A patient recently shared with me that she was so overwhelmed she felt paralyzed, defeated and unsettled. She didn’t feel like a good wife, a good mother, or a good business owner. She was trying to do too much. She was doing a little bit of everything, and felt that nothing turned out as good as she wanted.
This is all too common these days, especially among working parents. We see our friends lives through their Facebook Filter where life is perfect at all times. We expect the same in our lives. We put the pressure on ourselves to achieve successful professional careers, as well as to be expertly managing a project at work AND planning meals AND keeping track of all the kids practices, games and recitals. The feelings of overwhelm, guilt, and exhaustion are all too common.
Stress Creates Disharmony in Our Bodies: This is the True Lack of Balance
The anxiety, insomnia, neck tension, back spasms, and burnout we feel are inevitable in this situation. The physical manifestations of stress are the cause of feeling out of balance. Our nervous system has three important ways it deals with stress: fight, flight or freeze. Our body surges with hormones designed to trigger massive amounts of muscle contractions to overpower this threat (fight) or to run away (flight). Problems occur when we don’t give our body the chance to express those hormones through movement. So they fester in our body, building up anxiety and tension as our bodies are bombarded by stress after stress.
How I Knew I Was Stressed Out, and Out of Balance
I recently felt this stress-related tension building while preparing to leave for our recent family roadtrip. My daughter was resisting packing her bags, so l yelled. I pulled out of my driveway, ready to hit the road and someone cut me off. I cursed. Then I sat in the car with bickering kids for eight hours. Traffic in Southern California was unlike anything we see here in Santa Cruz. It’s no wonder I got to my destination with knots in my shoulders and a headache from hours of sitting on my duff and staring at the road.
This stress was on top of the stress of owning a chiropractic clinic: I spend four days a week in the clinic as a chiropractor managing a busy clinic full of patients who are often in significant pain. I’ve had staffing issues, billing frustrations, and loads of paperwork to keep up on. I recently opened an EOB (Explanation of Benefits) from a recent patient encounter and realized I was only being paid 33% of my fee schedule by a particular HMO insurance company. I came home from work that night and there was my family looking at me with the “What’s for dinner, Mom?” look. I lost it. I went to my room and cried.
I woke up in the middle of the night full of anxiety. I had a nightmare about having to close my practice because I couldn’t pay the bills. That night I had a horrible feeling that my life was spinning out of control. I woke up the next day with a stiff neck and sharp stabbing pain in my upper back. I’ve seen these symptoms day after day for the last 10 years in my practice. Even health practicioners are not immune to having stress get out of control, and I knew I needed to find a way to get back to a more centered life.
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”― Albert Einstein
Dr. Ayala Malach Pines argues that the root cause of burnout is not that we have too much to do, it’s the feeling that the things we do aren’t meaningful, or don’t reflect who we really are. In order to find balance in life, it’s important to get clear on what is it that YOU want. Remembering this wisdom, I went back to checking in with myself.
Change Happens One Choice at a Time. It Takes Clarity and Consistency
Every morning I sit down with my journal and I write about what I want in my Marriage, my Business, my Body, my Family and my Community. Dr. Karen Osburn teaches that when you get clear on What you Want in your Life, everything changes. Finding balance means doing the HARD WORK of asking yourself: What is it that I truly want?” and then focusing on that. Get clear on what you want. What you REALLY WANT. Write it down. Every day. Post it on your mirror for you to see in the morning. Take ONE ACTION step towards what you want each day. What is one thing you can let go of to unburden yourself from the overwhelm?
Everyday is a fresh start. YOU get to choose how you live. Your way of DOing. Your way of BEing. If you want to change the trajectory of your life, YOU have to start living in a way congruent with your ideal lifestyle. Step by step. Choice by choice your life will CHANGE. Stop THINKing and start DOing.
In order to overcome the anxiety I experienced during that crazy week, I re-instated my self-care routine. I firmly believe that self-care is health care. I got back on track with my daily journaling, meditation, hot bath, and walks on the beach. I got an adjustment from my chiropractor to take tension off my nervous system and allow for a feeling of ease in my body. Sure, I lose it from time to time. And you will slip, too. What’s important is listening to the signals your body is giving you about the level of stress you’re under. Create space for self-care. Ask for help. Listen to the needs of your mind and body. Make time for things you love to do. There’s no other way.
Need to get back in touch with your health, and get rid of some of the stress you’re holding in your body? Make an appointment. We’ll help you get back into the life you love.