STRESS AND BALANCE
Just being alive involves stresses and strains every day. We cannot stand up without encountering the force of gravity pulling us down. We cannot speak without the pressure to condense our meaning into a single stream of words. We cannot even eat without the dilemma of how much, how fast, how slow, how heavy, how light. Everything we do presents us with a problem of stress and balance.
MANAGING OUR ENERGY
From the moment we wake up, then, we will be undertaking a task of energy management. To an extent, we are like batteries that charge up each night. What we do in the daytime, and how we do it, will determine how much energy we use up. If we use up too much, we will end up relying on adrenaline and similar stress-related systems. If we use up too little, then we can end up overweight and out of practice. We need to find a way of matching our energy levels to an appropriate combination of busy-ness and rest.
Here are five tips for managing the day so as to achieve balance.
#1 – LISTEN TO MIND AND BODY TENSION
We have a feedback system for pain, and it’s a really good one. Sensors tell us whether our environment is too hot or too cold. Pain tells us whether we are pressurising our body. In terms of tension in relationships or activities, our anxiety response tells us whether or not we are in a comfortable situation. To achieve balance, become an expert in listening to your own mind and body, and noticing what brings comfort, and what brings discomfort.
#2 – CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES
We only have a certain amount of energy available every day. This means that we are wise to choose our battles. Try to choose well. If we try to do ‘all the things’ in one day, we will exhaust ourselves. We should learn our capacity, and work within it. Learn to dismiss some activities and challenges as ‘not worth it’. Focus on what matters.
#3 – DIARISE WHAT YOU CAN’T DO NOW
A key part of choosing your battles, is being able to say ‘not now’. And a key part of saying ‘not now’ is determining when in the future something will be considered. Once it’s in the diary, forget it until the allocated time. Operating a diary reduces the tension of time compression, because we can spread the load over future days.
#4 – LEARN TO MANAGE CONFLICT
Social conflict management is absolutely key to tension reduction. We need to learn de-escalation skills – firstly, how to manage ourselves with calm and self-compassion; and, secondly, how to be assertive with others without being antagonistic. The first reduces internal conflict, and the second reduces interpersonal conflict.
#5 – BALANCE ACTIVITIES LIKE RECIPES
An energy-sapping activity should be followed by a restful activity. Time alone should be followed by time with others. Committed time should be followed by free time. We should get used to thinking ‘what have I been doing, and what is the antidote, or balance, to that?’ Creating a good day, or a good week, is like creating a good food recipe – it should contain a little bit of everything that works, in a nice combination.
To achieve good balance, and to reduce bad stress:
- Listen to mind and body tension
- Choose your battles
- Diarise what you can’t do now
- Learn to manage conflict
- Balance activities like recipes