I’m realizing that balance may be one of the most difficult things in life, but also one of the most important.
Over the years, I’ve learned that balance is a huge part of personal finance. Finding a balance between saving and spending is a key reason I can stick to my money goals.
And recently I was reminded of how important balance is in almost every aspect of our lives, and how easily it can get thrown off-kilter.
Between work, life (thanks 2020), and the blog, I was exhausted. There were so many things I wanted to do and goals I wanted to accomplish.
I wanted to read the news and stay informed. I wanted to learn about racial injustice and figure out my role in closing the gap. I wanted to grow my blog. I wanted to spend time with the people (including myself) that are important to me. Wanting to do all of these things while thinking that I needed to do them was stressing me out.
Finally, it got to a point where the stress became too much and my brain shut down. I struggled to focus on any of the things I wanted to do, and I realized something had to change. I needed to find a way to do the things that were most important to me without feeling drained. I needed to find my balance.
If you are like me and find yourself struggling to find balance in your own life, here are the strategies and mindset shifts I’m focusing on to reduce my stress and regain my balance.
But first, what do I mean by balance?
What Does Finding a Balance Mean?
Balance is going to look and feel different for each of us. And it’s taken me some time to figure out what it means to me.
In my younger years, I thought balance was strictly about time. How much time I spent working versus not working. But I’m realizing balance means much more to me.
Balance is about having an understanding of what I want in life and then creating and nurturing space for those things. And the space needed is physical (time), emotional, and mental.
Creating this type of space is no easy task. We all have life pulling us in so many different directions. We have stressors taking up our brain space. And we all have different demands on our time and energy. Therefore, finding balance often feels like an impossible task.
It can feel as though we’re always struggling through the hard stuff.
But working to create space in our lives for things that are important to us is a task worth taking on. Because with balance, we feel at ease. We feel content.
I feel fortunate to be in a situation that allows me to be able to work on creating this space and work on balancing out the hard stuff and the fun stuff.
In the end, I hope that my experience with struggling to find balance will resonate and inspire you to take even the smallest step to help you find your balance.
What My Life Looked like Without Balance
A few years ago I left a stressful job to create more physical, mental, and emotional space in my life for the things that were important to me.
After leaving, I had space to strengthen my yoga practice, improve my relationship with myself, and be fully present with my friends and family. The balance felt great.
But a few years after leaving that job, I decided to start Cash for Tacos. And slowly, the space I had created started to dwindle.
I poured much of myself into the blog. What started as a passion project slowly turned into a source of stress caused by the pressure I was putting on myself.
The blog, and the stress that I allowed to come with it, took up a large chunk of my mental and emotional space.
What was I going to write about next? How could I get my audience to grow like I see my fellow bloggers growing theirs? And am I even a good writer? I was stressing myself out. And all this stress was taking over my life. My balance was thrown off.
It got to a point where it was hard for me to relax.
My brain was consumed by the blog. There was no space left over for other things that were important to me. I lost my balance.
Thankfully, I realized something had to shift when I hit the point where it became too much and I started thinking about quitting altogether. But I didn’t want to quit.
Therefore after some reflection, here are the things I focused on to help free up mental and emotional space to help me restore my balance. And hopefully, these practices will inspire you to find ways to create space for balance in your life, too.
Strategies to Help You Find Your Balance
Have a Vision For Your Life
Knowing what we want for our lives is a huge step towards finding a balance. It helps us stay true to who we are and want to be.
I’ve lost myself many times in my life. At my old job, in old relationships, and most recently, the blog.
In the past, I attributed that to not knowing what I wanted in my life. But in this most recent case, I had a vision, yet I allowed my life to slowly veer away from it without taking the time to say “whoa, this is not aligned with my vision.”
I allowed the blog to trump the other things that were important to me. Things like having a yoga practice, taking the time to read and reflect, and simply being present in each moment and not being distracted.
Therefore, one of the first steps I took was to rethink what I wanted my life to look and feel like. In doing so, I realized my life was missing some things. I needed to figure out a way to bring them back into my life.
Having a clear vision of how you want your life to look and feel, and then using that vision to check-in with yourself regularly, is one of the keys to finding a peaceful balance.
Our vision is the map we need to make the best personal life decisions and to know when our lives are off-kilter.
Treat Your Feelings with Compassion
Taking note of how I was feeling and then reacting to it with compassion was something that was missing when I was feeling off-balance.
I kept telling myself that the stress was part of the deal if I wanted to be “successful”, and then ignored what my feelings were telling me. They were telling me to ease up a bit. To take some pressure off of myself.
It’s so easy to convince ourselves that we have to push on through those moments when we just want a break, to be successful. And while there will be times that we all will need to dig deep and muster up the energy to get through a difficult task, it’s just not sustainable.
Therefore, be mindful of how you are feeling, and don’t hesitate to listen to what they are telling you.
Accept That Things May Happen Slower than you Want
Our time and mental and emotional energy are all limited resources.
We can only do and give so much.
And it’s no easy task to accept that we can’t do it all right now. And because of this, things may happen a little slower than we would like.
With the blog, I find myself on this struggle bus.
I’m realizing that I have to let go of my expectations for the rate at which I can grow the blog. I can only give so much of myself to the blog for it to be sustainable. My blog growth may not look like someone else’s and that is what I’m working on accepting.
That brings me to the next one…..
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Each of our lives is different from everyone else’s. And this is going to affect how each of us can work on our life goals.
Comparing our progress to others only creates stress. Yes, it’s great to get inspiration from what others are doing. But it’s only inspiration, not the bar to judge ourselves against.
I was constantly telling myself that my blog wasn’t good enough because it wasn’t growing as fast as others. I convinced myself that I had to work harder and harder to grow it like I saw others were doing.
While it’s true that we have to put in the work, our progress is going to be different from someone else’s. It’s not going to look the same.
Taking the pressure off of ourselves by remembering that we are the ruler of our progress, can help us restore balance. We can do things on our terms and timeline.
Reframe: Change “I Didn’t Do Enough” to “I’m Proud of What I Did”
Here is a typical Thursday for me:
I work a full day as a Food Scientist creating delicious (or hopefully delicious) seasoning blends. I then come home, make some dinner, and get to work on the blog.
After a few hours of working on the blog, I find myself tiring out before I checked everything off of the list.
I feel bad. Like I failed.
But that is not true. I accomplished something!
I worked for two hours on the blog after a full day of work. That is something. Even if it was just one thing. I did something to progress the blog forward.
Too often we let our inner critic convince us that we didn’t do enough. And this inner critic can take up a lot of our mental space.
By flipping the script from “I didn’t do enough” to “Look at what I accomplished”, we can stop feeling bad about the things we accomplished. Instead, we can rejoice in the small wins and use them to fuel our motivation.
We Got This
Finding balance in our lives is complicated.
There are so many things asking for our time, mental, and emotional space.
And the stress of our day-to-day life can easily be one of those things that eats up that space.
Figuring out what we can do to be present for the things in our lives that are truly important to us can help us restore our balance. And during this process, we may find that some things may have to give to create space for those things.
Finding this balance is no easy task. And it’s a task we will constantly be navigating.
But with some self-awareness and small changes, we can work to establish balance.
And the work is worth it.
Creating space to experience and nurture the things that are important to you is priceless.
What have you done in your life to help you reduce your stress and find a balance?