Life is a balance beam.

What is a balance beam? I’m sure we are familiar what balance beams are used for–knowingly gymnastics–and other activities that require profound balance and talent. But did you know that the actual apparatus (the rectangular object) and the event is known as the “beam?” This event is only performed by female gymnasts, which I did not know.

The balance beam (a.k.a. “BB” ) is one of the most difficult events in sport events around the world. This requires the gymnast to either be barefoot or to wear special footwear to ensure that they are non-slip and not easily removed. This is important in terms of balancing on the beam as well as falling off or onto the beam which can be very painful and even cause serious injury depending on the fall. aid744284-v4-728px-walk-on-a-gymnastics-balance-beam-step-4-version-2

Because I like to not only give visuals, but also understand the meaning of words, I looked up balance in the dictionary. Balance is the even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. What a perfect definition, especially in terms of where this post is headed.

As you can see from both images, balancing on the beam requires such a particular amount of attention, focus, and talent. So much so that these gymnasts dedicate their lives to training on the beams as well as running down the mats to properly jump onto the beam without stumbling or falling. Also, they practice weight training to ensure that they can hold up their own weight both on their feet and on their hands. I find this so amazing! They spend countless hours practicing the full routine before competing against others and perfecting their strategy to not only win and score points but to avoid injuries and falls. Imagine the amount of strength, both physically and mentally, that this event requires from a gymnast. I’m not even going to try and lie, but I cannot actually imagine it. Can’t fathom it because I haven’t ever done anything like it!

With that said, use your imagination for a second. I’d like to compare this balance beam event to the every day event that we compete with while trying to “balance the beam of life.” Life is similar to the concept of what a gymnast has to do in order to competitively participate in a competition.

Let’s look at the definition of balance again. Balance is the even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.

Think about this in terms of what we balance in life daily. We so frequently balance different events. We balance life with children, a spouse, family, our careers, our personal lives, exercise, hobbies, finances, and so much more. We are quite talented gymnasts in terms of balancing the beam of life. This requires so much attention, focus, and talent as well. Think of times where you have to balance dealing with personnel issues at work, family issues, sick children or your own sickness, finances, personal issues and all the things that come with life along with being present, focused, and attentive to daily “competition.” This is serious talent. Because when we are a little off kilter we can seriously injure ourselves or others. Whether that be mindlessly driving and we run a red light because we are so focused on the problems last night at home as well as the expectation for more issues at work or being so ill we simply cannot function.

This is why it is so important to determine a difference between “work” and “play.” This helps eliminate the fact of mindlessly “doing” and practice being consciously aware of what we are doing at the present moment while placing the other distractions at the back of our mind for a later time. The balancing beam of life comes in when we know there are other things that need to be taken care of, but we are able to compartmentalize those into various places in our mind and focus on the present priorities that need to be taken care of in order to balance the beam. This involves being grounded versus randomly and haphazardly doing things that come by instinct or second nature. It is important to ask ourselves whether you are doing a mundane task without realizing what you are actually doing or what your priorities should be or are you present and consciously aware of the tasks you are completing in order to keep the beam balanced. Because you might add or subtract something from that balance beam and become completely off balance. Even a little off balance can cause things that can otherwise be prevented if we were grounded.

I talk about what grounding is in other blog posts, so check out the self care post! This also means not blocking out the thoughts that come to mind when having to multi-task because this can actually be even more distracting by trying to force out thoughts, but not judging the thoughts coming in and out and just letting them flow as they are. Let them come and go. Don’t pay much attention to them. But also don’t completely ignore them. For me, I am a list person, so I write lists with priorities for the day, and try not to get too ahead of yourself where you are writing to-do lists for weeks and months ahead. Although sometimes this is hard not to do, writing down goals for the future is important, but it is also equally important to focus on the present so that you aren’t too distracted. By allowing the thoughts to come and go, this permits the subconscious to meet the conscious mind and bring out what we need to be aware of and what can be stored away until later.

Being aware is so important.

Aware is having the knowledge or the perception of a situation or fact in the present moment. 

Practicing this is like the gymnast who practices perfecting that routine on and off the balance beam. Same goes for us–practicing managing the balance beam of life helps perfect that routine of doing so. Don’t get me wrong, we all have our days, will make our mistakes big or small, and will fail certain days. But that just means we are human which is a good thing. LOL! I don’t know about you, but I am not God and never want to strive to be because I will always fail.

To relate this to mental illness, I have to truly strive every day, every hour, every minute to stay present. To practice active awareness. With a mood disorder, things get foggy. My concentration strays. My mood fluctuates which means my energy and motivation levels also change. It also means I struggle with prioritizing if I am anxious or feel as if I am not balancing the beam of life correctly. While this is frustrating and probably more of a disadvantage for me compared to others, I consider this an advantage. I have practice much more specific balancing of the beam of life, check and double check because mistakes can go awry when anxious or depressed or with cycling moods, but it makes me a stronger person physically and mentally. Those of us that struggle with mental illness or know someone, extend grace because this is an hourly battle and it is exhausting. I encourage you all to find a rhythm that works for you. What works for you may not work for others and that is ok. Just find your balance and life will become significantly more fulfilling. Not easier, lol just more meaningful.

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