We see the word “balance” everywhere and most of us can agree there are things we could do to improve it in our lives - but how? Before we can even think about how we can improve balance in our lives, we need to fully understand what the concept of balance means to us individually. The word balance will often be used to describe nutrition, the amount of exercise we’re getting, or “the work-life balance.” Balance can mean all of these things and represent aspects of our lives on so many levels; the important part is just reflecting on how you would like balance to look like in your own life.
Balance is different for everyone and everyone is seeking a different level of it. As college students, we’re at a unique point in our lives juggling school, work, leadership positions, social activities, and overall learning how to be functional adults. It’s hard to find balance, but there are a few reasons for why it might be so hard and of course ways to help find balance in your own life.
The “All or Nothing” Mentality
When it comes to trying to find balance in my own life, I often find myself dealing with the same type of issue. Balance can be difficult to achieve, no matter who you are. One minute, you feel like you’re doing it all - exercising regularly, eating well, finishing all of your basic household tasks, socializing, and getting lots of work done. It feels great - you feel productive, energized, and ahead of life. But as I have experienced myself, it feels hard and almost exhausting to do this consistently, and when I don’t do all of these things I end up being extremely hard on myself.
But there’s great news - you don’t have to do it all and most people are feeling the same exact way. Balance is all about doing what you can (and sure, challenging yourself a bit too) but shedding the guilt that comes along with “not being productive'' (when in reality, you may be being very productive in another way). This thought pattern of thinking you need to do everything to have a healthy and positive life all at once is part of a negative thought pattern called the “All or Nothing” mentality. If you’ve been feeling trapped in this cycle as I have, do not fear! There are ways to combat these negative thought patterns and begin incorporating balance into your life.
- Replace Negative Thoughts: Understand rest and social activities are just as, if not more important, than an assignment at times. Don’t let negativity spoil the fun of social activities or having a rest day. Losing balance in our lives can sometimes be a way to find it again.
- Reframe Your Thinking: Adopt healthy habits one or two at a time. You don’t have to do everything at once. Long-term lifestyle changes can be gradual and take a while to become a habit. Also, start integrating your life. What does this mean? Stop compartmentalizing your work, school, and social time. Instead of viewing these separately, reframe them as parts of your life that collaborate. For example, instead of thinking about your work and social life as competing with one another, think about these as all part of your day - sometimes you might need to work more to get something done, but then spend more time spending time with friends another time.
- Learn to Say NO: Understand it’s totally okay to say no to things or take a break if you need it. Becoming an advocate for yourself and what you spend your time doing will give you the control to create balance in your life, whatever that means for you.
- Listen to Your Body and Mind: As simple as it may seem, sometimes we tend to bypass the signals our body and mind are trying to send us. Be kind to yourself and the cues your body and mind are giving you. If you don’t listen to these cues, you can end up feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. These may include exhaustion, irritability, anxiety, frequent colds/viruses, low confidence, not responding to friends/family, etc.
- Find an Activity that Makes YOU Feel Like YOU: Set time aside for a hobby you have, set time aside to start a hobby you want to try, set time aside for YOU. Even things like journaling, reading, meditating, or stretching can be ways to ground yourself and figure out what kind of balance you want in your life.
For more ways to incorporate balance in your life, check out these links:
Explore Your Wellness
If you are struggling to evaluate your own wellness, or are just interested in measuring the areas you would like to improve in, here is a quick activity you can do at home to measure how you’re doing between all eight dimensions of wellness: emotional, environmental, financial, spiritual, social, intellectual, physical, and occupational.
For this activity, all you will need is a piece of blank paper and a pen or a pencil. You can draw the diagram on the top (in second image of blog post) and make sure each section of the circle is labeled with the dimensions of wellness. Once you have the diagram drawn, rate how you’re feeling in each dimension by shading in each level (1= less well and 5= most well). Once you have it filled in, it should look something like the diagram on the bottom. You can use this tool to gauge how you’re feeling and reflect on what you might do really well in, but also some areas you might see room for improvement.
For more information on the eight dimensions of wellness, the Recreation & Wellness website has resources available on each dimension. You can also take this quiz to help you think a little bit more about each dimension (no score is given at the end).
Balance Takes Time
No matter where you are in your wellness journey, the key to balance is to be kind and patient with yourself. Changes and habits aren’t formed overnight and “achieving” balance is a long-term investment in yourself. Slow down, take a breath, and take some time to reflect on the types of balance that make you the happiest and feel like the best version of yourself.
Finding Balance at GVSU
This month, the Press Pause Campaign at Grand Valley is focused on Balance. If you are feeling overwhelmed and struggling to find balance in your life (whatever that means for you), Grand Valley has a variety of resources available for students. Recreation and Wellness offer Wellness Navigation, Wellness Coaching, and a monthly speaker series. The University Counseling Center also offers counseling services to GVSU students, free of charge.
By: Sofia Hessler, WIT Peer Educator
Hello all! This is Katie - taking on writing this spring break blog post so the WIT Peer Educators can take some time to rest, relax and refresh; to press pause if you will.
Is it just me or has this semester seemed really long already?
Now, I know you’re halfway through spring break, but I want to be sure you’re all getting some things done this week. It may seem counterintuitive to have a spring break to do list, but trust me… you’re gonna want to make sure you do some of these things!
Spend time with friends/family - Our social wellness has taken a hit during the pandemic. With more time spent in our rooms and in a virtual world, we’ve lost opportunities to just be in spaces with people. Take some time to be with people you like.
Sleep - Seriously, get some sleep! The WIT Peer Educators have plenty of blog posts on why sleep is so important if you need any reasons to sleep more.
Do something you enjoy - Haven’t read a book for fun in awhile? Haven’t binged the newest Netflix series? Whatever it is (cooking, painting, video-gaming, puzzling, crafting, running, hiking, fishing, dancing, driving, singing….). Now’s your chance!
Unplug - Getting away from technology, especially social media and the 24 hour news cycle can be super cleansing. Maybe go for a walk or call a friend instead?
Whatever you do for the rest of spring break, please take some time to rest.
By: Katie Jourdan, Student Health Promotions Coordinator (and a big fan of resting!)
Permanent link for Can Lack of Sleep Significantly affect One's Physical Well-being? on March 3, 2022
Spoiler: it can.
Have you ever woken up late and been unable to do everything you wanted to do in the day? Finding yourself staying up late on your phone watching Tik Toks? While these activities seem fun at the moment, they negatively impact more than just your energy, they can affect your body, too. Prioritizing your sleep routine can benefit your personal fitness goals!
Your body without sleep: Hungry!
While it is true that sleeping is our body’s way to rest up the brain, sleep gives a deep meaning to our body’s physical health as well. Previously mentioned in last week’s blog, neurotransmitters give our brain signals. Two of them, called ghrelin and leptin, tell our brain how hungry or full we are. A study done by the National Library of Medicine (NIH), tells us that a restriction of sleep, or sleep deprivation, can raise our ghrelin and leptin levels, causing us to get hungrier. The study also concluded that we tend to choose calorie-dense foods that are high in carbohydrates when we’re sleepy and hungry. Now, carbohydrates are really good for our body - they are our body’s preferred source of energy - but the problem is, the study shows we tend to choose fatty foods for our carb fix with lots of less healthy fats, such as pizza, donuts, fries, etc. when we do not get enough sleep.
Other ways sleep affects the body and your fitness goals
- Helps muscles rebuild at night (think muscle repair after a workout)
- Lowers blood pressure, giving your heart and blood vessels a break
- Increases motivation (which is important if you’re trying to stick to routine!)
- Supports your immune system
- Allows for a steadier blood sugar level in the deepest sleep (which helps lower risk of type 2 diabetes).
So if you’re lacking sleep, you’re missing out on all these benefits!
A step in the right direction
Reading all this, it may be overwhelming to think what is happening to your body with too little sleep, but you can make a change and get more sleep if you want! For example, I personally just found out about google calendar and now like to incorporate my sleep schedule into each day. Giving yourself an idea of when to go to bed and how much sleep you will get is very useful! And,the biggest piece of advice I have is setting a specific amount of time to put your phone away before bed. The Tik Tok video will still be there when you wake up. This has become especially helpful for me being, that I would always be on my phone late trying to chase the next helpful or funny video, but what I realized was, the most helpful thing I can do is go to sleep on time; because waking up late and having to risk missing a class is not the funniest thing in the world.
If setting up a calendar a week in advance or putting your phone away an hour before bed seems like too much, then take baby steps. Maybe just plan a day out. You can put your phone in a place where you cannot reach it before you go to bed. What can also help is figuring out how many hours of sleep your body needs. Testing different amounts of sleep and seeing how your body reacts can be handy. This gives you a plan for how many hours you want to set aside to sleep.
Sleep to access the gains
When you go to sleep early, it gives your body strength to take on the day! It leaves more time to cook, say yes to healthier food options, and even prevent obesity. Make sure to get the proper amount of sleep so that you can make the best choices for your body and chase after your fitness goals (or just feel better physically). For more information on the benefits of sleep, how to get better sleep, and sleep in general, be sure to check out our other blog posts about sleep.
By: Emilio Espinosa, WIT Peer Educator
I think we’ve all done it before: the mindless, endless scrolling when we get that spare chance to take a break from work or school. A few minutes of liking Instagram pics on the bus, or maybe a quick look at TikTok during lunch (with the realization that “oh crap!” it's actually been nearly an hour!). Sometimes if I’m in an awkward social situation I even pretend to be interested in my phone (wow, the weather app looks SO interesting all of the sudden). It adds up; so what are we losing to screen time?
Saying what most already know: technology and social media aren’t the best for us.
I look at my screen time and am always surprised by how much time I actually spend on social media. Yet I feel like I never have free time! I’m not alone in this. In a short survey I created last semester, I discovered that of the 45% of GVSU students that reported having no regular leisure time in their schedules, 62% also reported spending 1-6 hours each day on social media (some even said they spent 6-9 hours). It seems that many of us don’t consider social media as “leisure time”. Last year’s Unplugged blog by Sofia talked about how technology use can affect our physical and mental well-being. Today, I’d like to talk more about social media use and the need to constantly be checking our screens.
Screen addiction is a new concept; much of the science around it is from within the last 10 years. But here is something we are starting to realize: experts from recent studies say “the question of whether an adult, or a child, has a problem with technology can't be answered simply by measuring screen time. What matters most… is your relationship to it” (Kamanetz, NPR). Technology and social media use is linked to decreased psychological well-being, signs of addiction, and even physically changing your brain matter.
- Are you troubled, restless, or otherwise unhappy when unplugged?
- Is your technology or social media use increasing over time? Have you tried to limit yourself and been unsuccessful?
- Does your technology or social media use interfere with relationships, job, or school?
- Do you ever feel guilty about your technology or social media use?
If you answered yes to most of these questions you may be struggling with screen or social media ‘addiction’. It’s ok, many people are in the same boat. So what can you do?
What would you do right now if you didn’t have your phone or computer with you? Pretend like you don’t have responsibilities for a moment: the group chat isn’t blowing up, you aren’t waiting for that important email, that assignment isn’t due at midnight. What activities and experiences would you explore? This could be the time to revisit an old activity you used to love or try something new. When I was little I used to pull all-nighters in order to finish a book- I realized that in recent years I had essentially stopped reading for fun. Now that I limit my social media use, I found I truly do have the time to read (even if it’s just for a half-hour each night).
Here's what I did that may help you as well:
- Set screen time limits for some of your apps, especially the ones that are eating up most of your time or don’t make you feel good (hint: it’s probably the social media apps)
- Write blocks of time into your schedule where you can allow yourself to unplug. Often if I don't explicitly give myself time for leisure or unplugging, I don’t do it.
It doesn’t have to be reading. You could try a new workout, like yoga or kickboxing; pick up knitting; get lunch with a good friend (no phones at the table, of course). And try to resist the urge to constantly check your phone. I don’t think the world will end if you accidentally make eye contact with someone in public.
Speaking of eye contact, keep an eye out these next few weeks: I’ll be walking around asking GVSU students how they “unplug”. Share your answer with me and you could win an awesome Unplugged t-shirt from RecWell! Hopefully this gives you some inspiration to get off this webpage and try something new!
By: Stella Sterling, WIT Peer Educator