Thursday, March 31, 2011

Balance & Excess

So, you've got things balanced? Everything going on in your life seems pretty much in just the right spot?  Remember, this is temporary.  Ebbs & flows are a natural part of life.  However, you want to ride this wave of balance as long as possible, right?  Of course!  After all, balance is what we strive for our whole lives.  So, how do we "milk" this time of balance for all it's worth? 

First, celebrate.  You've worked hard to get to this point and you deserve to treat yourself.  However, remember that the greatest reward is reaching the state of balance itself.  It can be easy to overdo celebrations for your achievements, therefore tipping the balance.  It is difficult enough when outside circumstances tip the balance, however, self-sabotage brings forth guilt as well.  We sure don't want this!  So, what can we do to ensure the maximum benefit from finding our balance?  It's simple really: Avoid excess.  This is easier said than done, however. Some things we do to celebrate are good, but even good things can turn bad when done in excess.  The following guidelines will help mange various means of celebration, without losing your balance:
  • Drinks (1-2 is best..unless you handle your alcohol well, but even so, it's not healthy to have more than this in one day)
  • Food (Indulge, but keep in mind portion sizes & healthy options)
  • Shopping (Keep your budget in mind & spend on things that make you feel better, not guilty)
  • Taking time off (a little time can go a long way, so don't overuse your time off to the point that you don't have any left during times of crisis, when you REALLY need it)
  • Entertainment (TV, movies, and shows can be great ways to celebrate, but remember that you need down time too...also, don't let it interfere with your perception of reality; TV & movies generally don't depict a real view of life and lead to wanting what you don't have)
  • Taking time alone (This is good thing. Time alone leads to reflection, which is necessary for growth.  However, too much time alone is referred to as isolation & this is not good.  Time with family & friends is a good thing too...this being said...)
  • Family & Friends ( It is good to have a strong support system to help when you need it & to celebrate when don't.  However, too much togetherness is not a good thing.  Everyone needs time away from each other or minor annoyances can turn into major problems...Remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder.)
I'm sure you can think of many other ways to celebrate balance, but try to avoid self-sabotage through excess.  The only exception? 
(not to be confused with sloth & sex ;-)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Napping & The Highly Coveted Power Nap

Research has shown that a body needs at least 8 hours of sleep per night in order to function at its best.  However, this isn't always feasible and sometimes even getting 8 hours per night just doesn't seem to provide the extra "rest, refresh, & refuel" that we need (especially during times of transition or upheaval).  I have recently rediscovered a little nugget of "zing" that presently has me professing to be a "power nap junkie". 

I have always loved to sleep.  When my sons were under the age of 5, naps were essential (for both mother & child).  At first, I told myself that I needed to nap with them to get them to go to sleep & to help them fall back to sleep if they awoke too soon.  It wasn't long before I looked forward to these "nap times".  Sometimes a 2 hour nap seemed a bit long for me, so I'd get up after about 1 hour and use the rest of the baby's nap time as "me time".  If you've ever cared for babies, you understand that sleep is essential and every last drop that you can squeeze out of each day sustains you.   When children get older, naps aren't as necessary, so it is easy to forget how vital they can be. 

Several years ago, I had a brief encounter with power naps.  This was prodded by a new job working with emotionally disturbed students, a difficult time at home, and regular duties that make up motherhood.  I was physically & emotionally exhausted.  Thank goodness I had an assistant at work (as most teachers do not) and could actually take a lunch break most days.  Out of necessity, I found myself retreating to my warm car for a 20 minute nap.  It did the trick.  I could venture back into my classroom (which, pre-nap, I had jokingly referred to as my post at the gates of hell) and continue to provide love to those in need.  Somehow, I seemed to make it through that difficult time at home and managed to keep my kids fed, clothed, and nurtured just enough. 

Many years have passed.  My kids are more independent and my home life is pretty great. I have recently changed jobs (which is a much needed improvement, as I am no longer a gatekeeper for hell).  However, with the job change and still feeling the newness of it, I find myself in a state of transition.  Transition brings exhaustion: schedule changes, figuring out how & when to get my kids to and from school, figuring out how to juggle graduate school, figuring out the pieces of a new job, and figuring out a new identity based on a new job.  This week my kids went on vacation with their grandparents & I found myself with a little bit of flexibility in time.  My love sent me an article titled "Unleash the Power of the Nap".  It reminded me of those warm car naps that used to be part of my everyday survival.  Perhaps they could help during this time of transition, I thought.  I am by no means in "survival mode" as I was in those days, but maybe it would help take the edge off.  On Tuesday, I went out to my car, set an alarm on my phone, and proceeded to try to settle in for a power nap.  I felt like I had trouble falling asleep & it was over practically as soon as it began.   I went back into the office feeling groggy.  However, this grogginess lasted only 5 minutes, then the magic set in.  I felt totally refreshed and it just kept getting better.  By evening, I was sold.  I had an abundance of energy and felt very alert.  In fact, I began realizing just how sleep deprived I had been in the previous months.  I found time for a  10-20 minute nap every day for the rest of the week and it became increasingly easier to get to sleep.  My boys returned from their vacation and I found myself frantically wondering when I'd get my next nap fix with my flexibility in time being compromised once again.  Then I remembered that it is tennis season and I frequently have to wait in the car with my younger son while my older son has practice after school.  Generally, this has been a time to catch up on reading and assist my son with homework, however, I wonder...

Yes, I think a multitasking superwoman is just the person to pull this off...I'll let you know the results of this experiment next week & I suggest you try to carve out some time for a 20 minute snooze...

and remember, "You snooze you lose" (that nagging emotional & physical exhaustion) ;-)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Empowerment: The Basics

Maintaining balance equals maximum power within one's self.  How we do this differs from one individual to another, but some basics apply no matter how diverse our differences may be.  If you follow these biggies (what I like to call my "Top 10") then you will be better able to navigate the subtle balancing act that comes with the unique "everyday" life you lead.  Here they are:

  1. Get enough sleep.  (preferably 8 hrs., but if impossible, naps are divine...power naps consisting of no more than 30 min. are amazing refreshers)
  2. Eat healthy food. (real food, not junk food...always eat breakfast...and drink loads of water!)
  3. Exercise (30 min. per day is all you need to keep your metabolism the morning is even better to keep energy levels up...exercise improves your mood too!)
  4. Stay mentally alert (go back to school or constantly read on varying subjects...don't let things pile up  mentally, get it out of your head & move on!)
  5. Connect with other people. (you can learn so much from the richness that others convey...don't be a loner, however...)
  6. Take some quiet time for yourself. (you need alone time every once in a while to reflect on personal issues & problem also need time to pamper yourself :-)
  7. Stay positive. (sometime you just have to fake it until you make, just smile and wait for the next positive wave to roll in)
  8. Express your emotions appropriately. (without freaking out! Ramped up emotions can make minor annoyances from others seem unbearable...maintain grace & take long, deep breaths)
  9. Use good manners. (once again "GRACE"...good manners make a lasting & positive impression on others & help you get more of the things you want ;-)
  10. Surround yourself with good friends. (you need the everyday support that these peeps supply...especially when faced with difficult decisions)

The "Top 3" alone will help tremendously with problem-solving situations, give you a better outlook on life, and make you feel more attractive.  Everyone is especially sensitive to these "Top 3" during times of change.  Maintain the "Top 10" and you will be well equipped to to juggle the subtleties that are unique to your own beautiful life.