Finding Balance, a Reflection

Finding Balance, a Reflection

One of the most important principles in establishing a sense of wellbeing is trying to find the right balance; whether it be in the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual realms of our lives.

We see this perhaps most powerfully in the rhythm of the breath.

From our first ‘in’ breath after birth, to our final ‘out’ breath at death, the ebb and flow of our breath literally gives us life and is ever seeking the right balance. Try holding your in breath for a minute and you will soon feel the urge to rebalance with the out breath, or vice versa.

This principle can come alive in many other aspects of our lives and an imbalance can often be felt as a cause of disharmony. For example, if we have too much order in our lives, (the way we dress, work, behaviour patterns etc) we can start to develop too much rigidity and then find ourselves lacking creativity. On the other hand, being too much ‘into’ being creative can often lead to a literal, and sense of, chaos. So, most of us need to try to find a balance between the two to help put things in perspective.

Asking yourself some simple questions about your life balance is a good start …
  • Do I spend too much time and effort in or at work, taking on responsibility for extra things and for others, or am I developing some lazy habits by allowing too much relaxation or surrender?
  • Do I spend enough time connecting with nature or am I always surrounded with 21st century culture? Are there times when there is too much to ‘do’ rather than just to ‘be’?
  • Do I spend time ‘helping others’ because I think that is the ‘right thing to do’, but sometimes find that I have neglected to listen to my own needs?
  • Am I compassionately wise and wisely compassionate, or am I becoming too hard, or too soft; in the same way, do I try and see someone else’s point of view or am I a bit judgemental so unbalanced with understanding?
  • How am I in work and personal relations? Too much of a talker to listen, or too much of a listener to ever get to say what I would like to?
  • Do I put more time and effort into my work than I do into my domestic and family affairs?
  • Do I read self-improvement or religious books? Am I ‘filling up’ on theory or do I make time to ‘empty’ each day, through meditation, a gentle tai chi or yoga class, or a hobby like singing?
  • Do I hold my scientific/spiritual/religious beliefs so strongly that I leave too little room for the flexibility for my own intuitive insight to lead me?

With all these questions perhaps the most important one is ‘what can I do about that?’

For our lives to flourish we need to be a mixture, tinkering here and there, adding this or that ingredient to find the right balance. We need to allow the upshoot of fairness, or peace, or a moment of stillness or a stimulation to move and evolve in whatever situation we are finding ourselves in.

Small practical exercises can also help – simple ones like taking a little time each day and balance on your tiptoes, or just sway slowly from side to side to feel the return to the balance point, or perhaps try walking with awareness of how the body retains the balance as it goes. If its safe close your eyes and walk backwards very slowl, your body is equipped to teach you about balance, so why not give it a go?

Guest Blog by Amanda Brown, Yoga Practitioner and Teacher UK

Burn Out – its Official!

Burn Out – its Official!

We all know about workplace burn out. Used up, fed up and exhausted!

Now it’s official, recognised and classified.

In May 2019 the World Health Organisation (WHO) included ‘BURN OUT’ in its 11th Edition of the International Classification of Diseases.

Classified as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ burn out is defined as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

• feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.
• increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
• reduced professional efficacy”.

Like most things, burn out doesn’t just happen, it takes time to build and the main building material is stress.

So, now that we know its real rather than just us being ‘not up to it’, let’s have a quick look about something that can be done to alleviate it.

Remember the humble Tea Break? time to refresh, stretch, catch up with the others, eat, drink, and maybe take a walk outside.

It was easier when everyone took a tea break, meeting up for a chat in a canteen or kitchen where there were plenty of cakes, biscuits and, if it was someone’s birthday, a sausage roll or two. The walk outside was often to have a smoke, or pop to the shop to pick up something ready for the lunch break.

Now, we don’t take tea breaks, and some of us not even lunch breaks. We don’t eat so many cakes, biscuits and sausage rolls, and water is our number one go to for drinking at work. Supermarkets are open all hours and we don’t smoke so much, so no need to stretch the legs outside. As we are on our devices most of the time even the chat has less value. Add to that the increased workloads and speeds of the times and it’s easy to see how the tea break has disappeared.

Clearly however, the underlying need to stay healthy by reducing stressors in a break from output is still there. So maybe it’s best to take the ‘T’ part off, and just take a break, anytime of the day, for a few minutes? (quite possibly the world won’t collapse).

If you don’t know what to do in your break time here’s a few suggestions.

• Disengage from your work and its associated activities. Just put it to one side.

• Physically stretch. Walk about and stop off to wash your face and hands in cold water (it activates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps calm and balance you)

• Go outside for a walk, and if you can see green that’s a plus. (slip your shoes off if you can – see the Blog on Grounding)

• Be purposefully mindful about something, breathing, walking, eating …

Research shows that even two minutes – 2 minutes! – of mindfulness can help alleviate stressors by calming the emotion and rebalancing the mind.

A short mindful activity that can be helpful at any time at work, including before entering a stressful situation or after stress has occurred, is simply to pause and breathe. Here’s how.

PAUSE
Find a place to stop or sit (you can do it in the toilet cubicle if you have to!) close your eyes and breathe out forcefully and long, then take a few deep breaths that expand then collapse your chest, abdomen, and belly slowly.

Allow your breath to settle to its own rhythm naturally and as it does simply pay attention to the breath as it flows in, pauses, and flows out of your body.

Take notice of the movements of your body as you breathe.

Take notice of any sounds or sensations, thoughts, or distractions as they arise, then simply let them go, dissolve, as you gently bring your attention back to your breath and the movements of your body as you breath in and out.

Stay with the breath for a while and when you are ready, come out of the pause by taking a deeper breath in then breathe out very slowly …

Take a moment to note the change of pace you can feel before you go back to work.

Regular meditation, even short practices, can help you to regulate and manage stress levels, improve focus, provide insights, and help to induce a calm and balanced inner wellbeing. It will help prevent burn out.

Care to try it? check out our workplace meditations now.

AL

STOP! Stress Avoidance Trap

STOP! Stress Avoidance Trap

At the time of writing, we are coming to the end of the COVID restrictions – at least for now ….

Whilst we have enjoyed, or been challenged, by this change in our normal routines of life, we have also been in a place to pause from life as it was. Busy! So, with vaccines rolling out and as we continue into a full-on going everywhere, doing everything, type of lifestyle again – it’s a good time to re-evaluate stress.

Stress is both useful and not useful. To think about stress as a bad thing is both factually inaccurate and counter-productive to your well-being, research shows that short term stress (not chronic stress) is a useful thing. So, before try to ‘get rid’ of stress it’s important to know that aversion is not the best therapy.

Countless studies and clinical trials have ascertained that regular practice of mindfulness mediation will help you lower stress levels and manage stress more appropriately, but the practice is not about ‘getting rid’ of stress, it’s about awareness of it, and whatever else in happening in your experience of life as it unfolds in that moment.

The aversion trap is closed every time we try to avoid, get rid of, bury, or divert our unwanted thoughts and feelings.

We all like to feel ok and if we feel good and we experience a happy mental and emotional state we try to hold on to it. In the same way we feel not so good about something we use aversion tactics to push away the mental and emotional states we don’t like.

Our likes and dislikes are formed due to the causes and conditions of our life experiences, and they help form patterns of the mind and the emotion that drive our behaviour. If we continually use the aversion trap rather than learning from our felt stress, we can become ill. Chronic, or ongoing, stress is related to mental ill health and life-threatening conditions and disease.

In mindfulness meditation there is a core principle of cultivating a non-judgemental awareness – allowing all thoughts, sounds, sensations, and all other perceived experience to come and go just as it is.

The aim is simply to be aware, to ‘be with’ whatever is happening, at the time it is happening – because it IS happening.

With regular mindfulness practice we can learn to stop trying to avoid or get rid of stress but instead use our awareness of that stress to change our mindset and patterns of reactional behaviour. We do this by applying an open and gentle curiosity to what’s happening in our mind or emotion, through awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and any places in the body we feel the experience of what is happening.

With this gentle, inquiring, attention we can build awareness and begin to get insights and understandings that can help us understand some of our behaviour drivers.

Regular mindfulness practice builds a mental, emotional, and psychological resilience which, in time, will allow us a mind spacious enough to choose and respond with what to do next in stressful situations, rather than behave out of an unthinking, habitual reaction.

So, where to begin?

There are many aids, apps, mindfulness programmes and meditations on offer on the net to help you manage more and stress less. You can start here by accessing our resources page with free or downloadable meditations. If you are new to mindfulness a short starter practice is this simple STOP technique to ‘check in’ and what’s happening in you. It’s particularly useful at times of felt stress.

S.T.O.P.

S.            Stop, find a quiet place or space, close your eyes if your comfortable to do so.

T.            Take a few slow breaths gathering your attention to your body, let the outbreath be longer.

O.           Observe what’s happening – in your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. Name it.

P.           Pause, breathe slowly while bringing your attention to the belly. Proceed.

See more awareness and mindfulness practices on our meditations page.

AL