How to Balance Your Life for Better Health and Life Satisfaction

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Balance yourself, mentally and physically, for optimum healthThere’s a lot of talk these days about the best ways to balance your life and enjoy better health and greater life satisfaction. In fact, this seems to be a very worthy goal for a lot of people. But despite the popularity of this goal, it isn’t always easy to do. Life is busy and frantic and people don’t always have the time or the space to think about tactics that will improve their own life satisfaction. But that’s a mistake that will only lead to long term problems and even serious illnesses or disorders. The best strategy is to make changes early, before any problems force you to do so. This will allow you to better manage your stress, personal life, work, and relationships, and make for a much happier life overall. It will also help you if you have stress related disorders such as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) because it will allow your body to re-balance and heal itself and return to normal functioning again.

What is a Balanced Life?

Finding ways to balance your life isn’t as easy as it might sound. Most people have a tendency to push themselves to extremes in one part of their life or another. It’s just human nature. You might have good relationships and a great work environment, but struggle to even walk around the block. Or your work might be insanely stressful while the rest of your life is fairly serene. You can even see this tendency in smaller ways as well. For example, people who have been overweight for years often set themselves completely unreasonable weight loss goals once they decide to get into shape. You might think that the imbalances you notice in your life are simply unavoidable. But the truth is, as long as there is something in your life that causes you stress and unease on a regular basis, it will have a negative impact on your health.

There can be a number of reasons why a part of your life goes out of balance. Sometimes it’s your own ambitions and expectations that cause it. And sometimes it’s because of the expectations of the people around you. Whatever the cause, letting one part of your life go out of balance over the long term won’t be beneficial for your life or for your health. In fact, it will probably be incredibly damaging to every part of your life, not just the part that’s unbalanced.

Making changes to balance your life is all about finding the middle ground in everything you do. This doesn’t mean that you should walk away from your work, passions, relationships or life itself. Instead, it means honestly evaluating your life and working out what’s in your control and what isn’t, and changing what you can and need to.

Why You Should Balance Your Life

When you don’t balance your life, everything is harder and more stressful because it doesn’t only affect the unbalanced parts of your life. The effects of the imbalance bleed over into everything, making your everyday activities more difficult. As a result, you’ll probably find yourself constantly stressed and with your life in chaos. You may even find yourself running from one event to the next and forgetting or neglecting the most important parts. This can have the following effects on your life:

  • It can damage your relationships.
  • Your work will suffer because you can’t put all of your time or focus on the things you do.
  • Your physical health may suffer because of a poor diet or bad lifestyle choices.
  • You may struggle to find time for your passions, resulting in poor life satisfaction overall.
  • Your stress levels will be high constantly as you struggle to get everything done.
  • Your mental health may suffer because of the resulting stress.
  • Emotional problems can also be a problem in these types of situations

The Stress of an Unbalanced Life

Balance yourself practice moderation to avoid stressOne of the most important reasons for making changes to balance your life is your stress levels. Some amount of stress is normal, and can even be beneficial, pushing you to do better or to do new things. But when stress continues over the long term it can be incredibly damaging. It wears on your mind and on your body, causing damage to both. Even short term stress can cause a variety of symptoms such as headaches, emotional turmoil, and stomach upsets. And it can also cause people to adopt negative behaviors such as smoking or overeating in response. This can bring on even more health problems and additional stress.

When stress becomes long term, it can be even more dangerous. It can result in a number of dangerous diseases such as cancer, heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure. This is because stress literally wears away at the body and the mind. It can also cause the adrenal glands to become fatigued. The adrenals are an important part of the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response, which is the system in the body that responds to stress. This system is responsible for your body’s response to stress and for protecting your body from its damaging effects. The adrenals are a key part of the NEM stress response because they excrete cortisol, sometimes called the stress hormone. When you’re under stress for a long time, the demand for this hormone is correspondingly high and this is where the problems can begin.

This type of situation can’t continue over the long term. When it does, the adrenals can become fatigued and struggle to keep up with their duties. And because the adrenals secrete more than 50 essential hormones, this can be devastating for your overall health and result in AFS. When this occurs, it means that the various circuits in your body have become unbalanced, resulting in a variety of confusing and debilitating stress symptoms that cause further problems.

When your adrenals become fatigued because of stress, it will affect every part of your life from your sleeping patterns, to your energy levels. It will cause physical pain and frightening symptoms such as palpitations. It may even affect your mental and emotional health, resulting in anxiety or depression as well as memory problems. Once you get into this cycle, it can be very difficult to get out of it again. The symptoms are so vague and related to so many different circuits in the body that finding someone who can help you recover is often a difficult and frustrating journey. But the key to recovering from AFS is working to balance your life and in that way reduce your stress levels so your body can heal itself.

Balancing your Diet

One of the first things you need to do to balance your life is to look at your diet. What you eat is key to lowering your stress levels and improving symptoms of AFS. The food you eat nourishes your body and gives it the fuel it needs to function properly during the day and to fix any problems. As a result, if your diet is poor because of stress and life imbalances, your body will struggle because it isn’t getting the nutrients it needs to function properly. Restrictive diets or diets that are high in fat and sugar don’t work in this type of situation.

The best diet for AFS consists of 30 to 40 percent vegetables, 20 to 30 percent lean proteins, and around the same amount of healthy fats. The rest should be legumes, grains and fruits. Make sure you drink plenty of water and avoid foods that are high in sugar, fat or preservatives. This diet will do more than make you physically healthier. It will also help you to balance your life overall and encourage healthy changes in other aspects of your life too.

As with any changes that you make to your routine, make sure that you do so with the help of an expert. AFS can be a complicated disease to deal with, so get advice from someone who knows about the disorder and the effects it can have on the body. This will give you the best chance of designing a diet and lifestyle that’s best for your life and health.

Lifestyle Changes

The other key to AFS recovery will also help you to balance your life. Physical exercise is essential for your mental, emotional and physical health, and yet it’s a part of life that many people ignore or neglect. When your days are busy, it can be difficult to even think about adding one more chore to your daily list. You may be too busy, or just not have the energy. But it’s also essential. Getting regular exercise can have the following effects on your life:

  • It will improve your mood.
  • Aid in weight loss.
  • Increased energy levels.
  • It will improve the health of your muscles and bones.
  • It will help you avoid certain diseases.
  • Some evidence suggests it will make you live longer.
  • It can help with relaxation.

If you have AFS, exercising may be even more difficult. People with this disorder often react badly to vigorous exercise, resulting in even lower energy levels and more physical and mental problems. You need to find a form of exercise that’s right for you and work within the demands and limitations of your own body and physical condition. Exercise forms such as yoga or gentle walking still have benefits for your body and mind and yet they’re not nearly as demanding as other types of exercise. They won’t impede your healing at the same time as they work to better balance your life and improve its quality overall.

Reducing Stress for a More Balanced Life

This is the final idea for making changes that balance your life and it’s probably the most important one. Reducing your overall stress levels will benefit your life in countless ways and most of the time it’s not so complicated either. First of all, you need to identify sources of stress in your life. Stress can come in many forms in the modern world and can be mental, emotional or physical. So look at your life and work out what’s causing you stress without dismissing the importance of that feeling or the consequences that stress could be having on your life. Sometimes, people dismiss the idea that a relationship or situation could be causing them damaging stress. After all, it’s ‘just’ emotional stress. But the truth is, emotional stress is just as damaging as other types and just as likely to cause damage to your body that results in AFS. In fact, emotional and mental stress are far more common in the modern world than physical stress and are usually the triggers for AFS and other stress related disorders.

After you’ve identified stressors, you need to work on eliminating or reducing these causes of stress from your life as much as possible. Obviously, you won’t be able to eliminate all of them, but even making small changes can make a big difference to your overall stress levels and allow you to start the recovery process.

The Takeaway

Learning how to better balance your life can have a number of benefits for your health and for the quality of your life overall. It’s particularly helpful to think in this way if you have AFS, because making these changes will lower your stress levels and encourage better eating and more balanced lifestyle choices. When you think about balance, you need to consider all the different facets of your life and try to avoid going to the extremes in any way. Making choices that keep you in the middle ground isn’t always easy, but it’s essential if you want to master this incredibly beneficial life skill.

© Copyright 2013 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

If you’re trying to balance your life, the most important thing you can do is adopt strategies that will lower your stress levels and allow you to enjoy better health. This will improve every other aspect of your life at the same time.

Balance yourself, mentally and physically, for optimum health