What is the best behavioral treatment for depression, anxiety, and a host of other issues? Taking care of your self through living a balanced life! The balance in our lives is constantly shifting based on the transitions we face, whether it’s a job loss, career change, relocation, having a child, ending or starting a new relationship, or the loss of a loved one. It certainly is a lot easier said than done, but it’s absolutely achievable to lead as close to a balanced life as possible. Before you can lead a balanced life, however, you need to recognize the different areas that make up our lives:
- Physical environment
- Fun and Recreation
- Personal Growth/Spirituality
- Significant Other/Romance
- Friends and Family
- Health and Fitness
One homework assignment we often give to our clients is to make 2 pie graphs, separating each one into 8 “pieces of pie”. Label each piece with the different areas of life balance above. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest), how important is each area to you? What is your level of need in each area? Give each area a number and fill it in accordingly. Do the same for the second pie graph, only this time, rate your current level of involvement. For example, for the first graph, your level of need for “Friends and Family” might be an 8, but your current level of involvement (or how much you actively participate in that area) is a 2. This is a great way to identify the areas of your life that aren’t in balance, as well as to figure out your needs in each area.
Physical Environment is comprised of where you live and work, which are the places you spend the most amount of time. How does your physical environment impact you? Is it cramped and cluttered? Or is it personalized and tranquil? Even when we aren’t aware, our physical environment can have a great impact on our mood and mindset. Do the best you can to make both your living and your work environment calming and personalized. Avoid clutter and a chaotic environment if possible, and make your space “your own”. It doesn’t take a lot of money or time to transform your personal space into a calm place to spend time. Take a few minutes a day to clean up clutter and get rid of things you no longer use.
Fun and Recreation is essential for good mental and physical health. Our culture is one that stresses work so much, that we often forget to leave time to laugh and have fun! Fun and recreation doesn’t necessarily mean taking a long vacation and doesn’t have to involve a lot of money. It can be as simple as a walk in the park, going to a comedy show, taking the kids (or your significant other) to an amusement park, reading a book, or spending time engaging in a hobby.
Personal Growth and Spirituality includes anything you do to better yourself personally, including reading this article! Whether you are actively involved in or attend church, pray, meditate, regularly read self-help books, go to therapy sessions to work on bettering yourself emotionally and mentally, or attend a 12 step program or group, personal growth and spirituality are another essential element to having good life balance. Doing these things on a regular basis helps to center and ground an individual from the daily stresses of life, and learn good coping skills.
Significant Other/Romance is a great area of life to help us feel fulfilled. Research has repeatedly suggested that companionship has great mental health benefits. Having too high of a number on this, however, can be just as unhealthy as too low of a number. Remember to find companionship in friendships, without relying exclusively on your significant other to fill the void. If you are in a relationship, remember how important this need is for a balanced life, and work towards helping your partner and marriage become stronger. Spend quality time together and work on improving communication and an intimate connection. Surprise your significant other with something romantic. They will most likely appreciate your gesture, and hopefully will reciprocate! If you are single, work on improving your relationship with yourself. Treat yourself like you would a significant other! If you are single and looking to date, there are many things you can do to that not only better yourself, but help you meet people in the process (See our article on Relationship Tips for Singles).
Friends and family can be a great resource and support system for helping us through our most difficult times. Friends and family can help us by providing a listening ear, as well as giving us direct feedback and honesty when we need it the very most (even if it’s not what we want to hear!). If your family lives far away and you are single, or if you are not close with your family, get involved in different activities that might help you meet new people and develop new friendships. Become active in a group, church, or organization that can provide similar benefits of a “pseudo-family”.
Health and Fitness doesn’t just mean physical health, but emotional health as well. Physical activity can be a great stress reliever, as well as a tool to process feelings like anger and resentment. Eating regular, balanced meals, getting plenty of sleep, not engaging in addictive behavior, going to the doctor and dentist regularly, etc., all fall into this category, and are extremely important to overall life balance.
Money doesn’t necessarily imply an exuberant amount, but having good spending habits, being able to take care of your self financially, and living within your means (or cutting back when necessary). Many times, individuals are so consumed with making more and more money, they fail to see the impact this has on the other areas of their life. More money doesn’t solve an internal problem or fill a void that is caused by a lack of other things, like friendship, genuine intimacy, and love, and it doesn’t help with self-esteem and self-worth in the long term.
Career Path and/or School is one area of life that tends to consume a lot of our time. Often time, our job becomes such a big part of our identity that we fail to be fully present in the other important roles in our life. It’s important to recognize what other “hats” you wear in life, not only your career “hat”. At the same time, it’s important to find a career (or school) path that feels personally fulfilling, since so much of our time each day is spent at our jobs (or at school).
So, what does your pie graph look like on your wheel of life? Is it balanced? Balance takes time, effort, and patience to achieve, though it’s an extremely worthwhile process! Remember that the balance in our lives is ever changing based on life circumstances. If you are having trouble with balance in your life, feel free to contact us. Imagine Hope Counseling Group provides individual, relationship, marriage, and family counseling to Indianapolis and the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield. We can be contacted at (317)569-0046 or via our website at www.imaginehopecounseling.com.