Lesson Learned: It’s All About Balance

When I was 6, my parents let me try several different ‘sports’, mostly those my sister was already doing. Ballet, softball (T-ball at the time), horseback riding, soccer, and my personal favorite, gymnastics. It was a thoroughly busy schedule because I think we did most of them 2-3 times a week. This lasted for nearly two years until my parents told me I could only pick 2 to continue.

By that time, ballet and gymnastics were my absolute favorites. Ballet was graceful and beautiful and I enjoyed it (and I was the best in the class, no big deal), and gymnastics was fun and interesting and there were new things to learn every other week. I was also 8 so the hard parts had not started, but those were the two things I looked forward to after school. My parents shot both of those down, saying I was going to be too tall for gymnastics and have too large of a frame for ballet. They were right; soccer and softball were more up my alley, but I learned that one of my favorite activities in gymnastics would be what I unconsciously strove for throughout my life.

The balance beam; one of the fundamentals of gymnastics.  I remember falling off once, when I first got on it. I got something akin to vertigo, and it took me a second to recover, but after that, it was always a breeze. When they taught us to do little jumps and turns, it just made it that much more exciting, and I relished in it. It was also the lower beam and only about a foot off the ground so it wasn’t a huge deal to anyone but me, but still, the thrill of making it through without falling was amazing. I also remember getting yelled at for being on it when I wasn’t supposed to. I didn’t stop, though. I was such a rebel.

But what does this have to do with my grandpa? Nothing, really, but it has everything to do with my life and this project.  That same thrill I got from making it across the beam I get from keeping balance in my life. Since I started playing competitively in soccer until today, I was always better (inside and out) when I could balance work and play, school and sports, family and friends, etc.  Being more involved with or giving more of my time to one than the other always makes me more tired, cranky, and unproductive. The weird thing is that I didn’t even realize this until I had quit playing soccer in college. Balancing my life had always seemed like autopilot until that point. Having to change everything that I had been doing for the past 10+ years altered that, and I’m still trying to figure out how to get back to it. Maybe I never will.

Why is this such a big deal, you may ask. Well, this past week was supposed to be my Spring Break. In theory, it was supposed to be when I relaxed, didn’t think about school, and went out and had fun.  Yeah, that didn’t happen. I was focused, no, obsessing, over this project. I had so much information and so much to do with very little time that I lie awake at night stressing out about it and couldn’t sleep well enough to be productive during the day; that all culminated in an anxiety attack on Wednesday.  This is what happens when I can’t keep my balance.

I fall. Hard.

I finally found my balance on Thursday. I gave myself permission (yep, I’m weird like that) to finally go see a movie. I hadn’t allowed myself to go in about two months claiming I had too much homework and needed to stay focused on the project. But, movies are my thing. Well, movies and books, but I don’t like to read for pleasure during school months; its’ just an invitation to procrastinate for longer amounts of time. But, in going to see that movie and spending two and a half hours away from the stresses of the project, I was able to dive back in headfirst and get more done in the following 6 hours than I had the previous 4 days. Truly, all work and no play makes Jamie a very dull girl.

So what did I learn? Keeping my balance is just as hard as finding it, perhaps even more so when I’m facing a deadline. But I need to do it.  Getting away from the work, even for just a few hours, can have an overall positive impact. Both my mental health and my workflow  benefited from stepping away.

What can others learn from this?  There should always be a balance between two extremes.  It may look different for other; some people need to work for months before they feel they have earned the time to relax while others only need to work a few hours. I think the most important thing is to listen to yourself and pay attention to your work habits.  I was little more than useless at the beginning of the week. Now, I’m being much more productive, and while the deadline for this project is even closer than before, I know that if I need to step away from it, I should.

I just need to keep my balance.