Teetering on the Edge 9/06

September 2006

Back when I was in elementary school, before seat belts or safety helmets, it was considered great fun to lift your friend on the other end of the teeter-totter right off their seat by hitting the landing as hard as you could. On one occasion I was catapulted through the air and hit the steel beam that connected me to my former friend.

I learned first-hand that balance is good if you don’t want to get hurt and being a light-weight is not all it’s cracked up to be.

What it means to be out of balance is we’re giving up certain parts of our lives because of a huge investment in other areas, often without intention or awareness. Most commonly, it means too much work and not enough rest. Too much fun and not enough income or too much caring for others and not enough self-care are other scenarios that can also lead to trouble.

Living a life out of balance is as risky as Evil Knievel in the schoolyard. Someone is going to get hurt. Lack of balance is stressful. And as we know, stress manifests itself in many ways that jeopardize our health and happiness. Weight gain is just one possibility.

When we live in balance our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual selves are all active. We function effectively in most situations and have healthy coping skills. When we hit bottom, or burnout, we have severe difficulty functioning and much distress. All our resources are near depletion. Our health is in jeopardy. This is not a happy place to be.

We’re never 100% in balance, are we? Stuff happens. The key is to be able to manage the ups and downs and recognize when we’re about to be catapulted through the air.

To manage our life and our energy it’s important to know our strengths and where we’re most vulnerable. It’s also important to know our personal symptoms or warning signs of distress, be it physical symptoms like headaches; behavioral symptoms like overeating; or emotional symptoms like anxiety. Being able to recognize our personal symptoms allows us to make corrections when the symptoms first arise, before we have more serious problems.

When you feel you’re losing your grip, try to identify the source of your stress, make adjustments and the symptoms often take care of themselves.

How does weight gain fit in? When life gets hectic, eating can become a coping mechanism. Not only that, choosing foods from the four food groups is probably the last thing on our mind. We’re just trying to get through the day and we might feel lucky to eat anything at all. Though it may seem impossible to eat well and to find the time and energy to be active, it’s not. But it’s definitely easier when our lives are manageable.

Set yourself up for success by having a life that is just busy enough with just the right amount of stress. This gives you the necessary space to choose healthy habits and coping strategies more often.

Manageable doses of stress are healthy and when well handled, enable us to become even more effective. This is more desirable than a life without any stress, which causes us to lose our ability to handle even the smallest challenges. Therefore, know thyself. Everyone responds to stress differently and to different stressors.

The next time you walk onto the playground, choose to keep your feet firmly planted or buckle up and enjoy the ride. A safety helmet might not be a bad idea, either.