The Balanced Life And Radical Self CareAdeshola Ezeokoli
When you live a Balanced Life, you are better equipped to handle what life throws at you.
Why do I prefer to talk about the balanced life, instead of self-care. Self-care conjures up pictures of a spa day, Massage, exercise, and sometimes people throw in meditation. The balanced life, however prioritizes total care for your spirit soul and body. It is divided into five pillars, which I call the five pillars of balance. Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational. When “self care” is seen from this perspective, it becomes more than just one spa day every few months. It is a way of life. It is realizing that unless you take care of yourself consistently, you are no good to anyone. Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, a balanced life does not mean giving equal amounts of time, energy, and focus to everything in your life. That is not possible to do. Somethings in your life are more important than others, and some things in your life are more important at certain times than others. Of course, true emergencies are most important, and most urgent. For example, a burst appendix, is always going to be more important than a therapy session, simply because it is a life threatening emergency. I will now break down the five pillars of balance, and how to be practical about taking care of the whole you.
A lot can be said about physical health, and how to take care of yourself. This alone is a whole seminar topic. I will however say these three things:
Do your best to eliminate as much sugar as you can from your diet. Blood sugar spikes and crashes make you more tired than you probably ordinarily would be. Resist the urge to use food as a coping mechanism, or comfort tool. Find practical ways to keep healthy foods around you so that you do not fall into the temptation of eating junk food all day long. Instead of seeing sugar, sugary drinks, and sugary snacks as convenient, see them as a sneaky enemy, definitely not to be consumed every day, if at all. I personally eat no sugar. Stay away from sodas. If you live off sugar highs and crashes, you will always feel tired, and never feel like you have any energy to do anything. Just prior to Thanksgiving, I would have a latte every Sunday, and by 4 pm, I would be extremely tired. After I dumped the lattes in favor of no sugar and more protein, the change was instantaneous. At this point I use no sugar at all. When it comes to exercise, I would say that embracing activity is a mindset, that is more important then clocking in at the gym every day. Fall in love with movement, because, paradoxically speaking, exercise energizes you.
Your state of mind is very very important. Thoughts become things, and the way you think literally defines you. Your mindset becomes the control panel for the rest of your life. The things that we think and believe, should empower us, and not limit us. For example, if you constantly believe no one is on your side, that you have little support, and that you have to do everything on your own, that is what you will see happening in your life. One version of Scripture says as a man thinks in his heart, so does he become. What you think about, you eventually bring about. We need to examine the source of our thoughts and see if they come from a place of truth. Even if they do come from a place of truth, if they are not serving us, it is time to change the narrative. Everyone has a little narrator inside them. I am not talking about hearing voices, as in mental illness. I’m talking about the “voice in your head“ that is a result of experiences, parental programming, and right or wrong conclusion that we have come to over the course of our lives. If what your narrator is saying is true, but does not empower you, it is time to reframe the narrative and work with your reframed narrative. If your narrator is false, present yourself with evidence to the contrary. Don’t tell yourself stories that do not have you winning.
In my personal life, I have truly undergone an emotional revolution. I was brought up, to suppress negative emotions, and only mildly express positive ones. I grew up hearing things like “don’t cry are you a baby”. I grew up hearing things like “don’t get angry with your parents”. Exuberance was squashed in favor of “lady like behavior“. As we all know, suppressed emotion comes out in a variety of unwanted ways. When you “feel bad“ and you “just don’t know why“, it is because you haven’t learned to get to the root of the reason behind your emotional states. When dealing with emotions, I learned/developed something I called the OAC method. Own, accept, and control.
First of all, you have to own whatever emotion it is: be at anger, jealousy, sadness, happiness, pride, confusion, suspicion, mistrust, dislike, love, etc. what ever it is, you have to own it. Owning an emotion takes self compassion. If you see someone whose child has a similar diagnosis to your child, and that child seems to be doing better, it can trigger feelings of anger, jealousy, sadness, loss. Instead of pretending that those feelings do not exist (after all I am a Christian), Examine the feelings. Examine the emotions. Admit that they exist.
Accept: once again, accepting your emotions, whatever they are takes self compassion. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that you are only human. It is only when you accept the emotions for what they are, that you can understand, deal with, and control them in a way that serves you, your child, and your family. no, accepting an emotion does not mean overreacting or not reacting at all. Let me give an example. If a spider walked into the room…
Control: no one has more control over your emotional state than you do. To think that someone controls your emotional state, is to ascribe to them a psychic power that they really do not have. Some of the ways we think about emotions have to do with the way we frame them. For example instead of saying: I choose to over react in anger toward my child did; we say she made me mad. No, she did not make you mad. Am I seeing that people cannot trigger emotions in us? Absolutely, they can. However, the control of the emotion is up to us. Only when we own and accept, Dig deep and understand the emotions that we feel, are we able to redirect and control them. Feeling intense emotion, is not an excuse to overreact. The balance is that, we should not suppress them either. You have control over what you do when emotions rise up within you. Let your emotions, be the fuel that propels you forward, let the energy prop you up, not drag you down. Emotions are energy, emotions are things.
Kill or starve: There are some emotions that you do not want, at all. Remember if you starve an emotion of the things that feed it, it will die.
It is good to know that we have a God who is watching out for us. And when life happens, we take solace in the fact that we are not alone. I make it to practice to pray every day, however this is not just because I want to take some checkbook that I have done my “quiet time“.It is because prayer helps me stay and feel connected to God. Spiritual practices should not be neglected, because They ground us, and remind us of what is really important. There’s a saying that goes that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Pray, read your Bible, meditate, keep company of spiritual people. Actually that was what the Bible was talking about when it said not to neglect the fellowship with other believers. Seek inner peace through meditation on the word and the words of God. Remember not to believe narratives that would have you thinking that God is not on your side, or that you can be more loving, more patient and more reasonable than God. Turn to Him without any agenda except to get to know Him and through that find your identity in God.
Your relationships are part of your self-care. There is a saying that goes, you are the sum total of the top five people that you spend time with. Who are you spending time with? You do not have to be surrounded by negative, toxic people. You get to choose who you give your time, energy, and focus to. Yes, you have your family. Outside of your family, what are your relationships like? This is not high school, where having numerous friends is some type of “badge of honor“. This is real life, and you deserve relationships that do not drag you down. I want you to examine your relationships in the light of these five categories.
Rejectors, reducers, reflectors, refiners, and refreshers:
It is crucial to balanced life, to know the types of people that you have around you, who your support systems are, who you can rely on. When we have good, steady, drama free, peaceful people in our lives, we need to hold onto them and not push them away.
Remember your five pillars of balance, which is the right approach to self-care, which leads to not only success in one area, but the springboard of a balanced life leads to multi dimensional success at home, at work, and with life in general. Do you want to live a balanced life, stress free, purposeful and successful?