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
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for What Does "Balance" Look Like? on April 7, 2022.