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Balancing Act

Tipping Life’s Scale in Your Favor…

A 23-year old girl arrived to her office just like any other morning – ready for the challenges of the day. “Ugh?!” she says “what’s going on?!” as she doubles over in excruciating pain. Her husband is called to pick her up because her manager becomes increasingly concerned. The young lady is quite frightened herself. I mean wouldn’t you be too if you were 23-years old and had never had any type of health issues – for goodness sakes.

Did anyone guess this 23-year old was me. I was working in the Midwest, my first job immediately after graduating from college. As a matter of fact, I graduated and received my Bachelors in 3-years and received the job on a fluke practicing my interview skills while visiting my boyfriend on break.
Back to the story. I was taken immediately to my doctor – thank goodness! Initial exams found nothing wrong, so I was sent for further test. Further test indicated that my excruciating stomach pain was caused by stress. My doctor sat me down and he said “Vernessa, you are on the path to a bleeding ulcer before the age of 25 years old”. I said “okay doc, give me a pill and let’s alleviate this issue”. However, to my dismay, there was no pill to give me. Do you know what he recommended? Anyone? He recommended I build a plan to balance my life and minimize my stress – my condition was developing because I was out of balance.

Following my doctor’s instructions, I did develop a plan and it has evolved over many years. I have formalized this approach and established a quarterly checkpoint. You will read many articles and see lots of materials and tools sharing this concept with you over time. However, the basis of the plan is based on the key components of my life that require nurturing.

These areas are:

  • Physical
  • Spiritual
  • Financial
  • Emotional

I urge each person reading this article to understand that finding a balance in life is critical for a healthy body and mind.

Let’s talk about these 4 important areas individually, because it is important to understand how these categories contribute to balance.

Physical. It is important to have regular physical activity and a good healthy balanced diet. Per the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence of the United Kingdom, exercise increases brain serotonin function in humans. Exercise improves your physical health, as well as, your mental health. For me, that physical activity has taken on many forms over the years. The 23-year old me decided Taekwondo was the best option. However, over the years I have become a runner, weight lifter, and walker. I urge you whatever you do, make sure it is something you enjoy doing and you will continue to be motivated to move.

The other thing I mentioned was a good healthy balanced diet. Eating clean and lean – meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, and grain combinations in your meals is key. Also, portion control is important – many trainers recommend eating 5 – 6 small meals daily to keep the metabolism revved up and energy at optimal levels. I do want to say eating a balanced diet does not mean deprive yourself – still eat the foods you enjoy in moderation. I personally refuse to give up, steaks, chocolate, ice cream and red wine…again moderation is key.

Spiritual. Spirituality is a vast idea with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. So in this case, I am not referencing your religious practices specifically but those activities that affect the human spirit or soul. However, some of those activities may have been learned through religious practices, like praying or meditating. Other things that can be uplifting or provide meaning are activities like service and volunteerism. I guess summing spiritual up is what activities do you perform that uplift your spirit. Only you can determine what fits in this category for you.

Financial. Money continues to be the leading cause of stress for Americans noted by many surveys. The American Psychological Association poll found that financial worries served as a significant source of stress for 64% of adults in 2015, ranking higher than three other major sources of stress: work (60 percent), family responsibilities (47 percent), and health concerns (46 percent). Nearly three out of four adults reported feeling stressed about money at least some of the time, and about one in four adults said they experienced extreme stress over money during the past month, according to the report. To me this says having a good financial strategy is important.

Build a plan where you are not spending everything you make. Have you heard of the 50/30/20 rule? This rule states that at least 20% of your income should go towards savings. Meanwhile, another 50% (maximum) should go towards necessities, while 30% goes towards discretionary items. When you actively manage your finances, your ratios will continue to improve.

Emotional. Hmmm – what do you think falls into this category? This category includes everything that potentially impacts how you feel about yourself. So things like physical appearance – getting a manicure and pedicure or haircut, or perhaps getting an occasional massage – in other words, taking care of me. I also put in this category making sure I surround myself with positive energy – so making sure I have enjoyable activities with good friends. There are many other things that can fit here, but you get the idea.
In summary, finding a balance is key to a happy and healthy life. In upcoming articles, I will share with you the framework I use in my journaling process to set realistic balance goals and track them throughout the year. Everyone needs an active balancing life plan. It could be the difference between sickness and health – if not something more drastic.