Denise Evans, Clinical Counsellor

Being in Balance

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Balance. People are always trying to achieve balance. But what exactly is it, other than an unobtainable holy grail?

What we need for balance is similar through different periods in our lives. When we are children we need sleep, proper nutrition, activities such as structured play (play dates, gym time, swimming lessons, etc.) and school or preschool. But for children to be balanced they most need rest and a lot of unstructured play. Without those a child will demonstrate their imbalance through tantrums, tears, clinging and whining. They rest through sleep, naps and “down time.” Unstructured play is when they freely explore the world: watching leaves and sticks drift downstream; role playing with trucks, costumes or dolls; building play houses; or curling up with a book. The key is for the children to determine what they do and for the activity to not be timed.

As we grow into teenagers the activities change—although I know a group of teens who still swim their larger trucks through the mud—but the necessary elements of rest and play remain the same. Teens’ lives are full of work, school, sports and other extracurricular activities. They need as much sleep as a toddler, as their bodies and brains are developing at enormous rates, but they seldom get it. So they need time for rest and unstructured play. The time spent playing video games or talking with their friends is restorative for them. While “playing” with their friends they are continuing the task they began as children—exploring the world and making sense of it in new ways with the increased capacity of their more complicated brains.

As adults, we often feel that balance is unobtainable. We race from task to task and feeling like giant hamsters stuck on our personal wheels. We need to remember that balance is truly variable from day to day, or even within our days, and from person to person. The same elements necessary for the toddler—rest and unstructured, timeless play—are those that are necessary for us. If we don’t get them we too will whine, cling or have a tantrum. Acting or feeling like that means we need to rest. It can be as brief as a pause for three mindful breaths. Stop. Breathe through your nose. Feel your stomach expand and your lungs fill. Breathe out. Feel the chest fall and the stomach deflate. Then do it again. And again. Then resume your day.

This mini rest will restore you and increase your calm. Do it whenever you feel the need. Also, if possible, schedule unstructured time for yourself sometime in your week. Do with it whatever you wish.

There is no formula for how much rest or play anyone needs. Pay attention to how you feel. If you love your work and are energised by it, it might not matter that you are working 12 hour days. If you start to feel stretched, stop, rest and play. Welcome the feeling of being in balance.



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