Many of us could do with a bit of encouragement and support to build balanced, healthy lives. Here, Bupa Global teams with The School of Life to explore five aspects of this elusive ideal.
#1 Why does balance matter?
Juggling the pressures of work, home, social and family lives is no mean feat. And when you’re always busy, it’s hard to take stock of your situation, rethink your priorities or change your habits. It’s all too easy to sacrifice one aspect of your life while trying to fulfil another, which can lead to feelings of anxiety, failure or guilt. In turn, those feelings can affect your general wellbeing and your relationships. At its core, balance is about living a life that’s aligned with your capabilities and needs.
#2 Where does imbalance come from?
In our busy lives, imbalance can come about for admirable reasons – from career options, to where and how we live. Yet big ambitions can pull us in several directions, and achieving a sense of balance across these is an alluring thought. Perhaps you can get a bit of everything – if only you could adopt a balanced diet, develop balanced views and balance the books, all the while maintaining the perfect work-life balance.
Still, when you look around, very few people seem to really achieve this. Although it’s something we’ve only started to talk widely about quite recently, the ideal of balance has been around for a long time. The first Western thinker to get excited by it was the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle.
#3 How can you know what’s enough?
Nobel Prize-winning writer Thomas Mann learned an interesting lesson as a young boy. His father took him to a patisserie and gave him permission to eat as many cream cakes as he liked. At first, Thomas was delighted, then he was nauseous, and eventually surprised. What he’d imagined would be an endless day of eating, actually left him wishing he hadn’t indulged to such excess. He learned that often you need to go to excess – and become slightly unbalanced – to understand what the right amount of something is.
#4 Do you have too much of one thing?
Aristotle wanted to find out what makes us healthy in the broadest sense – he saw medicine and philosophy as deeply interconnected pursuits. He was also struck by the fact that people who were doing exceptionally well in an area of life – in politics, business, social life or sport – weren’t always the happiest.
Ironically, the dedication these people showed to one pursuit tended to squeeze out other things linked to happiness. Psychoanalysts have confirmed the relevance of Aristotle’s insights by observing that we often pursue one activity to excess when we feel frustrated or fearful about another area that’s not going well. Some things, it seems, never change – unless you change them yourself.
#5 How can you start to find balance?
Finding a sense of balance is especially tricky for successful, busy people. But there are things you can do to change this. First, ask yourself a few key questions:
- What does balance mean to you?
- Are there areas of your life where the balance feels about right?
- Which areas would you like to give more to: home, family, work, fitness, pastimes, friends?
From there, it’s a matter of weighing up different aspects of your life, keeping in mind that your mental wellbeing is the foundation for everything else. Make time for exercise, for both its physical and emotional benefits. Eat well, stay hydrated and strive to get enough sleep. Use strategies to build your resilience to stress, and remember that anxiety is both common and treatable. And, if you feel that work is dominating your life, think about changing your approach to how you use technology.
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This article first appeared in the April/May 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.