Holding on to Balance When Life Feels Overwhelming: Top 5 Tips


Life is tough, but so are you.

You know those weeks which are especially challenging, where the days seem endless and you just feel like you’re holding out until Friday night? The weeks with multiple ups and downs, and really tough disappointments? Every day you feel exhausted from being so overwhelmed, and  you’re spent. You need support and encouragement, mainly just to keep it together. You feel yourself teetering, and yet you don’t want to lose it. But how do you maintain balance when life seems so volatile?

Here are a few ways to keep holding on to balance when life is pushing you too far:

1. Tell yourself you can handle this, because you are.

First of all, even if you think you can’t, you can handle this. Try using the mantra of, “I can handle this,” when doubt strikes. The stress that you are feeling is likely a signal for needed growth, but you are still handling this and there are many hours in a day, and many days in a week. It doesn’t have to all get done right now. Recognizing that you are coping, even if it isn’t graceful, can also allow you to shed a common secondary anxiety that comes along with stress: “I can’t handle this.” You may not want to, but you can.

2. Be careful where you pin your expectations. 

In the spirit of making stress as low as possible, look to limit high expectations, or any situation that tempts you to “get your heart set” on something over which you have limited control. Your hopes and dreams are precious commodities – be protective of them, and careful not to put them at unnecessary risk. Look to focus on realistic goals, informed by what is actually happening. Notice where you feel traction, and look to build expectations from there.

3. It’s okay to be disappointed.

Even when you’re keeping expectations in check, disappointments will still happen, and no matter how small they are, they can still hurt. It hurts because we care. It’s ok to care, and it’s ok to be sad for a short while before moving forward. Life is a journey, and like a marathon, pace is critical. Do your best to stay moving so that you don’t get stuck on any one step, or disappointment, along the way.

4. Self-care is key.

Our self-care can keep us on balance – especially during times of higher stress, self-care is often sorely needed. How are you sleeping? How is your nutrition? Are you hydrating and being mindful of caffeine or alcohol intake? Moving your body at all? Are power naps or power walking crossing your radar? Look to realign places that are out of balance to help boost your stamina. Not pressure, just gentle nudges.

5. Identifying how you are overextending.

When stress rears its head, most of us stretch to meet its demands. This is how we grow and get stronger. But when we stretch too much and avoid setting limits, especially at work, we risk a diminishing return on effort. Perfection can lure us out of balance. Moreover, for many of us, saying no can be tough. How could you limit some of how you are overextending? Where could you claim more time, more space for you? How, and to whom, could you say “no” or “not now” with consequences you could live with? It is too tempting to say “no” and “not now” to our own needs in order to cope, and in the long run this is a recipe for burnout. While flexibility might be admirable, it still needs to suit your own needs for balance.

Sometimes, when we are pulled off balance, we feel more clear about what we need to do to stay upright. Life doesn’t care about our need for balance, and will keep coming at us. Therefore, we are the ones that need to choose to manage our lives in the ways that work best for us.  Einstein once said, “Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” We just need to figure out what the best “moves” are.

Looking for support as you practice balance, sign up for my anxiety and balance blog, or check out my website, where you'll find more information on maintaining connection, stress management, and wellness.

This article was originally published at Dr. Alicia Clark's blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.