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How To Find Balance When Your Life Is A Tightrope

Creating balance is not just a "nice thing to do". It might be your lifeline.

Workin' Girl

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?

Related: An Open Letter To Overcommited Ladies

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 whitewater 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

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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.

Disconnect

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

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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.

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.

Plan Ahead

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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.

Related: 5 Things You've Probably Said If You're A Procrastinating Perfectionist

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.

Learn more about time management and self-care from leading ladies in xoNecole's on-going series: Finding Balance.

Featured image by Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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