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Life, Mental Health are Balancing Acts

So be sure when you step.

Step with care and great tact

and remember that Life’s

a Great Balancing Act.

                              —Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss certainly knew his stuff. Life—and mental health—are indeed a Great Balancing Act. Specifically, they’re about balancing doing with being.

The Act of Doing

Doing is the stuff of life. We must do in order to live. We rise in the morning and forge ahead into the day of relationships, chores, work, and a seemingly endless to-do list of random yet crucial tasks. This doing is action and is vital for life-living, mental health, and wellbeing. Some of the benefits doing include:

  • meeting your needs—securing food, water, shelter, love and belonging, financial resources, etc.
  • creating a sense of empowerment—I can do it!
  • providing a source of energy—I am doing it and I’m charged up to keep going
  • building self-confidence and self-efficacy—”I didn’t think I could, I didn’t have the energy, but I did it anyway.”

Yes, taking action is crucial for our mental health and wellbeing. Taking even small steps, doing little things, goes a long way toward the place you want to be.
Despite the fact that doing is vital, too much action (or feeling too much pressure to act) can be damaging to our mental health and wellbeing. Living our lives on a hamster wheel can lead to

  • increased stressed, which negatively impacts mind, body, and spirit
  • fatigue, which is caused by too much emphasis on doing as well as the accompanying sleep disruptions
  • anxiety—the sense that nothing is ever done, is ever good enough and that you should be constantly working in order to be worthy, accepted, secure, etc.
  • depression— too much doing can throw us, including out brain chemistry, out of balance and negatively impact our mental health so significantly that we develop depression.

The Balancing Act: Doing and Being

If too much doing does more harm than good, its seems logical that we should stop doing that. Logical, perhaps, but it’s not always easy. Have you ever noticed that when you want to stop doing something, it becomes difficult? That’s because there’s an important piece missing: replacement.
To reduce something isn’t enough. We have to replace it with something else in order to fill in the hole left when we stop something. Replacement brings balance to our lives. In this case, to nurture our mental health by reducing our habit of frantically doing, we need to reduce the amount of harried action we’re taking and replace it with the opposite of doing: being.
Our being is our nature, the core of our self. Being is existing. It’s honoring who we are and allowing ourselves to be in each moment. Being involves mindfulness, using all of your senses to be fully present in the moment. It involves slowing down when you’re feeling agitated and taking slow, deep breaths to calm yourself down. Being is discovering what you like and doing more of it. In a state of simply being, we don’t feel pressured to do.  Being benefits our wellbeing in numerous ways, such as

  • quelling self-doubt—when we honor and accept ourselves for who we are, we begin to believe in ourselves more and more
  • relaxation—when we allow ourselves to just exist without the pressure to constantly do, we can let go of stress and reduce tension
  • stress-relief—when we allow ourselves to just be, our thinking slows, our muscles relax, breathing becomes slower and deeper, and we feel centered rather than pulled frantically in multiple directions.
  • enjoyment—when we slow down and let ourselves exist without self-judgment and rules for what we “should” be doing, we free ourselves up to discover what brings us meaning and to pursue it wholeheartedly.

Too much of either one, of being and doing, isn’t desirable. In excess, both disrupt our mental health and wellbeing because of a lack of balance between the two. We need to be do-ers, and wee need to be beings. We need a balance of doing and being, of action and relaxation.

Doing and Being: A Balance Budget

Achieving a balance between doing and being can be easier said than done. It’s one thing to know that this balance is important and another thing altogether to create and maintain that balance. First, know that it’s a process. It takes time to figure out what your personal balance looks like. Then, the balancing act takes practice. These two tips can help you achieve the balance:

  • Make lists, draw pictures, cut out images, or otherwise represent all of the things you have to do/want to do and all of the ways you like to relax, enjoy, and be—this will help you what’s important to you in both categories
  • Create a budget. Give yourself a certain number of “units” to spend in the doing category and in the being category each day. Track your spending to ensure you’re maintaining the balance you desire.

Striking a balance between doing (going, going, constantly going) and being (allowing yourself to relax and resist) will help you attain and sustain mental health and wellbeing.

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