One of the things we struggle with nowadays is establishing the balance between all the facets of our lives. Family, kids, romantic relationships, inner life, work, hobbies, school, social life, healthy habits, fun, personal growth, and the list continues.
A few years ago, I discovered that we all experience feelings in the same manner. It doesn’t matter how big or small the event that triggered the emotion was. So, for example, your feeling of fear that you could lose your job because of staff reductions is the same as the fear I experienced every time I was walking in my neighbourhood.
Most of the physical symptoms we experience when it comes to fear come from the changes in our cardiovascular system. Heart rate increases and blood vessels constrict. Our respiratory rate increases and adrenaline picks up. You know what I’m talking about, no?
Well, the same happens when it comes to feeling overwhelmed. Now, with having a baby, two businesses, a relationship, investing time in myself, paying my bills, learning a new language, learning new skills, a home to keep in balance, social life, I feel as overwhelmed as I did ten years ago when I only had a few bills to pay, some parties to attend, some books to read and a relationship.
Our perception is what creates and amplifies the emotions we experience. What’s happening to us might not be that much, but how we view and react to what is happening is what makes us feel the way we do. This is explained by Mohan Matthen, the University of Toronto, in his book The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Perception.
“The traditional view of perception focused on sensory receptors; it has become clear, however, that perceptual systems radically transform the output of these receptors, yielding content concerning objects and events in the external world. Adequate understanding of this process requires thinking of perception in new ways — how it operates, the differences among the modalities, and the integration of content provided by the individual senses.”
I believe that if we work on our perceptions about the situations we experience and support them with actions (even if it feels uncomfortable, unnatural or weird), we will manage to learn how we can get our lives back into balance when needed without getting drained in the process.
So follow these simple steps, apply them to your life and learn how to master them. In this way, you will always have the necessary skills to collect yourself before feeling completely burned out.
1. Break the loop
When we enter situations that shake our balance, it can be challenging, if not impossible, to have a clear picture of our struggles. When we are stressed, our brain doesn’t function properly. We have racing thoughts. We tend to seize up or think less positively about situations. All this creates a distorted perception that will eventually alter our decisions and lead to unwanted consequences.
So, when I feel overwhelmed about my thoughts (send those emails, change the diaper, wash Arun, do yoga, read, cook, exam, play, write and so on), I usually go for a walk. Then, I focus on other things, such as plants, animals or the sky. If I cannot take a walk on that day, I will go the next day. I put on my headphones and go wherever my feet are taking me.
I know it’s hard, especially if you are a single mom. But I also know it is the most effective thing. When we do this, we change everything — the rhythm in which we breathe that will give time and space to the brain to change our perceptions, which with time will lead to a change in the pattern.
If it is impossible to go for a walk, take a shower and imagine letting go of everything that weighs you. Do a breathing exercise for 5 minutes, inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 6. Do something that takes you completely out of the mental carousel.
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2. Be observant
Now, with this space created between us, our thoughts and perceptions, be observant. Describe the situations in your life as if you are looking at them from the outside, the way you will describe everything to a friend.
At this point, I bring arguments for and against the situations in which I find myself. I am both the defence attorney and the prosecutor.
Take every aspect that is pressuring you and analyze it as objectively as possible.
What works very well for me is to write down my thoughts. I write every subject and its details on different pages. This way, I can see them clearly and prioritize them. Because let’s be honest, even if I can cook delicious meals and listen to a book at the same time, most of the things that are pressuring us can’t be done at the same time. I can’t play with Arun and write my blog post. So organization and prioritization are key in having a balanced day.
When I do this, I ask myself questions like how I feel? What makes me feel this way? What can I do? How can I see the situation from a different perspective? What can I learn from these emotions? When was the last time I felt this way? What trauma lies behind? Is everything I say true? Am I exaggerating? Am I being honest and fair with myself? What are the things I am doing well?
Also, say NO to things that are not that important or urgent (answering an email, a message, washing a plate, scrolling the internet, you know better) without feeling guilty. Say YES to things that bring you to a state of calm — breathing, walking, meditation, gazing, grounding.
4. Accept the situation
Acknowledge and accept that you cannot do everything all the time. There are times when everything goes smoothly, and you are in the flow. And there will be times when things will take unwanted paths, even with your best intention and involvement.
Even though I begin by pushing and forcing things to happen, at one point, I start speaking compassionately to myself. This helps me accept that I am only human and that sometimes I am stressed and overwhelmed, and that’s ok. This is a sign that I created an imbalance in my life and need to focus more on myself. Those moments always pass faster if I just let go, accept my limitations and give more attention to myself.
From your thoughts and focus on your surroundings. If you are on that walk, search for something that can bring you joy — a flower, a cloud, a bird, a tree, a smile.
Take deep breaths, imagine exhaling all your worries. Massage your shoulders. Do some tapping exercises. Let go of everything you have concluded and leave room for everything to settle.
6. Put some love
Talk to yourself in a compassionate manner.
If we are not willing to take our hand and help ourselves to get up, how can we expect others to do this for us? Following the steps described above, we can bring ourselves to a point where we can realize that we are dual beings, perfect in our imperfections. We are both good and bad, lazy and energetic, indifferent and compassionate, focused and distracted, and so on.
When we go through this whole process of knowledge, understanding and acceptance, it is almost impossible not to get to the point where we start to feel compassion and love for ourselves.
When we reach this mental and emotional understanding, we only have love in our eyes for our struggles and the struggles of others.
7. Time alone
Spend time alone and visualize yourself having conscious reactions to your struggles.
I know it can be scary for some, but this is one of the most important aspects of living a healthy and meaningful life. We grow through relationships and interactions with other souls. But this growth is incomplete if we do not give ourselves time and space to expand our relationship with ourselves. So we can see our thoughts, feelings, reactions and needs.
When we give ourselves time to process things, we grow. We establish new neurological paths in our brains that help us expand our understanding of ourselves and life.
Wrap it up
We all have moments when we feel unbalanced, but these moments do not need to be constantly present in our lives or to last for a long time. We have the power and the tools to bring ourselves into balance and transform along the way.
When we break a pattern, we create a space where we can be an observant and analyze everything with a constructive perception. This often leads to a better overview and acceptance of our current state. We no longer identify ourselves with our problems in this state and as a result, our hearts soften. We start to view everything through the lens of compassion and love.
Yet, we will have moments when we will feel overwhelmed again. But if you give yourself space and time to understand and integrate these steps, those moments will become shorter and less demanding with time.
Sending you lots of blessings, you can do it! Have faith in yourself. You are not alone.
Remember to love yourself,