Seeking balance? Start here

Woman balancing on a long in a river.

My dad always used to say, “Everything in moderation.” Which sounds so easy and natural, right? He usually used it in relation to food, wine, shopping… And it makes good sense for maintaining a balanced lifestyle; neither deprived nor overdone to an extreme you’ll later regret.

Yet, in everyday life, finding balance isn’t easy. It assumes we’re self-aware enough to notice we’re heading for the red zone and that we can course-correct our way back to balance before we get there.

Ironically, it’s the times we most need this level of self-awareness and emotional control when it’s hardest to access. When the demands just keep coming, boosting our stress hormone levels with no time in between to recover, it can feel impossible to slow down your spinning mind.

So we outsource our attention to the loudest urgent call, the nearest shiny object, or back to the worry channel for another rerun.

And if we never fully unwind from our overwhelmed mindset, we adapt to that overdrive state and call it normal.

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.Albert Einstein

A recent HBR article lists the five common patterns overwhelmed people tend to fall into that hold them hostage.

Among these, the first one is the one I hear most often: You think you don’t have time for actions that would help you.

It’s a bit of a Jedi mind trick, the way our brains work. When you’re overwhelmed and wound up, your system tightens and constricts as you stay in a state of readiness to react to the next demand or stressor.

As explained in the HBR article, our thinking becomes more rigid. When we’re wound this tight, we’re poised at the ready to act fast. In this mindset, we don’t have access to the options that promote a state of moderation.

So we continue to act from a place of reactivity, which is part of the new norm. And when I first meet with most clients, they’re at the end of their rope and motivated by health concerns, both emotional and physical.

That seems to be the pattern followed by most life transformations, as borne out by research and self-experience. And as I continue to explore this topic through my 500-hour teacher training, I came across this explanation;

“Without the urgency of an emergency, we’re all too apt to procrastinate, waiting for someone to come along at the right time to tell us what’s best. What to do next.

Sometimes professional guidance is needed to jump start our own motivation. And other times it’s needed to help us deal with a life event that is beyond our capabilities. How, then, to become our own guide?”

– Mary Fox’s review of Threads (by Joy Ravelli).

If Mary Fox’s use of the word emergency sounds extreme, I invite you to consider the emotional emergencies that happen in our wound-up lives on the daily. I can list at least 3 in the past week, one still ongoing. Of course, I have teens, which slants the playing field, but most of us have something or someone that fuels the stress fire into overdrive.

And yes to Mary Fox’s guidance piece. Teen drama sounds so cliché, but it can reach a tipping point where it’s no longer the kind you can overlook as a symptom of age. Even with all my training, during these times, I rely on Jodi, my coach, to help me find regulation in the midst of an emotional blowout.

So what does all this have to do with breathwork? Simply put, breath awareness is self-awareness, a necessary foundation for reaching the personal growth goals of self-acceptance, self-efficacy, and self-regulation.

Before I underwent this training and began daily practice, I would have been too swept up in the drama, jumping straight to shame and blame until the pain stopped. Which could last for days at best, resulting in zero resolution.

Breathwork doesn’t suppress the pain I felt about my family challenges. I’ve been feeling my concerns and my stress level rising around this issue, and I did my best to manage my emotions. Today I recognized the tightness in my chest, the sadness I felt, and honored that it was warranted. And that I’m not a victim, painful as they are, these problems are part of life.

From that place of awareness, I could step back to see that I had other options than feeling trapped and that by reframing the problem, I could recognize it as the canary it was.

Mindful breathwork helps us to connect with more of ourselves, find enough grounding in the storm to weather it through to a new outcome. And with support from a coach, mentor, or trusted (unbiased) friend, you can test your perspective to move back to a place of moderation, balance, and grounding. 

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