The philosophy of finding balance in life isn’t a new one. It’s a practice that has been known for thousands of years – but the art of actually putting it into place can be difficult, especially in these times. Immediately, many of you are thinking access to technology to a point where we are always making ourselves readily available to others is a factor in stress. This is just one example of how we seem to find less and less time to ourselves. Between work, family obligations, social activities, getting in our 20 minutes of physical activity 3 times a week, doctor appointments, Christmas shopping, volunteering, and grabbing dinner when possible, most of us are increasing stress levels to a point where it is becoming dangerous to our health.

Stress can cause a number of physical illnesses – from minor to near fatal. Mentally, it is taxing. We become exhausted, irritable and anger easily. While we can’t completely rid ourselves of some of the stress in our lives, particularly in situations that are beyond our control, we can take steps to reduce the amount of stress we are going through. Thanks to AAROT’s information piece, “Losing It?” and a few adaptations from CAOT Publications, I’ve come up with some tips:

When life gets hectic, plan your time wisely. Take a few minutes (the TV can wait) to think about the week ahead. List everything that needs to be done and highlight the most important. Use a planner and jot down what needs to be done in order of priority. Then cross off completed tasks. Instead of feeling anxiety over what you haven’t done, focus on your accomplishments.

Do what is most meaningful to you. Are there any activities that focus on “you” in your list? Make sure you do things that meet your physical, social, spiritual, emotional and intellectual needs. Go to your planner and write down one activity for each day that you do for yourself. Mark this as a priority and eliminate those activities that are less important.

Set realistic goals for yourself. Don’t be a martyr. You aren’t Superman. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Delegate activities to others or create more time in your schedule to achieve the goals that you want to accomplish. Remember “what is most meaningful to you.”

Utilize your weekends in your favor. Or if you don’t have weekends off, use the days off that you do have wisely. These are called “rest days” for a reason. That doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping in or being a couch potato – unless that’s what you need or is important to you. It does mean you should use your days off to do things that are meaningful or most important to you. Spread household activities over the week, like cleaning the bathroom or getting groceries, and save your free days for something you enjoy.

What are your values? This is an important question and something a lot of people do not do. Focusing on what it is that you put value in determines the difference between what is important to you and what is important to someone else. Really think about your values so you don’t act based on what you “should” do. More importantly, don’t let others impose their values on you.

Spreading yourself thin does not make you helpful to others. For most of us, it’s in our nature to want to help others and that isn’t wrong. Giving back lifts our spirits and makes us feel valuable to those around us. But pitching in too much can wear you out to a point where you are not able to effectively help others. Take time out to recharge your own batteries.

This is my favorite that I would like to add from a personal point of view:  Put the cell phone on silent and quit checking your email, Facebook, Twitter, or feel compelled to write in your personal blog during a free moment. This one was very difficult for me – but has helped tremendously 🙂

Remember, while a little stress in our lives keeps us focused and prepared, too much can wreak havoc on our lives. You can control the amount of stress your body has to suffer through by creating balance in your life. You just have to make the choice to take back control.