When you think of the need to achieve balance in your life, the first thing that comes to mind is probably work/life balance. And while that is certainly important in today’s “always on” society, if you’re looking to optimize your mental health, you need to think beyond simply establishing appropriate boundaries to protect your off-duty time.
Having true balance in your day-to-day means that all aspects of your life are working together in harmony. The diverse elements of your personal and professional life fit together seamlessly to help you build the happy, peaceful, and fulfilling life you deserve.
Why It Matters
In far too many cultures, communities and even families, mental illness is the last great taboo. It’s one of the few experiences not to be acknowledged or even discussed. But not talking about it doesn’t make it go away. Quite the opposite, in fact. Studies show that rates of mental illness are increasing not only in the United States, but in many countries around the world.
It’s estimated that nearly 20% of people worldwide have some type of mental illness or substance abuse disorder. Youth suicides in the UK are on the rise, while China, India, and the US have among the highest rates of anxiety disorder in the world. It’s estimated that 300 million people worldwide suffer from clinical depression, which is one of the world’s leading causes of disability.
And no matter what the originating cause of the mental illness may be, whether physiological, trauma-induced, or a combination of factors, mental and physical health experts agree that a fundamental lack of balance in a person’s life contributes to, or worsens, mental illness. Simply put, if you’re stressed out, worried, overwhelmed, and exhausted most of the time, not only is your physical health going to suffer, but your mental health will too.
Mind the Wellness Wheel
Finding balance in your life means recognizing that your life is more than just a division between the personal and the professional. There are many elements that must come together to give you the joyful and harmonious life you deserve.
A good way to visualize this is by creating your own “wellness wheel.” The wellness wheel helps you reflect on all the important components of your life, so that you can see what areas are working well and what elements need some special attention and a bit of TLC.
For example, your wellness wheel might help you discover that, while your professional and financial life are giving you what you need and want, your health and your social life are lacking.
Armed with that information, you can make a plan to shore up those problem areas. You might decide to get more exercise and socialization simultaneously by beginning the day with a brisk walk with a friend, or ending the evening with a yoga class. You might determine to change your diet and get more mood and energy-boosting nutrients in each meal. You might decide to set aside one or two nights a month for an evening out with friends.
The key is to determine how the disparate parts of your life are working together to meet your needs. And this means figuring out which elements aren’t working for you and then making, and following through with, a do-able plan to fix them.
Set the Stage for Success
To be sure, there’s a lot more to your life than just work and home. But these two arenas are the stage on which all those other vital pieces of your life rest. That means they deserve particular attention when you’re building your harmonious and happy life.
And a perfect place to begin is where your heart is your home. Finding balance means creating a living space that is actually conducive to your needs and your goals. But you don’t have to do a complete overhaul of the space to create a nurturing living environment. Even if you’re renting, you can make some impermanent changes that can make a dramatic improvement in your living space — and how you feel, physically and mentally, when you’re in it.
For example, you can use tile stickers and reusable wallpaper to transform the look and feel of your space. Even something as simple as changing out your lighting can help you create the perfect atmosphere for a tranquil bedroom, a restful living room, or a bright and cheery home office. Ultimately, designing your space to suit your needs is a practical way to find balance in your life because your environment will make it easier for you to work and play, to relax and to self-nurture, to socialize and to enjoy your solitude.
Your home, though, isn’t the only environment that shapes your life. Your workplace is vitally important as well. And while you’re probably pretty limited in what you can do to change your working environment, you do have tremendous power in determining where you work and what you do.
True, few people greet every workday like they’ve gotten a free ticket to DisneyLand. However, if you find yourself filled with dread every time you walk through the door, or if you find your off hours consumed with work anxieties, or if you find that your work is devouring your energy, time, focus and, especially, your joy, then it’s probably time to find a new job.
But before you try, you need to first think about your priorities. What do you love? What fills you up? What makes your soul sing and your spirit soar? Once you’ve considered that, then start thinking of practical, actionable steps to help you get the job that gives you all that. After that, begin building your resume strategically to get you there.
Bear in mind, though, that while you’re looking for a job you love, recruiters are looking for a candidate they love. So build your resume around what the recruiters are looking for, not what you’re looking for. Give concrete specifics on your most impressive accomplishments, if they’re relevant to the job. In other words, sell yourself. You just might end up in a job that helps you bring all the diverse parts of your life together.
Living a balanced life takes work. It means understanding the diverse elements of your life and learning how to bring them into harmony to build the happy and healthy life you deserve. But doing so will pay off in ways you could never have imagined, particularly when it comes to protecting your mental health.
Image Source: Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/photos/balance-meditation-meditate-silent-110850/)