Balancing for Life

When we are students, one of the hardest things to do is to maintain a sense of balance in our lives. We often start the academic year with new resolutions; we may be revitalized with energy after a holiday break, we are motivated and committed to a successful academic year.

But maintaining that sense of control over our lives may become increasingly difficult as the demands of university study unfold. Tertiary study has its own rhythm and cycle -  attending lectures, completing readings, finishing assignments, studying for tests and exams.

It is easy to overlook the basic factors which provide balance in our lives. When one of these factors is ignored or forgotten, we may become out of balance and our bodies let us know this has occurred. We may become unmotivated - stressed -  depressed - anxious - exhausted - lose our appetites or over-eat - become run down or sick - feel anti-social - not be able to sleep or sleep too much -  unable to study or work - lose our libido.

We need to remember that we are a complex mix of academic, physical, mental, spiritual and emotional dimensions. Each of these dimensions needs to be acknowledged and nurtured to maintain an adequate equilibrium for effective functioning.

So what are the basic factors which need to be in harmony and which are the building blocks for this necessary holistic balance?

  • D  Diet and nutrition
  • R  Relaxation
  • E  Exercise
  • S  Sleep and adequate rest
  • S  Socializing with friends, having fun

Now that you have read this simple list you are probably saying "I knew that!"  But it is so easy to overlook these fundamental building blocks. We often ignore the signs that we are out of balance, until our body malfunctions and our attention is drawn to the fact that something is out of sync!

D = DIET AND NUTRITION

We need to eat healthily! That means having lots of fresh or "live" foods - leafy green vegetables, salads, fresh fruit, nuts, and grains in our diet. Research has shown that "red" and "green" foods such as carrots, capsicum peppers, beetroot, tomatoes, yams, kumera, pumpkin, silverbeet, spinach, broccoli, beans, peas, lettuce, herbs, fruit and vegetables juices are especially rich in nutrients and help fight disease.

A balanced diet will also include many types of pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, cereals, milk, cheese, eggs, yoghurt, and high fiber products. Small servings of lean meat without fat or skin, help provide essential protein.  Avoid foods which are high in fats, oils and sugar, as they add extra fat to our diet and don't provide the necessary nutrients our body needs for optimum health.

We also need to limit our intake of - caffeine, (which is found in coffee, chocolate and tea);  alcohol; fizzy drinks such as Coca Cola; tobacco; junk foods and take-away foods.

GOOD EATING TIPS

  • Always have breakfast to avoid those mid-morning high fat snacks!
  • Don't skip meals
  • Avoid eating when you are bored, angry or tired
  • Drink lots of water throughout the day
  • Go easy on salt
  • Be smoke free
  • Limit your alcohol intake and drink water or low calorie mixers as a companion drink

Consider buying your fresh vegetables and fruit from local open air weekend markets . They operate from dawn until mid morning, the prices are much cheaper and much of the produce is organically grown.

R = RELAXATION

How do you relax?  Relaxation means stilling our physical, mental and emotional bodies so that we become peaceful and calm….our breathing slows, our pulse rate drops and we feel tranquil.  How can we achieve this state? By consciously taking "time out" to sit or lie in a comfortable cozy place, listen to relaxing music; read a book;  meditate to soft music;  enjoy a movie or video; listen to a relaxation tape which focuses on tightening and releasing tension in the major muscle groups; have a warm scented bath; have a massage; enjoy our pets or nature and her beauty.
Do not allow your thoughts to be troubled by extraneous issues. This is to be quality time for the inner you. Achieving a relaxed state can be a challenge when you are under pressure from work or study but it is a very necessary part of attaining that all-important balance so necessary for good health.

E = EXERCISE

This is another easily overlooked area but one which will work positively for us if we encourage it. Regular, vigorous exercise helps release "feel-good" endorphins, which gives us a positive sense of well being. Jogging, biking, a game of sport, or a work out at the gym on a regular basis will help ensure the balance we need. Endorphins are a natural chemical process and provide you with energy, strength, enthusiasm and keep you going with your daily tasks. If gentler options appeal, try a brisk walk,  Tai Chi, Yoga, or swimming.

Apart from feeling better, we get fitter and enhance our body shape!  All good reasons for establishing a regular exercise program!

S = SOCIALIZING WITH FRIENDS, HAVING FUN

When you plan your week's activities, make sure you have allowed time to see friends or family and have some fun! Deliberately structure your time to include the companionship and fellowship we all need as social beings. It is important to share our thoughts and feelings, to help and support each other through those hard times and to celebrate the good times. Smiles and laughter are great tonics and work their magic as wonderful release agents for negative thoughts, anxiety or "feeling blue".

If friends and fun are dominant factors in your life, you may need to reflect on whether so much time spent with them is affecting your work and grades.

S = SLEEP AND ADEQUATE REST

Often around exams or assignment deadlines it can be difficult getting enough sleep or adequate rest. We may feel stressed, anxious, worried or depressed about the task ahead of us and this affects our ability to get a good night's refreshing sleep. At times we may work late into the night and then find we cannot relax sufficiently to fall asleep. So we lie awake feeling more and more exhausted and frustrated with the non-sleep pattern which may be developing.

How can we break out of this cycle?

Before going to bed:

  • Have a warm milk-based drink such as  Milo, Cocoa, Bournvita. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they are stimulants
  • Have a small dairy-based or low carbohydrate snack
  • Have a warm bath or shower
  • Read a chapter of a recreational book so your eyes become tired
  • Write down all the things you need to do tomorrow and then try to stop worrying about them
  • Play a relaxation tape quietly

If lack of sleep becomes a serious issue, see a doctor.

Being in balance

When your mind, body and spirit are in balance,  things will feel manageable and under control. Be willing to make the changes which may be required to achieve a sense of equilibrium. This means developing disciplined personal and work habits and being effective with your time. The result will be a sense of self knowing and empowerment which feels good and is good for you.