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Life In Balance

Official portrait of SMSgt Elise Phillips

Official portrait of SMSgt Elise Redziniak

riona Carswell, an Air Force Academy cadet, performs on a balance beam during a gymnastics meet against Illinois State and Seattle Pacific at the Air Force Academy’s Cadet Gymnasium in Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 8, 2020. (U.S.Air Force photo by Bill Evans)The wheel of life can look different for each person. Some may describe their wheel as a little wobbly and has room for improving its balance.  Others may say their wheel is very stable and riding smooth while everything is in control.  Another group of people may describe their wheel as completely fallen off and burst into flames. So how do we get our proverbial wheel of life in balance? 

Each spoke in the wheel represents various aspects in life such as family, work, school, and health. The wheel will be faulty and unable to function if one of the spokes or areas in life is broken or missing. Just like with anything that breaks, the first step to fixing the issue is to inspect it. Self-awareness is the first step in assessing when life feels a bit wobbly or out of balance. Author Stephen Covey describes self-awareness as “...Our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, our motives, our history, our scripts, our actions, our habits, and our tendencies.” Ultimately, it allows a person to better understand why they feel, act a certain way, and allows for reflection and growth. Once an individual can look at these areas, they will be better able to make changes to stabilize their wheel.

Often, self-awareness leads to a need for change and as a result goal setting happens. Implementing positive changes may include readjusting your attitude toward yourself, omitting or limiting certain things or people from your life, incorporating healthy behaviors, seeking gratitude and remembering to have fun! When we give advice to a friend, we most likely find ourselves giving positive and encouraging words of wisdom to help them through an insecurity or struggle that they are enduring. Do you provide the same type of advice to yourself when setting goals or trying to improve?  We may find that negative self-talk and being hard on ourselves is the first reaction when seeking positive change.  This is counterproductive as negative self-talk can make one believe that they do not have the ability to reach their full potential. Combat negative self-talk with encouraging words and take small steps to improving each day.  At times, you may experience certain behaviors or people that can prove to be toxic or draining of your energy levels.  When you think about the people in your life, do they build you up toward your goals or detract from them? Toxic behaviors range from pessimism, manipulation or spitefulness. These relationships or behaviors can influence negative self-talk with doubting your abilities, unhappiness, and cause emotional exhaustion. It is important to create healthy boundaries to create distance to maintain your happiness.

Incorporating healthy behaviors that tie into self-care is a critical spoke in the wheel of maintaining balance in life. Self-care looks different for each person as we all have various ways that recharge our batteries and allows an individual to focus on the week ahead or project at hand.  Self-care ranges from mindfulness, exercising, restful sleep, activities with family, and going on vacation. Self-care ties into our physical, mental, social, and emotional wellbeing.  It is critical to have a deliberate approach in practicing self-care daily, in some form or fashion to enhance your performance, as all components tie together.  We’ve all heard the old adage “laughter is the best medicine” and it is true!  Finding humor in situations and being able to laugh has many health benefits. Incorporating gratitude throughout the day has proven to have many health benefits. Gratitude helps people feel positive emotions, relive good experiences, cope with adversity, and building connectedness.  When feelings of gratitude are experienced, the brain releases dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins, which tie into feelings of happiness and pleasure.  Laughter strengthens the immune system, improves mood, and relieves stress.

When creating a life in balance, remember it is a process and self-awareness is the first step, followed by making goals to improve those weakened spokes. When negative self-talk tries to creep into your progress, think about what advice you would give a close friend in the situation and give that back to yourself.  Practicing deliberate self-care in your daily routine enables an individual to refocus and feel reenergized.  Find something to be thankful for each day as it will be a sure fire way to improve your overall health. A simple laughing fit may be just what the doctor ordered to make you feel better and connected to those around you! Only you will know what steps you need to take to create a more balanced life that generates feelings of happiness and fulfillment.  Give yourself grace and be patient while on the journey of staying balanced!

Resources: Military Family Life Consultants (MFLC) can help in creating a wellness and balanced plan. They are goal orientated counselors who do not take notes and will meet their clients virtually or in person. MFLC’s are available through the Airman and Family Readiness Center (AFRC) and can be reached at 937-203-6461 or 937-257-3592. Military OneSource is another great resource to be connected with a Health and Wellness Coach and they can be reached at 800-342-9647.