By Dequindre Jernigan, MA, LPC
Oftentimes, we can become overwhelmed by the variety of life’s stressors. Trying to find a balance between family, friends, work, and self-care can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. In order to get the most out of your life and decrease stress, consider trying the following:
Balance is defined as an even distribution of weight. You think about things like a balance beam or how waitresses are trained to balance a customer’s order on a food tray. If that tray tips too far to one side, of course, the items will fall off. Concerning mental health, if you put too much importance on one area of your life and neglect the others, you’ll eventually feel as if something is missing or that you’re falling short in some capacity. But sometimes, it’s a struggle to discern what things are priorities and when they should be priorities. One thing to keep in mind is that if everything is a priority, NOTHING is a priority. It literally cancels out the definition of the word, which is something that is more important than another. Instead, being able to prioritize different things at different times is more effective. For example, if someone learns that an individual in their family has fallen deathly ill, more than likely they will prioritize family over hanging out with friends and socializing. Alternatively, if someone has a big deadline at work that they cannot miss, work would be prioritized over other things. Now this doesn’t mean that one completely ignores or disregards the other important things in their life, but that they merely take a backseat for a period of time to focus on what’s more urgent.
How one spends their time speaks to their personal values. Values are things that are important to us at any given time and they are usually influenced by our immediate family while growing up. Values can range from family, friendship, loyalty, trust, independence, achievement, and love, to wealth or popularity. Taking a step back to look at your life and which areas have the most attention can highlight your personal values. People can aspire to improve their values as well. For example, a person valuing honesty, yet knowing that he or she is a habitual liar, may work on being more honest. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging your shortcomings and making a conscious choice to do better. The problem lies in a lack of action despite awareness. Choosing what type of person you want to be can have a positive effect on the future decisions you will make.
There have been times when it’s difficult for one to live up to their personal values and the expectation of others. In these types of situations, setting hard boundaries may be necessary. There are different types of boundaries ranging from physical, and material, to sexual. But when trying to prioritize balance, more than likely, time-related boundaries would be important to consider. Things such as having a hard cut-off time for work can ensure that you have the opportunity to engage in other meaningful aspects of your life. Someone who’s been more passive or permissive in the past can find it hard to follow through with boundary setting, but we all have to start somewhere. And recognizing that consistency is key can help remind you that the uncomfortable feeling is only temporary. Some people don’t like boundary setting because it can potentially affect their relationship with the other person but it’s supposed to! If nothing changes, nothing changes.
For those who lead hectic lives, sometimes becoming more organized can be effective. Taking a look at your daily routine and seeing where there’s a lack of time management can help you plan better and avoid scheduling conflicts. Another thing to consider is how long you’re giving yourself to get certain things done. For example, a person who gives themselves thirty minutes to get ready in the morning, but still finds themselves chronically late to work may consider giving themselves an additional 15-30 minutes. Some people find planners helpful while others solely rely on their phones or other mobile devices. You should decide what’s more convenient for you and what will help you maintain progress.
Self-care can be hard to consistently implement, especially if you have an inaccurate perception of what self-care is. It isn’t solely related to things requiring that you spend money (getting your hair and nails done, going shopping, or getting a facial). Some people put aside funds for self-care activities and even have a consistent day or days they engage in self-care. There is nothing wrong with that. But while money-related self-care activities can certainly bring joy and peace, there are other alternatives that don’t cost money. Things such as taking a nice long bubble bath or reading your favorite book can be just as relaxing. Self-care activities and coping skills fall under the same umbrella of things that help ease your mind in some way. Now again, people with hectic schedules are probably wondering how to make time for self-care. Well, I’d like to introduce something called “little pockets of time”. This can be as short as dedicating five minutes sporadically throughout the day to focus on yourself. That can include five minutes of journaling, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or sending a text to a friend. You have to remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health and it’s important to prioritize it. Some people spend hours on social media looking at TikTok videos or creating reels on Facebook. So why can’t those same people take at least five minutes throughout the day to do something productive that’s geared toward their mental health?
Lastly, the most important thing to remember is that you cannot control everything. Letting go of that perception will ease a lot of anxiety for a person and allow them to look at things rationally. Sometimes there is power in letting go and delegating. You weren’t meant to be a one-man or one-woman show. It’s okay to ask for help if you’re struggling and it’s unfair to assume that others know that you need help if you never vocalize your needs. Sometimes, things will be out of your control and instead of allowing that fact to derail you, you must make the choice to push forward and consider other alternatives. Look at new ways to solve the same problem. Soliciting help can bring about a new perspective and improve problem solving skills. We are all on a journey of self-improvement in some way; and along that journey, we must learn to find and keep balance in our lives to ensure a sense of fulfillment.
Dequindre Jernigan (Quin), is a graduate of Wayne State University where she obtained her Master’s in Counseling Education. She currently works as a Licensed Professional Counselor treating children, adolescents, adults, and couples. Quin offers Christian counseling and specializes in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) as well as rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). She helps treat depression, anxiety, PTSD, mood disorders, self-esteem, and stress.