Relationships

Make time for yourself to stay healthy and happy

Special to The TribuneApril 1, 2014 

MCT ILLUSTRATION

Emotional balance is the sense of calm and well-being we experience when all aspects of our lives are in sync.

You’d think balance would be the norm, but in fact it’s an elusive state. Eighty-nine percent of Americans say work-life balance is a problem, according to StrategyOne, which conducted the online survey. And each of us knows the feeling of having more chores than fun.

There are lots of reasons we get off-kilter. Bosses expect us to stay late and finish projects. Credit card bills mount up every month. Technology keeps us connected 24/7, so it’s harder to leave the office behind.

Home can be equally stressful. Tots clamor for our attention. Elderly parents need our time. The kids’ soccer team is looking for a parent volunteer. The in-laws are arriving for a two-week stay.

Each of these demands drains our psychic energy until our emotional batteries run low. That’s when we start to feel grouchy. We snap at the smallest irritation. We lie awake at night thinking about our problems.

Things feel out of control.

Our health suffers, too. A study of 6,000 British civil servants found that those who worked more than 10 hours per day had a 60 percent higher risk of heart-related problems.

Research conducted at Kyoto University School of Public Health found that clerical workers who worked more than 60 hours per week were 15 times more likely to suffer from depression.

Our initial reaction to stress is to cut out enjoyment. We stop calling friends or cancel the pedicure. The gym membership sits idle. That bestseller at the bedside remains unread.

But those are the very activities that make us feel balanced. They help us relax. They allow our problems to temporarily slip into the background, and our batteries get a much-needed boost.

The higher the stress, the more “me” time we need to counteract it. Far from being frivolous, focusing on ourselves is as essential as eating and breathing.

Wondering where you’re out of balance?

Ask, “What would I do if I had one free afternoon?”

Most likely, the answer will be instantaneous and provide you the guidance you need.

HOW TO FIND BALANCE

• Make time for relationships. Go to lunch with a friend. Call your favorite niece. Take your husband out on a date. Social contact restores your soul and reminds you that you’re not alone.

• Prioritize what’s important. You only have 24 hours. Decide wisely how you’re going to use them. Place emotional well-being at the top of your list.

• Let go of what doesn’t work. Parts of your day are harmonious. Others cause no amount of angst. Take control of your planner and clean house wherever you can.

• Schedule fun. Make regular appointments to enjoy yourself. They’re as important as everything else you do.

• Don’t be a perfectionist. Unrealistic expectations waste vital psychic resources and keep you in a perpetual state of discontent. Sure, you want to do your best. But it’s equally important to decipher when you’re being productive and when you’re just spinning your wheels.

• Exercise. Exercise is nature’s sedative and a key component for managing stress. Find an activity you enjoy that fits into your schedule. Add extra movement to your day by taking the stairs at work or parking in the spot that’s farthest away from the building or store.

• Appreciate what you have. Look around. There’s much to be grateful for. Acknowledging your blessings lowers your blood pressure and restores a sense of peace.

• Make a plan. Don’t leave your happiness to chance. Decide what needs revamping. Take steps to make it happen. You’ll reclaim a sense of control. Your life will feel oh so balanced.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewisgriffith.com.

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