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Word of the Month: Balance    

Word of the Month: Balance

By The Local Optimist Team

November is usually a month when work and family obligations start ramping up and life can get a little overwhelming. To try to counteract that and help you keep your own needs in check during this busy time, we’re focusing on Balance this month. Balance is often idealized in our culture and sometimes the desire to achieve a perfect version of it can throw us off course even more, so we got our team together to talk about the more accessible forms of balance that work for them, as well as the areas in their life where they could use a little more of it. Check out our convo, below.

Jessica Schiffer, Managing Editor: In November, we’ll be exploring the concept of Balance on The Local Optimist. Balance has become somewhat of a buzzword in the last few years, particularly for women as the concept of “having it all” has grown in popularity – the idea being that you can reach a place where every area of your life is essentially perfect and attended to in equal measure, including career, romance, friendship, family, and self-care. Unfortunately, that trend has set up a pretty unrealistic idea of what balance looks like. We’ve learned that attempting this kind of life can lead to another buzzword, burnout, that’s not so great for our mental health. 

I think true balance, in reality, looks a little different for everyone – what feels like balance to me might feel off-balance to you, so I’m curious Meadow and Hallie, how do YOU define balance?

Hallie Sheinbaum, Editorial Coordinator: For me, balance is a key ingredient to living a happier and successful life. But this is a tricky question for me to answer because balance means A LOT of different things to me. Whether it is balancing my time between work and play, the different types of media I take in, the type of exercise I do, who I spend my time with, being spontaneous vs. sticking to a plan, balancing movement and rest, etc. The list can go on and on, but balance plays a role in every single aspect of my life, and maintaining a “good” balance, which is easier said than done, allows me to enjoy my life more.

Meadowlark Monaghan, Hotline Lead: Not to be that person, but as a libra balance is the name of my game. I totally agree with you Hallie that my definition of balance varies greatly depending on the context. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of balance though is boundaries. Probably because boundaries is the hardest part for me haha but my commitment to my balance is usually weighing on if I'm holding my boundaries in place. Hbu jess?

 JS: Balance for me means the ability to take care of myself while juggling work and social obligations. When I don’t have the time to decompress or spend time alone (introvert here), I feel super off-balance. At the same time, if I have TOO much downtime and not enough going on at work or socially, I can quickly get depressed, so the key for me is having a good mix of all three. It’s never a perfect divide, and sometimes one area has to take priority, but as long as I'm able to give my full attention to each area at different times throughout the day, week, and month, I’m good.

HS: I totally feel you on that, jess. The last few weeks have been a bit crazy for me as well, and I'm starting to notice that when I'm not busy with work/appointments, I'm either binge-watching TV like no other or mindlessly scrolling on Instagram. I realize I haven't made much time to balance being alone with my thoughts and getting in touch with how I'm feeling mentally with no distractions. It's making me feel kind of burnt out and stressed.  But I do feel like there are some realistic things I can shift to help me feel more balanced in that area of my life. Instead of watching 3 episodes of TV in a row, I might watch 1 and then spend some time journaling. I also set some timer limits in my phone's settings for my Instagram usage, and I deleted TikTok for now.  Meadow, are there any areas in your personal sense of balance that you want to work on?

 MM: Wow, I feel so much of the above and oh gosh yes hahaha right now I think I have tipped the balance scale on my health game and it's finally catching up to me. I am such a walker and I love working out at home but since getting a puppy (and the two months prior if we're being honest) I have been slacking on my fitness routines (which aren't strict to begin with) and it's really catching up. I'm working so much that I can feel my mind going a mile per hour and I am missing that connection with my body that makes me feel strong and grounded and therefore, less overwhelmed with the go go go.

JS: Big move deleting TikTok, Hallie. I never downloaded it in the first place for that same reason… I felt like social media was already sucking up way too much of my time and doing a number on my mental health, so I didn't want to add anything else into the mix.

I also feel you on the TV watching – I used to be someone who rarely watched TV and did a lot of reading, but that has shifted a lot in Covid times. Now I’m trying to find a better balance between the two, so that I’m not just defaulting to TV in my free time and making more conscious choices about how I spend that time. Is there one goal you guys want to  focus on this month when it comes to finding balance?

MM: You know what helped me with the reading:tv ratio Jess was reading novels! I was reading so many mental health / Psychology books that it started to feel like more work so I shifted and started reading books friends recommended (that were not my typical choices) and it's helped my brain get more intrigued!

I think my goal with balance this month is to not let hustle culture (whether it's actually being displayed and/or I'm just projecting it) imbue any stress and to remember to prioritize the things that will make me my best self: taking a walk each day, logging off devices past 8PM, making time to meditate, etc. How about you two?

HS: I've been trying to even out the reading:tv ratio as well, and I love that idea, Meadow! Any recs on what book to start with? And agreed, hustle culture can have quite a stressful effect, which is why my goal with finding balance this month is to just take things one day at a time and set practical expectations. I tend to set goals and expectations for myself and then feel super overwhelmed by them to the point that I shut down and abort mission. To make my goals more achievable, enjoyable, AND sustainable, I will try to be more realistic and patient with myself this month.  Instead of hyper-fixating on the big picture and my goals at large, I am just going to take it day by day—progress, not perfection.  How about you, Jess?

JS: I'd add all of the above to my list if I could realistically achieve them all, lol. I think beyond reading more, I just want to get back to my old, more balanced routine – which means less staying up late and more early morning me-time, and having a bit more structure in my day so that I'm not trying to do 50 things at once, which tends to happen when I don't explicitly plan out my days/weeks.

Talking through all of this with you both really helped me clarify what's off-balance about my life right now, and I'm excited to dive deeper into Balance throughout November. See you same time next month?

HS: For sure :) Already looking forward to it~~ !

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414 and subscribing to our bi-monthly newsletter here.