Balance – the Missing Link in Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle.
‘Life is all about balance. You don’t always need to be getting stuff done. Sometimes it is perfectly okay, to shut down, kick back and do nothing’.— Lori Deschene
I have always really struggled with the concept of balance
As much as I appreciate the sentiment of this quote, I have had a problem with maintaining balance for about as long as I remember. Even as a child I’m not sure I ever understood ‘take it easy’ despite hearing it frequently. I’m not sure if poor mental health has always been the cause but I have struggled with anxiety most of my life and I would say that anxiety and depression are certainly the main cause for my lack of balance in life now.
I understand a little more about anxiety and how the brain will do anything to find from it which called avoidance, since I was diagnosed with PTSD. I can see now that pushing myself to total exhaustion was a way of channelling the nervous energy from my mind into my tired muscles. That is avoidance for you and very typical in PTSD and other anxiety disorders.
Avoidance, hypermobility and extreme sports means pain and pain means anxiety
I was born with hypermobility and a thirst for extreme sports, it sounds like those two things would fight against each other and they certainly have done throughout my whole life and have been the cause for a lot of muscle and joint injuries and lasting damage. I love snow sports more than life itself. It’s just awesome exercise with beautiful surroundings but I tore multiple ligaments and tendons in my left knee whilst skiing in Austria aged 16 and finished my left shoulder off whilst learning to freestyle snowboard as a result of not being able to ski age 21.
Furthermore, pain is another common cause for anxiety and depression. As you can imagine, a routinely damaged musculoskeletal system will start to complain as a result of the stress and strain applied to it. Long term injuries, such as my unstable shoulder, hurt all day every day but can flare up or spasm causing increased anxiety and low mood. The link between mental health and pain is frequently reported on and works in both ways.
I am expecting to have some further investigations into my shoulder that may look at a possible psychological cause the physical therapy has not worked at all and the research is stacking up stating that this is the case more than thought previously.
Still struggling with balance, in sport and in work.
Now a healthy amount of exercise would be good for my bendy joints maintaining good muscle tone and normal flexibility and would aid in managing symptoms of PTSD but it would appear that is just not possible in my case. I’ve had 28 years to practice and have yet to get it right.
Sports aren’t the only way I have lacked balance in my life. I have been a nurse for 5 years now, I have worked in most areas of nursing that I can think of but have focussed my career on acute and emergency nursing. I absolutely loved my job and but I’m currently taking a break to look after myself. Work has also been a way to avoid my thoughts, even if I wasn’t aware of it at the time. Whilst I was desperately trying to buy my first property in Cornwall 300 miles away from where I grew up among juggling further education and seeing family, I often would work 80 hours a week in the emergency department.
It was hard work and everyone thought I was mad but surprisingly my performance never dropped. I said at the time it was for the money, for my apartment but I now know deep down, I was running away from myself. I recall being a little frayed at the edges and was heavily self-medicating to get sleep and relax when I was socialising.
In future, I will look to work a healthy amount of hours, balanced with exercise and socialising but how easy is it to say that?
I guess I could even class writing as something that I need to rein in from time to time. I started writing in April ’19 when I stopped working as a nurse because I was really struggling to speak about all parts of my mental illness. I have been encouraged to find a creative outlet which I wasn’t sure I had in me but here we are. I still can’t talk about the things I write about but it’s on the outside and I think that is all that matters in terms of expressing myself non-verbally.
Considering how easily I injure myself and how much anxiety is created by pain, I though having a non-physical hobby would be a great thing and a step towards balance. But believe it or not, as a person who has little to no focus or concentration, I can sit for hours writing poetry, blog articles, journals and whatever else takes my fancy. Which calls into question, the matter of balance, is it balanced to spend hours a day writing with nothing else? Of course not, so I have yet another need to curb my enthusiasm.
It seems fairly obvious to take a little of each of the things discussed here and do not run with them but I promise you it’s not as easy as it sounds. Each time I fall injured, burnt out or square-eyed I swear to myself, never again but I’m living proof that balance is a fine art that needs patience and thoughtfulness.