Article by Elizabeth Babcock, LCSW; Photos from Unsplash.com
This article is excerpted from the book, “Why We Overeat and How to Stop.”
It would be wonderful to feel great all the time, but the reality is that we all have bad days. The way to have the fewest of them is to live a balanced lifestyle. Consider a table as a metaphor for your life: The structure is supported by the legs beneath which—in the case of your life—can vary greatly in number and type. Some common examples:
Each very close loved one
Each life goal.
Each personal passion Social/community involvement Spirituality
Employment or school Pets
Together, legs like these keep your life stable and strong. A table supported by three or four legs is far steadier than a table with only one or two, and so it is with your life. People with several good legs to rely on have much greater buffering against the vicissitudes of life than do those with fewer options.
If you are a person whose whole life is your job, for example—a single leg to stand on—you’re vulnerable to experiencing an emotional crisis if a serious job-related problem develops. Imagine your emotional position if you get reassigned or demoted, are given an impossible amount of work to complete, or end up assigned to a boss who bullies you.
Where is your sanctuary when your only source of identity and purpose becomes a source of stress? How doyou recharge, reassess, and find a wayto feel okay when there is no other emotional place for you to go?
Now imagine going through a life challenge, but with the difference that you have supportive friends to talk to, diving or some other pursuit that helps with stress management, or you take good care of yourself so that you feel stronger and can think more clearly when things go wrong. Better yet, imagine the difference if you have two of these elements going for you, or even all three. It’s a lot easier to manage a crisis in one part of your life if you’ve got some other parts you can still count on along the way.
Just as a table with only one or twolegs (work and diving, for example) is inherently insecure, far too reliant on good luck in order to remain upright, so are you. If you have only a leg or two to stand on, you’re always just one bad turn away from your life becoming unmanageably stressful.
If you’re starting to realize that your life has been balanced on just a precarious leg or two, rest assured that greater stability is nearer than you think. Having two legs to stand on is considerably better than one, yet still leaves you vulnerable because it’s not that hard for two legs (stress at work while an injury keeps you out of the water, for instance) to be compromised at the same time.
Once you have three legs, however, your emotional security increases dramatically simply because it’s so rare for three legs to all weaken or fail at once. For that reason, I recommend doing whatever you can to get three legs in place; an additional one or two never hurts. This makes for a morediversified and interesting life, andhaving a few strong legs in place gives you more of a safety margin in the event of a setback.
If you—like many people—only have one or two legs under your life table, chances are that health is not one of them. In that case, there are compelling reasons to make it more of a priority.
Health is always available to you as an option—no matter what, you always have the ability to choose in ways that bolster and protect whatever health you have. Even when the rest of your life is crumbling, focusing on health gives you a way to keep generating successes and maintaining some sense of control, all while positioning yourself to get the rest of your life back in order as soon as possible.
Many people abandon their health when the chips are down. They believe that they lack the time or energy for it in the midst of a crisis when the reality is that hanging onto your health could be what gets you through the crisis. As someone who has relied upon this strategy a number of times myself, I can assure you that it works. I’ve never seen it fail anyone.
If you still need another leg or two under your table, try a new hobby or revive an old one. Hobbies are an important source of pleasure, relaxation, and stress management, making them an essential component of truly satisfying, balanced living.