When I quit my office job and gained citizenship in the glorious country of Freelancedom, I thought my life was going to look a lot more like doing sunrise yoga on a (perfectly stable) paddleboard, and a lot less like a mile long to do list with every moment of rest spent with thoughts of what I should be doing instead buzzing around in the back of my mind. But even though I have big dreams and a long way to go, and everyone is constantly watercolor scripting about The Hustle, I just needed a little space to be. Some people thrive on busyness and sail the stormy seas of multitasking like swashbuckling pirates. Meanwhile, I was rolling around below deck seasick.
I quickly realized that only when I feel balanced and at peace am I able to get my best work done. I can perform under pressure if I need to, but when my shoulders aren’t glued to my ears, I am best able to breathe in information and breathe out story.
Whether you’re a CEO, stay at home mom or a freelance writer like me, finding any amount of work/life balance is absurdly illusive, and knowing where to begin is equally as challenging. There’s always something that could be done…but what exactly should be done? The million dollar question.
Believe it or not, the best cure for to do list woes is…another to do list! Only this time the tasks look a little less like “wash your socks” and a little more like “feed your soul.” By spending a little bit of time each day (and it really may be the tiniest bit of time) in each of the categories listed below, I feel less anxious, more creative and on my way toward balance.
And no I don’t mean the kind of mind work I do for my job. If the only time we dedicate to feeding our brains is spent at the office, we miss out on the opportunity to grow in areas that don’t directly relate to work. Whether through documentaries, books, podcasts, apps or webinars, the means to learn something new are more accessible than ever before. And the topic you concentrate on doesn’t even need to be particularly “important.” It can be something as simple as a biography of Audrey Hepburn or how to make the perfect pie crust.
Making a dedicated effort to learn one new thing every day helps us step out of the mundane into the awe and wonder of the world around us.
I know you don’t need to hear from me that the benefits of exercise impact so much more than your Wonder Woman shoulders and six-pack-to-be. We know that working out is mood boosting and mind clearing, but dedicating time to taking care of your body is about so much more than hitting the gym. If your shoulders are like mine and routinely transform from muscle tissue into igneous rocks, you might need to schedule a massage or take a hot bubble bath. These seem like luxuries for the rich and privileged, but when the tension in your neck is making your pinky tingle, it becomes less an extravagance and more a health investment. When caring for your body, you might also be in desperate need of some leafy greens or even a nap. And remember when working out that there is so much more available to you than just going running in the August heat or lifting weights. Whether it’s trying something new like boxing or just going for a morning walk before the chaos of children reign once more, any amount of movement is better than none at all.
When we learn to listen to our bodies, inviting it to join our team rather than glaring at it like the enemy, taking care of our one and only home becomes a pleasure rather than a chore.
I’ve found that when life gets busy, and the to-do list is roaring like an insatiable monster hungry for every second of my time, my spirit is the first thing to receive the bare minimum. Because it’s difficult to measure the results, it’s easy to let slip. But it’s from our spirit that much of our peace flows. Whatever that may look like for you – prayer, meditation, journaling, spiritual reading or walking around the block in thought – carving out even five minutes a day for silence and spirit is one of the easiest ways to jump-start your battery and move toward balance. It is also a great way to refocus and touch base with yourself, making sure that you aren’t just moving in a direction, but that you are moving toward something that brings you fulfillment and is in line with who you are.
By rededicating to daily spiritual growth, we open ourselves up to possibilities bigger than ourselves.
I don’t care how tough you are, everyone needs a little love in their day! This can be especially difficult for a single, work-from-home solopreneur to find, but that doesn’t mean a day should pass without it. Give your mom a call or check in with a friend you haven’t heard from in a while. Meaningful daily human contact is what gives life its vibrancy, and if we go too long without it, everything starts to go gray. If you are living with family or a roommate, carve out some time to turn off the TV and have a conversation that matters. Even people with the most Instagrammable lives filled with sunsets in Bali and yearly promotions can feel bleak in the day-to-day if the heart is neglected.
If we make sure our hearts are well cared for, and our emotions are given the space to make themselves known, we feel more free and alive in the other aspects of our life, too.
I never let myself go from one sleep to the next without laughing at least once. Depending on the season of life you find yourself in, it may be one of those silent laughs that makes your stomach hurt, or it might be a halfhearted chuckle, but finding a little joy each day helps remind us not to take life so seriously. We all fail. We all lose. We all disappoint. But if we keep even the wryest sense of humor alive, things somehow don’t seem quite so so bad. Even if the dishes still need to be done and laundry needs to get folded, throw on your favorite episode of Parks and Recreation, read a page or two from The Last Black Unicorn or be ridiculous with your significant other. It may be a cliche, but it’s one for a reason: laughter really is the best medicine.
Seeking out the things that fill you with joy brings light to even the darkest moments in the life and covers the brightest in rainbow sprinkles.
I get it. Life is busy, and when you’re building a career, caring for a family or going through a rough patch, finding time every single day for learning, exercise, prayer, love and laughter can seem downright impossible. But I’ve found that only by giving each of these areas a little attention every day am I able to enjoy even the tiniest nibble of balance in my life. Without even one, my foundation starts to wobble precariously making it more difficult to do any of the others, and especially difficult to do my work. Conversely, with too much of one, everything is equally as unstable.
The thing about caring for ourselves is that it is never going to look the same for any two people. Just as your body is different from mine, the way you care for it will be, too. The same is true for every aspect of life, and we can only find the things that feed us by giving new things a try. Some things will work, some won’t and some will even work for only a little while. Reject comparison. Reject judgment. Embrace health, happiness and wholeness. Embrace balance.