The obvious and not so obvious signs your
life may be out of balance
Welcome back to our exploration of life balance! But first, I’m going to tell you a story about a woman named Rose. It’s relevant… trust me.
Rose gets up early in the morning to shower and get ready for her day. She notices the bathroom needs to be cleaned and the laundry on the floor is still there but she was just too tired to bother with it last night. She made sure her kids’ homework was done AND that it made it into their back packs last night. She gets every one up and ready on time, out the door and into traffic. Her oldest is being dropped off early because he has practice this morning and her youngest is being dropped off at a friends house because she have to be at work at 8 and the bus comes at 8:15. She’s only 3 minutes late today which is acceptable but she’d would rather have had time to stop to get coffee, since the free coffee at the office isn’t very as good.
At the office she has more work than the day will allow but she does her best to keep up and finds time to grab some food for lunch. At 2:00 she gets an unexpected phone call and learns that she’s switching projects and she will still have to work the upcoming weekend even though she’s ahead of schedule on the reports needed for the end of quarter board meeting.
After work she sits in traffic waiting to get home, her oldest is already there and she’s picking up her youngest from the same friend’s house she was dropped off at this morning. She’s not sure what she’s having for dinner so she throws together something that will work and makes sure the kids are getting their homework done. Over dinner she and her kids discuss their day and she makes sure everyone’s on track for tomorrow.
The kids get their showers, the dog gets fed, leftovers get put away and about half of the dishes are done. She pays some bills online, scrolls through a few social media pages and watches a video her friend sent 3 hours ago. As she heads off to bed she notice the laundry on the floor again and decides it can wait another day.
This is a typical day in Rose’s life. She’s a busy single mom who has a lot of responsibilities and wears a lot of hats. Is Rose’s life in balance? What do you think?
Whether you think it is, or you think it isn’t… turns out… you’re right! If you read the story again, you’ll notice that I left out some very important details. I completely left out the clues that would have allowed you to judge the events of her day as good or bad. You don’t know if she awoke to the sounds of birds chirping or if she hit snooze 6 times before getting up. You don’t know if she founded her company with her best friend or works for a grumpy boss. The 2:00 phone call could have been about a huge contract that they were just awarded or it could have been the news that another employee quit and she has to pick up the slack.
Here’s an interesting question: Would those details have made a difference? If your initial response is yes, you’re not alone. In fact, most people would judge the events that happened in the story as good or bad. More over, most of us view “things that are out of our control” as bad.
But there’s something else I left out that’s even more important to Rose’s story. I didn’t include how she feels about the events of her day. And I didn’t give you any photos as clues. She has the freedom to choose how she feels about everything doesn’t she? Does traffic frustrate her or does she take it in stride and listen to an audio book in the car? Maybe she doesn’t mind working some Saturdays because she enjoys her job. Or maybe she doesn’t like her job at all and she still doesn’t mind because she could use the overtime hours.
I think you see where I’m going with this. Rose’s life might be considered “out of balance” if she felt she worked too many hours or conversely, if she was so busy with home and family matters that she didn’t have enough time to work as much as she’d like. In this example, either one could be out of balance.
The definition of life balance I presented in my previous post What is Life Balance? was “a balanced life allows one the opportunity to give every part of their life the amount of time and attention they deem appropriate and healthy.” So… it all really depends on what you want out of life
What are some of the signs of being out of balance?
It’s easy to tell when we’re physically out of balance. Quite literally, we get dizzy, loose our balance or fall over. Have you ever tried to carry just one heavy bucket? The challenging part isn’t the weight of the bucket, it’s that all the weight is all on one side. Doubling the weight and carrying two heavy buckets, is surprisingly easier because they’re balanced. Everything is easier when we’re balanced.
That’s an obvious example of being physically off balance. But when we’re off balance emotionally, it may not be so obvious. Most of us know when we’re exhausted from family responsibilities, haven’t had enough sleep or when we’ve been working so many hours our dog doesn’t recognize us anymore because our bodies are physically tired. But that doesn’t mean we’re not balanced. Being out of balance manifests in subtle ways. Ways, that if we’re not paying attention, we could totally dismiss.
Here are some of the obvious and not so obvious signs that you life may be a little or a lot out of balance.
Obvious Signs Of Being Out Of Balance
You dread doing the things you know you have to do. Everyday things like getting out of bed in the morning, showering and getting ready for work, fixing dinner or going to the grocery store are dreaded activities.
You work more than you want to or feel you should. You work so many hours you don’t have time for much else. Even if you enjoy your job, too much of a good thing can be stressful if it doesn’t leave time for the other things that support us.
You can’t remember the last time you did something just for fun. Activities that have no purpose at all except enjoyment. Like reading your favorite kind of novel, working a puzzle or just being goofy.
You can’t sleep. This one is pretty obvious. Racing thoughts, replayed conversations and anxiety about the future can interfere with sleep.
You drink, smoke or do recreational drugs, or are addicted to or obsessed with anything that seems “out of control”. Indulging in anything that provides an “escape” on a regular basis can be a red flag that things are out of balance.
Not So Obvious Signs of Being Out Of Balance
You spend too much time taking care of everyone else. Doing things for others is great, until it isn’t. Resenting time spent in service of others or wishing you knew how to say no can cause you to feel off balance.
You don’t have things to look forward to. You used to get excited about events or even just weekends but lately it seems you’ve run out of things to look forward to.
There is no creativity in your life. Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes and doesn’t have to be just painting or playing an instrument.
Turning down invitations to do something fun because it’s “not worth the effort”. If you go to the movies you fear you’ll get even further behind on the chores. The vacation sounds nice but all the work you’ll have to do before and after to make up for it, sounds overwhelming.
Doing things you don’t like because of a future reward. Retirement and pensions come to mind, but it can be anything you feel you are trapped into doing in order to gain a future reward.
Most of us can identify with at least a couple of items on the two lists above. I know I certainly can. However, we’d be exhausted if life was one exciting adventure after another. But on the flip side, it shouldn’t be grueling all the time either. Finding balance in your life is about being okay with your day to day stuff, with a goal of really enjoying it!
What’s the difference between stress and being out of balance?
It’s really just a simple matter of cause and effect. Being out of balance is the cause, and stress is the effect. In other words being out of balance causes stress, stress and more stress!
This week as you go through your everyday routine, take time to notice what you enjoy doing and what you don’t enjoy doing. Notice how you feel when you have to do something you don’t enjoy. Do you feel grumpy? Resentful? Reluctant? Are you able to take it in stride and release it or do these feelings spill over into other parts of your day? Are the negative parts overshadowing the positive parts?
As you begin to allow yourself space to observe your attitudes and behaviors, try to do so with an open mind. It’s okay to observe without judging or feeling like you have to fix it. Just notice how you feel. You might find it helpful to keep a journal of your moods. Notes or journal entries can be especially helpful for revealing patterns and connections.
Next week we’re going to dive into your findings and share all kinds of things you can do to bring balance into your life.
I encourage you to share your thoughts or findings in the comment section below.
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