?10 Ideas for Finding a More Balanced Life

October is rough for teachers. Affectionately known as Sucktober to many of my colleagues, it is the month that makes first-year and tenth-year teachers alike second guess their career choice and long for the mysterious cushy job that one random college friend has. In some ways, just knowing October is a hard month can be solace. It will end, so hang in there. But in the midst of all the stress and exhaustion, you can also take some active steps towards easing the symptoms of the season and feel a little more balanced.
Balance is the result of making small, strategic decisions in your day-to-day life that add up to happier days. It’s not about making your job magically easy, it’s about being happy more often during the day. Pick and choose from the list below to get started!
Pick one new habit and celebrate success. Yes, we know we should all be eating perfectly, sleeping a ton, exercising every day, being perfect teachers, and smiling while we do it. But for most of us, just acknowledging all the things we should be doing only overwhelms us more. So let’s give ourselves a break and just pick on thing from this list we want to try in order to feel more balanced. Then, as you accomplish that one thing, give yourself a pat on the back and be happy. Yay, more balance!
Practice gratefulness. It’s easy to focus on the things that didn’t go well during the day and the things we didn’t get done. Try to find time before bed to identify the things that did go well and be grateful for what we have going for us. Did you have a nice conversation with a student in the hallway or did your fellow teacher help you with some copies? Let yourself feel grateful for those small moments and end your day on a positive note. Studies show that how happy we are is directly related to how grateful we feel, so building that practice into our daily life will really start to pay off.
Cut corners. Cleaning my own house and making myself a healthy lunch every day are things I really, really want to do. But I can’t keep up with either, so I cut corners. I now pay someone to clean my house and I bring relatively healthy frozen meals for lunch. While not my ideal solution, I feel much more relaxed coming home to a clean house and having less fast food wrappers in my car. What are the ideals you can give yourself a break on to cut a few corners and feel more balanced?
Be nice. Being nice to people is possibly the easiest way to give yourself a little boost of happiness to balance your day. One of my go-to strategies is being nice to other drivers on the road. Every time I let someone into the exit lane ahead of me or give someone a wave for letting me over, I get a small happiness boost – no small feat in Houston traffic. Consciously being nice to a cashier or giving a dollar to a person in need can give you that same boost.
Avoid the negatrons. The attitudes of the people around us have a strong impact on our own state of mind. Love joking with that colleague who also happens to complain about everything? You may want to steer clear. Instead, start eating lunch with that teacher who always seems calm and positive. It’ll curb your desire to gossip or complain and his or her positivity will start rubbing off on you.
Minimize distractions. How many times have you picked up your smart phone to do a specific task and ten minutes later found you’ve scrolled all your newsfeeds and read new e-mails and forgotten entirely about the initial task? All of these distractions suck our time and often leave us feeling frazzled and unfocused.  Turn off as many alerts as you can and close out of social media accounts when you’re done with them so that your screens aren’t constantly pulling you off task every time you look at them. Distractions can turn a one-hour task into a stressful three-hour task if we don’t get rid of them and allow ourselves to focus and get into a productive workflow.
Don’t check e-mail first thing in the morning. Every time you check your e-mail you immediately have several new tasks or distractions competing for your focus. Especially if you’re getting ready to greet your students in a few minutes, don’t open your e-mail until a dedicated time when you can read and respond to it calmly without it just becoming a stressful distraction.
Map out your schedule. Blocking off times to complete major tasks can help you feel more in control of your time and workload. It can also help you enjoy your personal time. If you plan to go out to lunch on Saturday knowing you have time blocked off for specific work items at another time, you can relax and enjoy your lunch instead of secretly stressing about when you’ll get everything done.
Prioritize what you love. If you love exercising or playing the guitar or knitting or bowling, but never do it anymore, it’s easy to feel unbalanced. When you map out your schedule each week, carve out some time to participate in those hobbies you really love and spend time with loved ones. And especially if you have already scheduled time for all of your work tasks, it will allow you to prioritize what you love without feeling like you should be working instead.
Exercise, eat & sleep – baby steps.  These are the big ones that are sometimes the hardest to prioritize, especially if we feel like we have to prioritize all three. If you want to make yourself healthier, set a small goal in this area to get you started. Maybe exercising twice per week or cutting sodas out of your diet. Either of these can have a huge impact on your sense of balance and well-being and let yourself off the hook for the aspects of your health you have a harder time prioritizing. I’ve had the most success being healthy when it’s part of a challenge or team effort, so rally your colleagues and get started!
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