I love the YOGABODY Yoga Talk Show podcast. Every week, I look forward to the latest episode; the range of topics covered is so broad I’m guaranteed to learn something new. A couple of weeks ago, the topic of discussion was life balance and the causes of adrenal fatigue. It’s not a sexy topic, but it’s an important one.
I’m 21 and I truly believe our generation is seeking balance, or at least trying to tip the balance in favour of their well-being as opposed to reckless enjoyment. More than ever we are seeing turmeric lattes and superfood açai bowls and cool yoga studios. Public figures are healthy cookbook authors and instagram yogis and fitness ebook writers.
And yet so often it’s an all-or-nothing affair. You’re vegan or you’re not. You’re a yogi or you’re not. You’re healthy or you’re not. And you only ARE if you take things to the next level. You a raw vegan, and practice 90 minutes every day and always drink your lemon water in the morning. I’m not sure why there is such an obsession with perfection, but let me tell you, it’s not perfection you seek. It’s balance.
Have you ever regretted eating so healthily you couldn’t eat your mother’s apple crumble? Probably.
And have you ever been so careless you regretted eating the entire brunch spread last Christmas? Probably, too.
But did you regret having that one bite of your friend’s pancake stack and ordering the smoothie bowl for yourself? Probably not.
We also mistakingly feel that balance is just a food thing. Balance is an everything thing. Because what is imbalanced in one aspect of your life may be counterbalanced by something else. Balance is something that is advised by yoga teachers, nutritionists and life coaches; not choosing one extreme over the other. It’s a way of life, not a means to an end. Balance should not inspire guilt, either. It’s not because you’re not a raw vegan you’re a bad vegan. It’s not because you haven’t done the whole30 that you’re a bad paleo. Balance for you will look nothing like balance for someone else. But balance is so abstract, don’t you think? It’s an ideal that’s hard to pinpoint, you can only feel it. There’s no common denominator or way of measuring balance on a scale.
So how do you add more yin to your yang, so to speak? Well here are 8 things you can do to bring balance, rather than an extreme of good or bad, into your life!
troubleshoot your sleep
You may be sleeping, but are you sleeping well enough? Are you feeling ‘tired and wired’, as was mentioned in the podcast? Then it may not be sleep itself, but the conditions you set around sleep. Sleep is a great marker of your health and overall wellbeing. If you wake up tired after 8 hours, something isn’t right. You can improve your sleeping conditions by creating more balance around bedtime. Watch a nature documentary rather than a drama show, drink herbal tea rather than waking up your digestive system with a snack (even a healthy one), don’t watch your friends’ night out snapchat stories, and don’t bring anythig but a clear head to your bed. Your bed has two functions, and one of them is sleep! (The other is breakfast. Wink wink.)
tailor your diet to your life and needs
The easiest way to balance your diet is to think about what makes you feel good, and how to fill any gaps and deficiencies effectively. Stop listening to what your favourite instagrammer says. Vegan makes you feel good? Awesome! Get a blood test and make sure you aren’t lacking anything. Vegan makes you feel crap? That’s awesome, too! Maybe your plant-based habits need some fine tuning, or you need to look elsewhere. Maybe eating an omnivore diet is what works best for you. Maybe it’s just lentils that mess you up. Go find out, write it down and don’t listen to what anyone else says.
work on your caffeine habits
You may not know you have a coffee dependency. I probably do, but never exceed one, sometimes two coffees a day so I know I’m not putting my body into overdrive and can easily go without it. But caffeine is the definition of imbalance. It’s addictive, people consume it to induce energy they can’t find somewhere else, i.e. naturally. If you drink a lot of coffee, even bulletproofs and cacao and green tea, it could be the source of your problems. You could substitute your caffeine for spiced nut milks (like hot almond + cinnamon), turmeric lattes or just plain old herbal teas!
seriously address your cravings
You may have a healthy, whole and nutrient dense diet but still suffer from cravings. Cravings aren’t just what you think they are, they’re not just something you should ignore for 20 minutes until it goes away. They could be related to the way you are eating (maybe something IS missing), how you’re sleeping (see above), what you’re drinking (see above), if you’re stressed, how you’re exercising. So take note of them if your cravings are recurring and make sure they’re not just out of old habits. If you’re craving Doritos when watching your favourite Disney film because you always used to eat Doritos, it’s not a deficiency!
practice complimentary types of exercise
If you’re a Crossfitter, it may be time to include some yin yoga. If you’re a kundalini yogi, then it may be time to add some strength training. There’s nothing wrong with hard exercise, it sends your body to new extremes and heights, and releases plenty of endorphins. But gentle exercise is a wonderful complement, and a great way to create more balance in your exercise routine. You don’t have to do either one or the other. It’s better for your mental health, too. Having the option to do something restorative rather than pushing through a HIIT workout when you’re just not feeling it is a great way to stay in tune with your needs.
be more intentional and deliberate at work
Life gets really hectic for me as a student, too. I have really quiet periods and then all of a sudden there are 5 assignments and exams are just around the corner. Don’t let the stress and pressure control you, at work or at school. Stress can drive you, to a certain extent, but not to the point of exhaustion. Some people choose overly stressful careers, and it’s hard to control the distribution of stress in those cases. But for most of us, being more organised and present in our work is all it takes to feel more peaceful in life overall. Make plans and lists, focus on the task ahead, meditate on it, do whatever it takes to be in the moment rather than half of you on the important stuff and the other half on the less importnt stuff and before you know it you’re burnt out. Sometimes balance also means being strict with yourself!
assess your friendships
This is a big one. Some friendships just drain you of your energy, and some make your heart full. I live by the code of “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. If you have too many needy and high-maintenance friends, or just too many negative relationships, you either have to remove those people from your life or find people who you can receive energy from to restore the balance. It all depends on your circumstances, but we know who the toxic people are once we take a closer look. Same goes if you only have friends you rely on but have no one to take care of. Being responsible for people’s well being is a huge blessing and valuable life experience. It can be hard but it it shapes your personality and creates balance of its own!
fix your relationship with your phone
I actually think this may be one of the bigger ones in our lives. People seem to be either head first on instagram and Facebook and over-sharers and users of everything, or nothing at all. There aren’t very many dabblers, who participate but just enough to stay connected and benefit from the good side of social media and technology. I’ve found instagram and my blog to be a wonderful platform to share what I have learned and learn from others. But it’s a slippery slope once you start scrolling. My tip: Only check them once or twice a day, disable notifications that don’t matter (so and so liked your photo, you might like these pizza boards or XYZ is going to an event near you tomorrow) and put your phone/computer on Do Not Disturb when you’re working. Then at least when you get lost in puppy instagram feeds it’s a deliberate decision, not accidental. Become a dabbler, you’ll be better for it, and participate as little as you feel comfortable!
So what’s the takeaway? Be deliberate and don’t vilify one option over the other. They are both valid and both necessary!
Lots of love,
Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo