel strange or uncomfortable if you’re not accustomed to it, but as you make it part of your daily routine, it becomes much easier. And eventually, after incorporating these practices into your normal routine, you’ll find that they become as natural as breathing.
Please share in the comments below how you bring about a more balanced life.
1 – Leotti, L. A., Iyengar, S. S., & Ochsner, K. N. (2010). Born to Choose: The Origins and Value of the Need for Control. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14(10), 457–463. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2010.08.001
2 – Yang, J.-W., & Baek, J. (2022). Bias and sensitivity in numerosity perception of negative emotions among individuals with high social anxiety. Scientific Reports, 12(1), Article 1. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-15601-z
3 – Achieving Balance In Everyday Life: Journal of Occupational Science: Vol 13, No 1. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2023, from https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2006.9686572
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