Living a balanced life

Our burn-out blogger reveals how she finally managed to achieve a balanced lifestyle.

A few years ago I believed that living a balanced life meant I needed to exercise, meditate, play and work in equal amounts and with the same intensity. I chased “balance” and drove myself as hard to be “balanced” as I did at work. “Of course I am balanced,” I would argue. “I look after myself in between working 12 hours a day, exercising every day of the week, getting up early to meditate, staying up late to finish deadlines or attend social functions, and then rushing to have a massage before racing back to deal with my 1 001 responsibilities. What more can I do?” The more I tried to force “wellbeing” into my hectic schedule, the less energy I had. What had previously given me energy now became an energy-draining chore.

What I have learnt is that balance requires not only that I add what is good for me (such as meditation and yoga) to my to-do list but also – and more importantly – to take an equal amount off the list. This could be an activity that seems urgent but is not important or it could be letting go of something, or both. This practice allows Non-Doing to become as important as Doing. It was a difficult shift to make because I wanted it all, and when I unpacked what “all” was, I found what I wanted were the feelings of contentment and fulfilment. All the Doing resulted only in tension, exhaustion and frustration – and a body that cried out ENOUGH!

I am working on living in a more mindful and gentler way, where I more often allow things to unfold and use my willpower and force less often, or at least in a more discerning way. It requires letting go of my need to be in control. Now I practise trusting that if I create some space for Non-Doing in my week, the creative juices will flow, allowing me to be more effective and productive. Astonishingly, I now have more time. I noticed that as soon as I forced things (fear driven), I tended to go into freeze mode, drank a lot more coffee and relied on adrenaline to meet deadlines. After decades of functioning like this, it is no wonder I ended up with depleted adrenal glands that resorted to overproducing cortisol as a backup. This new way of Doing/Non-Doing allows me to live a full life with greater ease rather than driven to burnout.

INVITATION: What three small changes could you make to trust more and control less? What three small things could you let go and not do today?

A note to all of you who, like me, tend to be too hard on yourself: It is a new way and requires practice. Expect to fail sometimes. I watch for signs and signals from my body that indicate I am using an outdated mode of being (in my case it is when there is tension in my neck and shoulders). Then I simply try a better way next time. Remember, it is about being gentler, not about doing things perfectly.

- Kerstin Waddell

-  Kerstin Waddell is a Martha Beck certified life coach based in Cape Town, South Africa. Visit her website.

Read Kerstin's previous blog for YOU:

Don’t juggle perfectionism and burn-out