Overwhelmed? 5 Steps to Balance

Balance (noun)

1. an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.

2. a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.

When you were a kid, did you ever play on a seesaw? If you were the larger kid, you sat at the bottom and were the one who had to do all the work, pushing yourself off the ground, only to crash down again a moment later. If you were the smaller kid, you sat at the top in an uncomfortable tilt toward the center, waiting for someone else to do the work so you could finally go up and down, feeling helpless to make the seesaw move on your own.

Strangely enough, that little seesaw probably taught us a life lesson.

Finding balance on the farm is like playing on a seesaw with someone not matched in your size. Either you're sitting stressed at the bottom with too many tasks looming in front of you, or you're stuck helplessly at the top, wondering if you'll ever get it all done. The farthest extremes of too much work and not enough money or time to do it - of being surrounded by too many people or being completely alone - of being overjoyed with the new birth of an animal or a productive garden or being heartbroken at the loss of the same - of being raring to go and too tired to move.

So how does one find balance on the farm?

How does one work 40 hours a week with 20 hours commute time, spend all day Saturday and Sunday cleaning, washing, and doing farm chores, cooking for the whole week, and trying to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night so we don’t get sick or burnt out? Holy cow, I just described my life. I’m sure that’s anyone’s life who has started any new venture. The only problem with the homesteading lifestyle is that these goals and plans are unending. It isn’t simply a new venture that will settle down once everything is done. Everything will NEVER be done! Once the initial infrastructure, animals, garden are in order, then the real work actually begins! I have to admit, it makes me tired just thinking about it.

So, how does one find balance in all that chaos? How does one get through each day, feeling accomplished and not exhausted? How does one get through each month, each season, each year without wanting to curl up in a ball and cry?

First, you need to figure out what your personal balance is. Balance is the thing that brings joy to your heart, a smile to your face, energy to your step. It’s the thing that makes you calm and clear-headed. For some folks, it’s family. For others, it’s solitude. Once you figure out what that thing is for you, the rest is just simple scheduling. Yes, I know, that sounds like one more thing to do in your busy life, but scheduling your "thing" will make all the rest of your activities run a little smoother - in your head and in your heart, at least.

For me, it’s not an outside activity or person that brings balance. For me, it’s having my goals organized and divided into bite-sized pieces that I can accomplish each day or each week. Looking back at how much I’ve accomplished gives me a feeling of balance, especially when the mountain in front of me looks overwhelming. I guess my center of balance lies between the past and the future, knowing what I've accomplished, and having a solid plan for what I want to accomplish.

Even though the dictionary says balance is a noun, keep in mind balance really isn’t a thing or a place. In our quest, balance is more of a process. Balance is constantly re-aligning to your center so you consistently feel good about yourself and where you are. Just as a plane flying on auto-pilot doesn't stay consistently on track, it re-aligns itself continuously, we can continuously re-align ourselves back to our balance by using the following tools.

1) Decide what balance truly means to you. Is it external? Internal? A bit of both? Think of your goals, what's important in your life, what makes you happy.

2) Create a tool or journal or calendar to schedule your balance activity into your life for the coming week, and be specific about your actions, not just a random “spend more time with the kids” or “get more sleep.” Try “Spend one hour on Tuesday with the kids, with no phone and no TV” or “Go to bed at 8:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week.”

3) Pay attention to your physical side – sleep, good food, exercise, relaxation. At the very least, if you’re achy or over-whelmed or agitated, try going for a brisk walk for ten minutes.

4) Pay attention to your human side – forgiveness, reflection, commitment, be kind and patient – with yourself!

5) Connect with yourself on where you are with your balance once per week. Check in on how you’re feeling. Are you on the bottom of the seesaw, feeling as if you're doing all the work? Are you on the top of the seesaw, feeling helpless? What changes can you make next week to re-center (step 1)? Write down next week’s schedule (step 2).

Let me know how you're doing with your balance! And don't ever be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. You are not an island. We're all in this together.