It's something I contend with every single day of my life, and something I've been thinking a lot about lately. Time, work, family, exercise, food choices. It's all a big struggle for me.
I find myself wishing I could just quit my job. Not because I don't enjoy it, but because it takes me away from my home and family, and I am often at a loss as to how to keep my work balanced with my family life. However, quitting my job would only bring an entirely new set of circumstances in which I would probably struggle to find balance.
I have observed that I am not alone in this. I see my husband and children struggling with the same things when it comes to balancing the hundreds of choices that are presented to us each day. We live in a world where it seems that the extreme choices are preferred.
Where's the balance?
The thing I worry about most when it comes to balance is the example I am setting for my children. I tend to be a very all or nothing person (read: imbalanced), and I go on many "kicks" that are both healthy and unhealthy.
If I decide I am going to be an amazing exerciser, I am ALL in. But as soon as I start to get stressed, or bored, or stop seeing results, my all turns quickly to nothing. Food is the same way for me. I can be totally committed to a diet and be completely off all the things I feel I shouldn't eat. And I can actually sustain this crazy method of eating for quite a while.
Until I go somewhere and they have pumpkin pie. Then I go completely crazy, and suddenly my diet consists of ONLY pumpkin pie. (Okay, so maybe it's not quite that bad... but really, it's bad.)
I do not want my children to mimic my unhealthy approach to diet, exercise, sleep, etc. I want them to be more moderate in the way they deal with their health. I'm watching my teenager and realizing that perhaps I could have done a better job in teaching her these things.
The good news is, it's never too late to start.
I've thought of a few things to help bring balance to my universe, and to help my children learn to do so as well.
1. Listen to your body
If your body is telling you it's hungry, eat. If it's telling you (as mine often does) to quit eating junk, obey it. I have found that being in tune with what my body needs is one of the best ways to find balance in life, because my body does not enjoy being imbalanced.
Recently, I had a big writing deadline. It was 10:00 pm the night before the assignment was due, and I had not started yet because things had just been too insane that week. I was exhausted after working all day, shuttling kids around, and then helping with homework and chores, etc. My teenager was on my computer working on her own writing assignment and I could not stay awake. I decided to actually listen to my body and get it in bed--a brain that tired was going to turn out some pretty poor writing anyway. I made myself not worry about the writing that was due the next morning and I slept. It's totally unlike me, but I got up at 5:30 and got the assignment done.
It was a much more balanced way of doing things, instead of my usual push until everything is done, and then maybe sleep for a couple hours before I'm up and doing it again.
2. Delay gratification
Balance is just an arrangement of priorities. But it often feels that the world is telling us to go ahead and do whatever we want, whenever we want and not worry about the consequences. In fact, the world often leads us to believe that there ARE no consequences. Go ahead and have that birthday cake--you only live once, right? And go ahead and have another piece, because it was so good, and you are worth it. Want more? No big deal! You can have it all!
But then the world simultaneously tells us you can't have any of it. No! You can't have that slice of cake--you will gain ten pounds, it's full of unhealthy fats and sugars, and it's not worth it. If you eat it, you will die an early death from heart disease and clogged arteries. All from one little piece of cake.
This is a dangerous attitude. I would like to help my children replace it with learning to delay their gratification until it is appropriate and makes sense. Yes, go ahead and have that birthday cake. But only after you know you've also eaten a healthy meal. And maybe plan to also exercise a few minutes extra that day to make up for it.
There is nothing wrong with a little treat every once in a while. If we deny ourselves those little treats all the time, we will go crazy with the treats eventually (I know this, because it is what happens to me). And if we are having treats whenever we feel like it, we are doing so at the expense of healthier food and the health of our bodies. But if those treats are placed at their proper priority level, we are able to balance our health much better.
3. Be the good in the world
I went to an event with my children a couple weeks ago, and refreshments were served. I was so impressed that, along with the typical cookies and other sweets, there were plenty of healthy options. There was a vegetable tray, apples, cheese, and several other things. I was also impressed to note that my children naturally took some of the healthy options as well as the sweets.
It made me think about how I can bring balance to the refreshment tables of the world by being the mom who brings apples instead of cookies. I can be the mom who chooses a fun activity that moves the kids' bodies instead of watching yet another movie at a birthday party. And most of all, I can be the mom who sets a good example for my children. Not by eschewing treats altogether, but by approaching them in a healthy manner.
4. Learn from mistakes
So you overdid it on the cookies. It's okay--today is a new day full of new choices. Don't beat yourself up because you overindulged or made poor choices yesterday. Instead, learn from those mistakes and move on.
Likewise, teach your children to learn from their mistakes. Help them find the balance between what they want to be doing or eating and what they should be doing or eating. Whether they spent too much time playing around on their phones at the expense of homework, or made themselves sick by eating all of their Halloween candy at once, you can calmly point out the consequences of their choices. You can then offer that perhaps next time they can complete their homework before texting friends and that one or two pieces of candy after dinner is more than enough. Besides--then that candy will last for a very long time! Balance is awesome when put into that perspective.
The American Beverage Association understands the importance of balance, and has launched an effort to help families like ours achieve balance through on ongoing effort called “Mixify.”
Mixify was actually co-created with teens to make sure it would resonate with them. It includes features teens specifically asked for, such as the opportunity to ask dietitians and personal trainers for advice on how to fit balance into their busy lives.
Coke, Dr Pepper and Pepsi understand that getting a balanced mix of foods, drinks and physical activities for your family isn’t always easy. That’s why they’re coming together for the first time ever to talk to teens about balancing what they eat and drink with what they do. With tools to help teens get active and information to help them think about when they’ve had too much, or maybe when it’s time for a treat—America’s beverage companies are supporting our efforts to find a balanced mix that works for our families.
As someone who struggles with balance, and as the mom to a teen and two more close behind her, I applaud this effort.
To find out more about the Mixify campaign click here: Delivering Choices
Have a teenager? Send them to the Mixify website just for teens by clicking here: My Mixify