It’s fairly clear when life is out of balance: stress increases, we feel out of sorts, we are a little cranky, overwhelmed, anxious, tired, exhausted, our blood pressure may increase and, if this continues, we can become ill. Our joie de vivre is missing.


When we feel this way, we may even have an idea of changes that we could make to live better. We say, “I need a little sunshine. I just have to move more and exercise. I need to eat better. I need more sleep, less work, a change of scenery, a ‘friend fix’ or a little time alone.” If we listen, our whole being tells us when we are out of balance. We know that all the parts of our being - physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual, require attention.


Living a balanced life is about being kind to ourselves. It’s about self-care, about nurturing those parts of ourselves, our souls, our minds, our bodies that need attention. We know that we need to care for our whole selves, yet, at times, we can be unaware. A friend or spouse may recognize it and say, “You need a break, you need to have some fun, get out of the house, or slow down.” We can be out of touch with our own needs, perhaps so focused on finishing a project, getting the house cleaned or writing a report, that somebody else is affected by our behavior and notices before we do.


We often see this in caregivers who ignore their own needs to care for others. Their first awareness of a problem might be when frustration or anger flares, illness strikes, or when, heaven forbid, they drive the car into the side of a building. Granted, at times balance is impossible to achieve and we must do what is before us. Being aware that we are denying our needs and that there is a price we pay by doing so, can be a start to finding some short-term solutions, even though small, to help. Take a mini mind-vacation, sip a cup of tea on the veranda, relax a little longer in a hot shower. Create a small haven somewhere in the home to retreat, listen to beautiful music. One person who is working at a stressful job, has photos of her family, pets and serene scenery on her wall. She says just glancing at them during her work day calms her. Creating even small moments can bring some relief. Giving yourself permission to ask for help and using available resources to assist can also be life giving.


Here are some self-care pointers to help with a balanced life:


• Start small. Small shifts can add up to big joys.


• Identify what nourishes you physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. Choose one small step or action that you can take in each area and begin. Then protect it like a mama bear protects her cubs.


• Identify the obstacles to caring for yourself. Look at the ways you sabotage yourself.


• Tune in to yourself. What feels right? What feels good? Are you relaxed?


• Check your body for tension or tightness. Listen to the tone of your voice.


• Breathe - 3 deep, slow breaths will calm you quickly.


Let’s live our best lives, get in balance and bring in more joy!


Marilou Bork, LCSW, is one of the original founders of Elder Care when the nonprofit was formed in 1983. She continues to lead a weekly DayBreak support group at Elder Care.