Be kind to yourself

Be Kind to Yourself. I was, and it paid off.

Happy New Year!  Well, Happy Chinese New Year.  You may have noticed that my holiday break became an extended holiday break.  I bet there are a lot of you who felt like me: did you need a holiday after the holidays?  It’s time to be kind to yourself and make some changes to bring balance back into your life.

I decided to give myself a few more weeks of needed downtime from this blog, and I’m glad I did.  It’s paid off.  I’m feeling motivated, prepared, and enthusiastic about the year ahead.  Kindness is my mantra, and I decided to choose kindness for myself this time.

You’re probably thinking, “Why do you need a break?  I need a break, and I don’t have the leisure of just deciding to take that break.”  And that, my friends, is exactly what I’d like to challenge today. 

Life Off Kilter

I launched this website in October, and yes, it added a lot of working hours to my life.  I’m not going to go into the details of what I spent my time on, because frankly, it’s boring.  What I will say is that I let those added hours and responsibility throw my life off kilter.  I compromised on aspects of my life that were essential for my mental, physical, and emotional health. 

A perfect example – I have worked out several times a week for years.  It was a high priority in my life, because it gave me energy and made me feel strong and healthy.   Not even 3 weeks after the launch, after a setback of one minor cold (not Covid), I completely quit exercising.  Obviously, my life had lost balance.

I know I must have the space in my life to absorb these extra hours and responsibility, but why do I feel like I’m constantly rushed, constantly struggling to keep up?  What the hell do I spend my time on?  My life spun out of control because of exactly that – control – and my need to have it.

“Perfection is the enemy of progress.”

– Winston churchill

I am a perfectionist.  I used to think that this was one of my strengths and was proud of my attention to detail, my desire to have everything just right.   But I’ve learned two very important lessons about perfectionism. 

  1. It hinders me from living a bigger life.
  2. Nobody but me notices (or cares) when everything is “just right.”

I have come to realize that if I wait until everything is perfect, a lot less is going to get done and there will be a lot of missed opportunity.  Mistakes are ok.  Failing is ok.  Can you tell I’m still trying to convince myself of these ideas?  It’s a process.

Give yourself a break without quitting your life

Do you feel like you’re always behind, treading water, just keeping your head up?  Here are some practical steps I took to help create more time and balance in my life.  Maybe they can work for you too.

Take a hard and honest look at what you’re spending your time on.

Do you really need to be doing it all?  Do you find yourself scrolling away little “chunks” of time that considerably add up?  How can you better use your time?

This applies to all areas of life, from your home and work to your friends and even time spent on yourself.  I found this exercise challenging; it was hard to be honest with myself.  I had to realize that perhaps I’m not as needed as much as I think I am. 

For instance, I have never gone to early morning exercise classes, because I felt I needed to be there to make sure my son got off to school “properly.”  But I found that letting him fend for himself 1-2 times a week translated into gains for both of us.  I was able to fit in morning yoga, and he has learned to be more independent, having to get up and out on his own.

It can be difficult to loosen your grip – delegating more tasks at work, not attending every PTA meeting, missing a night out with your friends so you can have a restorative night at home.  But it’s important to consider the potential benefits to other areas of your life – they may outweigh the value of holding onto what you’re currently doing.

Define your desired direction in life.

What is your personal ideal?

As a detail-oriented person, I can get caught up in the little things – missing the bigger picture.  For the past few years, I’ve chosen a word of the year to help me understand the broader direction in which I’d like my life to be moving. 

Last year, my word was fearless.  I had a lot of things I wanted to accomplish which had a high potential for failure and rejection: launching a website, posting my writing and photos, working in a new field, socializing with new people.

This year, my word is persevere.  I accomplished a lot of what I set out to do last year.  Now, I’ve got to stick with it.  I am notorious for starting a new endeavor only to drop it and start something else when I get bored, or things get tough.  This year, I want to keep climbing to see what else is possible.

Set goals. 

What can you do to make your life more fun?  What can you add or take away to bring balance to your life?

Setting goals shouldn’t be daunting.  It should be a compilation that excites you, that makes you smile.  I have been setting goals my entire life.  My parents started me off on this process at a very young age, writing out my spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental goals for each year.  (I know, my parents are pretty special.)

I like an idea I gleaned from Gretchen Rubin.  She proposes making a 22 for 22.  Basically, I’ve put down 22 things I want to accomplish in 2022 to foster balance, productivity, and joy in my life.  I made sure I included goals that were fun (like visit my son in Milan), healthy (work on my posture – but for real this time), productive (re-launch the website on Feb 1st), and mindful of my relationships (continue My Rings project). 

One very important thing about setting goals: accountability.  Goals are easy to forget about, usually by mid-January!  So, it’s important to build in accountability for yourself.  What will make it more likely that you will actually stick to them?

I have made it an enjoyable ritual to swap lists with my sister and a good friend of mine.  We share our hopes for the year and give each other suggestions and support.  It bolsters my connection with them and makes me feel more accountable since I’ve divulged my list.

Get help. 

Who or what could help you gain time and balance in your life?

You don’t have to do it all.  If you have the resources, you can always throw money at the problem: hire a babysitter, get a housekeeper, employ a consultant to help on a project, get a meal service plan.  Many times, we continue to do things ourselves because we simply don’t take the time to organize someone else to do it.  Take the time – it will be worth it in the long run.

Sometimes, we think we don’t have the money for something, but it just takes a re-jig of finances.  One of my best friends saved her marriage by cutting back on dining out so they could afford a housekeeper.  The endless fights about who should be cleaning the bathrooms were over.

Even if you don’t have cash to spare, there are probably people in your life who could help.  I understand, sometimes it’s hard to ask for help.  But accepting help is not a failure.  It’s letting kindness in.  Even small asks can lead to big gains.

Get started. 

What are you waiting for?

Set deadlines for yourself…reasonable deadlines.  Remember, we’re being kind to ourselves.  If you don’t specify a timeframe, you might just keep putting it off.  If you’re a perfectionist, like me, there will never be a right time.  It’ll never be good enough. 

I hope you’re able to use these strategies to create more space in your life.  They aren’t magic solutions, and it’s always a process.  However, I find having a framework to fall back on helps keep me striving for the peace and calm of a balanced life.  Namaste.

Do you feel like you live a balanced life?  What are some of your strategies?


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