Finding balance

This piece was originally published on Emergen. You can view the piece here.

Being a professional, social, and focused workaholic struggling to finding a balance between work, development, social time and relaxing down time can be really trying. The working world is rarely nine to five anymore, let alone before you throw in volunteering, study and other work related commitments that the majority of people I know have.

In a world that expects you to work longer than your agreed hours, give time to causes for free, expand your network and constantly update your skills, how are you expected to sustain functioning at this level? At what point, and how, do we learn to switch off?

I have tried many different things to attempt to restore a level of balance in my life. I often receive emails from friends reminding me to take some down time and centre myself. I’ve read articles (in 2012 I wrote this article, watched videos, researched beyond belief and then one day it clicked. To find balance and switch off, I have to stop. Actually stop.

Now I know that is easier said than done. But it’s true.

For Christmas last year, my mother gave me a voucher for a meditation course. I thought it would help and was blown away by how much it helped. The idea of taking just five minutes and stopping to concentrate on your breathing and how your body feels is simple but so effective. Quick meditations can be done almost anywhere and once your body is practised and comfortable they can become part of everyday life.

It is said that the reason people who are busy, under pressure and stressed cannot sleep properly is because once people finally stop, they are giving their brains the first opportunity to properly process everything. Taking even five minutes at the beginning, middle and end of the day can give your body and mind clarity it needs.

In addition to meditating, I swim. It’s surprising how my brain loses all capacity to think about work, deadlines or anything stressful when it’s concentrating on something that is using my entire body.

To help you find balance I suggest you

• Find an activity that focuses your body and mind on something other than work. Whether that is exercise, meditation, a steam room or something else but something that stimulates more than one part of you.

• Remember that sometimes things will get busy – but it’s not forever. Remember that demands will fluctuate, both demands on you and what you demand from other people. Respond accordingly by managing other commitments and calling on others to get involved with tasks and responsibilities to spread the workload.

• Try to take five minutes a day, three times a day to stop and breathe. Just take a deep breath, a sigh, and you will feel your body change. Concentrate on how you are breathing and you will naturally slow your breathing down, calming your body. Listen to your body, deep down you’ll know when it’s time to take five.

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