Have you ever felt like there are never enough hours in the day? Like, if you had to count off your checklist items on your fingers, you would be down to your fingers and toes?
Not to mention that it's officially November, so it's basically Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year's, meaning you have two months to cross off your NYE resolutions from this year and somehow catch up on your resolutions from last year. And, you still have to function day-to-day while there are still passion projects that have yet to be started, plane tickets that have yet to be booked, and waists that have yet to be snatched.
You want to do it all, but time is not on your side. How do you find balance and manage stress when your life is constantly a tightrope?
I recently connected with one of my mentors to discuss juggling a full workload while maintaining a decent quality of life and she dropped a gem that has shaped the way I view balance. She said:
Balance is not something you find, it is something you create.
Let that simmer for a bit. Yes, it's so simple, but a powerful philosophy when truly maximized.
Many of us are attempting to go with the flow in day-to-day lifestyles that are more akin to white water rafting. It's remarkable how stressed we can be about companies we don't own, people who take us for granted, and problems we did not create.
Time to meditate or even visit a mental health professional will not magically find their way into our crazy schedules unless prioritized. The stress we have justified as "normal" can compound and manifest into truly toxic conditions if not actively managed.
Per CDC and ADA research cited by Dr. Inger E. Burnett-Zeigler in her Op-Ed for the NY Times, "Black women are more likely than white women to have stress related to family, employment, finances, discrimination, or racism.
"Black women are more likely to be depressed, and when they are, their symptoms are more severe, last longer, and are more likely to interfere with their ability to function at work, school, and home. Black women are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. And yet fewer than 50 percent of black adults with mental health needs receive treatment…
"Many of us [black women] have been conditioned to believe that we must be strong to survive. But we cannot hold up the strength of black women without acknowledging the stress that comes with it. Otherwise, we set unreasonable expectations for what black women should be able to endure."
Creating balance is not just a "nice thing to do". It might be your lifeline.
Are you struggling to create balance in your life? Here are 6 tips to point you in the right direction.
Say “No” And Prioritize Your Non-negotiables
I'll say it now and you'll hear it time and time again. The holy grail of time management truly is: "just say no". Yes, hell will threaten to freeze over. Tears will be shed. You might even threaten to renege your refusal, but stay strong. You teach people how to treat you — how to need you. There are certain exceptions that you will determine on a case by case basis, but that promotion and raise may not have the same long-term value if you have a mental breakdown and cannot return. Make sure you are actively prioritizing self-care regimens that help you balance stress, especially eating and sleeping properly. It all comes full circle.
Know Your “Top 5”
When I was a freshman in college and trying to join every club and activity under the sun, a mentor sat me down and taught me to live by the "Rule of 5": You should never fully invest your time in more projects and activities than what you can fit on your 5 fingers.
Work/school is one finger, sleep is another finger, being in a relationship is a finger (maybe even two!), and so on… You really don't have as much capacity as you think.
There is no way you feasibly juggle work, exercise, a prayer life, a hectic family schedule, 6 boyfriends, 18 best friends, 32 passion projects, and a good night's rest all at once. You can try, but things will fall through the cracks. Pick your Top 5 and fully invest. Know your equation.
Our generation, in particular, struggles with self-induced stress, unrealistic expectations, and paranoia from constant social media consumption.
You were perfectly fine with your job and your apartment, but suddenly, you feel hopelessly behind since you learned that your line sister's cousin's sister who you follow on Instagram has just been promoted to partner at 26 years old and is moving into a brand new mansion with her part-time model/NFL player fiancé.
All of the notifications, instant messages, and retweets can grow to become major stressors, if not a considerable distraction, eating away at your valuable time.
Social media aside, spending countless hours checking emails and taking work calls during your personal time also adds to your stress levels. When it's within your control, step away and disconnect every once in while. "Balance" what energy and expectations you set for yourself.
Protect Your Peace
That being said, protect your peace. Everyone has that one friend who never has anything positive to say. You were already stressed before, but her energy brought your happiness from a 6 down to a 3.5 within minutes of meeting up. Her energy is not a destressor, it's a stress inducer.
Life is too short and your time is too valuable to stretch yourself so thin for those that do not add value to your life. We want to be there for everyone, but sometimes, we have to put ourselves first. Protect your peace.
Organization is key. When your time is particularly limited, it is truly within your best interest to stay organized and proactively schedule important dates and events into your calendar. And, don't forget to block out dates in your calendar just for YOU.
*pencils wash day into calendar*
Procrastination as a general habit can add layers of stress and imbalance to your life - even if it's a fine tuned "skill" that you have learned to depend on. Don't put off organizing your life and being intentional about the things that bring you balance.
Be Mindful Of Your Diet And Exercise
Last, but not least, your diet and exercise have been scientifically proven to be integral components in regard to maintaining energy and reducing stress. You know this, I know this. That 30-minute power walk just might give you the 3-hour boost you need to finish that pitch presentation.
Prioritize healthy living so you can maintain the schedule that you so desperately need to balance.
Balance starts and ends with what you let in, by, and around you. Don't let your life run you ragged. Take your power back.