The ability to live in a balanced way is a life skill, a very essential one. I didn’t have this skill, or at least I didn’t apply it for far too long a time; so long indeed that I crashed in a serious way, which left me with almost no energy. It takes quite an extended period to rebuild your energy levels, once you have dipped so low.
Now, I need to be careful to not overload myself. Wait, let me rephrase this: I am done with overloading myself! I don’t want that kind of life anymore. That’s a good and pious wish. Yet the external world doesn’t always comply. It naturally demands focus here and attention there. It is my job to properly take care of my boundaries, to know when enough is enough.
Spending time with family and friends, having hobbies and following my interests have always been an enjoyable aspect of living. But by now I have learned that self-care is an indispensable part. I need to take care of myself in order to have the energy and stamina to master my life. It’s like spending money. You can only spend more money than you earn for so long before you become bankrupt. Physical and emotional bankruptcy is something I never want to experience again in my life.
On the other hand, stressful situations are, of course, a part of life. Every one of us has them, no matter where we are in life. The difference lies in how I deal with those situations, not in avoiding them. When I have had a phase of stress I need time to decompress. I need to allow myself to rest and charge up my batteries again. Proper food, sleep and movement are the essentials, crowned by pleasant social interactions, being creative and expanding my interests and knowledge.
For the longest time I gave more than 100% in anything I did, especially my job—it was usually 120-140%. I guess I was always worried that the people around me might be disappointed if I gave less. I now know it wasn’t other people’s high expectations. My own expectations for myself were too high. While I know this mentally, I still have to check in with myself and course-correct at times.
My personal telltale sign is when I forget to play. I feel play is a part of self-care with quite a different effect than the other parts. Food nourishes, sleep and movement make me feel like a well-rested and relaxed human being. Yet play creates lightness, it has a childlike quality like nothing else has. When I skip play in order to get things done for an extended period of time I have to sit up and notice. That’s when there is a need to rebalance my life, get real with my expectations and schedule some fun!