How To Create ‘Balance’ In Your Day

The importance of having balance is not all about taking time off, or refusing to look at your phone; balance is a personal thing so think about what works best for you. For example, short breaks during the day (like taking a walk, or finding half-an-hour to read an interesting magazine) can make all the difference to your energy levels and reduces stress at the same time. You only need 10 minutes away from thinking about work for your brain to begin to rebalance.

With all or nothing terms like ‘switch off’ and ‘time out’, it’s easy to see it as all or nothing. If you’re working you’re not doing non-work thing, or you take the day off and don’t think about work. The problem for many people is that this all-or-nothing approach actually creates more stress than it resolves. Even if you’re not looking at your phone, you still know that demands for your time are coming in on email. Even if you’re on holiday, you still know it’s that big meeting, even if you’re not logging into work. Concerns and worries still plague the back of your mind, even though you’re trying to switch off.

There is also a problem with the word, ‘balance’. If you think about balancing, it’s precarious, like walking along a tightrope. You could be out of balance at any time. For many people, trying to find balance feels very much like this, they are walking a tightrope, trying to get the right balance but it never feels that stable.

Maybe it’s time to think about ‘rhythm’ rather than balance for living a healthy and satisfying life. Finding rhythm is all about finding a pace, a routine that works for you and your lifestyle – because nothing works for everyone. We are all different after all.

From a psychology perspective, taking short breaks from a certain way of thinking within a day can be more effective than taking long breaks from work. Your brain only needs 10 minutes of a switch in thinking to feel refreshed. You’ve heard of power naps, well this is the same for your brain, but you don’t need to sleep! If you are thinking about something stressful, switch to thinking about something relaxing or fun for 10 to 15 minutes; this will give you access to more parts of your brain, because the stress chemical in the brain, cortisol, will have calmed down.

When stress chemicals increase in the brain, your brain basically thinks you’re in danger and shuts down some parts so you can focus on the survival issue at hand. The problem is that this includes your logical and creative thinking in your frontal cortex. Planning short breaks from work makes a huge difference to your ability to think straight, maintain your energy and concentration and actually makes your more productive than when you just keep going.

The key is to find breaks in your routine that work well for you. Here are some suggestions to try:

Read a book or magazine. Read something that engages you to give your mind a much-needed rest from other thinking processes and stimulate it at the same time. Many people experience a sensation of relaxation when reading and small blocks of time of 10 or 20 minutes are all that’s needed.

Get up and take a walk. It could be a trip to the coffee machine, round the office or even a trip to the toilet. The act of movement releases new chemicals into your brain and deregulates your emotional state. Do something every hour or so for the best benefit.

Change the subject. If you’re stuck on something go and do something else even it’s also work related. Get stuck into that pile of filing, or pull together that spreadsheet to give you a break and refresh you ready to get back into the tough stuff again.

Set limits. If it helps you to check your phone or email at the weekend or on holiday do, but boundary it carefully. Give 30 minutes to it first thing in the morning or have a ‘beer and business’ session late afternoon where you can catch up on work and deal with anything important. This will enable you to relax and enjoy the rest of your holiday.

Do a short piece of relaxation, mindfulness or hypnosis. People often reject these practices because they feel they need total peace and quiet, or the right place or environment. Every little helps, such as a 10 or 15 minute-long hypnosis script on the train (providing you know it will bring you back before your stop, of course) or some relaxation breathing exercises at your desk. Even taking just three or four big deep breaths, regularly, makes a lot of difference to your energy levels and mood.

It doesn’t need to be hard to get more rhythm in your life. Pick one or two of these that you think could work for you and practise them. Give it a few weeks and notice how you feel and whether you are being more productive and even enjoying yourself just a little bit more.


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