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As kids, most of us can remember playing on a seesaw (also called a teeter-totter or teeterboard). A long plank balanced in the middle on a fixed support – a pivot point – with children sitting on each end, swinging up and down by pushing the ground alternately with their feet. If both occupants are the same weight, there comes a moment when they are suspended off the ground, the board in a straight line.
I recall playing alone on a seesaw one day, standing in the middle, trying to get both edges off the ground. After many attempts and what seemed like a million tiny steps to the left and right, I stood there finally with both edges in a straight line, using subtle pressure to maintain that balance. The feeling of accomplishment I felt is indescribable. No strain on either leg, no fear of crashing down to earth with a bang … nothing but an easy sense of contentment.
Taking that metaphor into our daily adult lives, when was the last time you felt balanced? When you felt that everything was just right?
With so much time and mindspace given to balance in living – work-life balance, mind-body balance, head-heart balance, etc. – the question arises: Is balance even important? Well, the short answer is: Yes! Nature is built on balance. Just as the bright light of day needs to be balanced by the relaxing darkness of night; summer needs to be balanced by winter; dry spells balanced by wet weather, so also do human beings need to find a state of balance in every aspect of their lives.
If as children, all we did was play without taking the time to study, we would grow up without the knowledge and skills essential to get employment. Conversely, all work and no play would not only make Jack a dull boy but it would also increase his stress levels without giving him an outlet to release all that stress. A majority of modern ailments are stress-related, and lack of balance in our lives is the leading cause. How can we address this potentially dangerous imbalance?
Living a balanced lifestyle means living mindfully. Put in maximum effort at work by all means, but then be sure to take the time off every day to relax as well. Cultivate a new hobby; make time for old favourite pastimes; catch up with family and friends; the avenues are plenty. Don’t postpone your R&R (rest & relaxation) for your vacation twice a year. Try to achieve the R&R mindset everyday.
Just as a balanced lifestyle is important, so too is a balanced diet. Don’t depend on caffeine-fuelled, sugar-loaded fast foods to carry you through the day, that is a surefire way of dampening your own natural energy reserves. Instead, get your boost as Mother Nature intended: from fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, nourishing grains and organic sources of protein. A balanced diet not only provides nutrients for your body but it also feeds your soul. Living foods have the power to heal if chosen and prepared mindfully.
Working long hours is bad enough but then we get on to a treadmill and further stress our systems. Our bodies are evolutionarily designed to perceive running as a stress (threat) indicator, triggering the fight-or-flight response. This releases cortisol (the stress hormone), which then proceeds to shut down our rest-and-digest system.
A failure to follow bouts of strenuous activity with proper and complete relaxation causes our stress levels to stay elevated. This has dangerous consequences for our digestive systems, which of course affects all other systems in the body.
This doesn’t mean you should stop your favourite exercise routine; just be sure to incorporate some form of deep relaxation along with it. Add on proven stress-busters like yoga, tai chi or even meditation.
Whatever method you choose to achieve balance in your daily life, do it mindfully and do it regularly.
AlexJul 4 2018