Mindfulness and Seeking Balance

Burnout is a real phenomenon. It affects us all. Ironically, those in the mental heath field, teaching self-care to clients, don’t always abide by their own advice. Enter the concept of mindfulness. In an article from the American Psychological Association, “Seeking More Balance,” maintaining a work-life balance is a life-long task and is much easier said than done. Some professionals focus solely on time-management in order to create balance, as  with Jim Davies, PhD, a faculty member at Carleton University in Ottawa, “We’re too busy because we’re overcommitted, not because our jobs are too onerous.” He uses a strict technique of planning out every 30 minute block of his day, “Crucially, I also schedule in my breaks…including lunch, coffee breaks and even daily naps… For me, prioritizing life means putting it in the schedule like all the other important things.”  On the other hand, many others don’t seem to focus solely on time management, but rather energy. Sandra Lewis, PsyD, a clinical psychology at Montclair State University in New Jersey and founder of the Living Source, said, “People focus a lot on time management, but I think in terms of personal energy management. If you have enough energy, you make better use of your time. In the same way we charge our cellphones, we need to charge ourselves.” Instead of adding on all of these self-care activities to your day that then simply seem like another item on your To Do list, “Find self-care strategies that you can integrate in rather than add on. Honor the small things,” says Lewis. Instead of picking up a new exercise class at the local gym, walk around the block on your lunch break or instead of taking a half hour nap, spend 5 minutes between meeting meditating or breathing or stretching.

The APA included several research-based strategies in order to create and maintain balance in your life. One being to practice mindfulness. “Cultivating a habit of self-awareness is vital…One of the best things we can do is to develop a reflective habit of checking in with ourselves at least a couple times a day, taking note of the emotional ‘weather’ without judgment,” states John Christensen, PhD, past co-chair of the APA Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance. In a study of working parents, Tammy D. Allen, PhD, found that individuals with better mindfulness experienced better work-family balance and sleep quality as well as greater vitality. Another technique for better balance is to go outside. Roger Walk, PhD, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, has found that spending time in the great outdoors is linked to improved cognition, attention, mood and also subjective well-being. Lastly, a third technique is to make your life meaningful.  As Sandra Lewis states, “We do our best work and live our best lives when we have a sense of meaning – a feeling that we what we do extends beyond us and brings good to others.”

All of these mindfulness techniques can be utilized in many environments. We have found integrating mindfulness into our Equine Assisted Psychotherapy work with at-risk youth, veterans, families and even with our inmates.  Cultivating mindfulness while being surrounded by 1,200 beings, as they connect with you and match your breath is magical.

Check out the full article here: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/07-08/cover-balance.aspx