One of the eye-opening and ultimately life changing lessons I learned during one of my inpatient stays was the theory of balance. Considering I’ve named my blog “Bipolar Balancing Act” you can see that it really has had an impact on my life.
The concept is simple. In order to optimize your health – particularly your mental health – balance is key.
Balance between leisure, productivity and self-care provides a foundation for healthy living. This approach is commonly seen in Occupational Therapy, and while I am not a therapist (or educated/licensed in any health care field), I advocate keeping these three areas in mind.
The three areas are deceptively simple at first glance. Have fun, do stuff and take care of stuff all seems pretty simple. The trick is in seriously considering what activities actually fall in each area. Some will overlap. Some will be in different areas for different people.
Personally, I was quite relieved when I realized that working out at the gym did not have to be a leisure activity. For me, it is more suited as a self-care activity. If I try to make it fill the spot of leisure I become unbalanced and quite frankly, irritable. Gym is not fun for me. When I account for gym as self care and then use my leisure time to do something that fulfills my “fun meter” it is much easier to feel balance.
What is Leisure?
Leisure is comprised of the activities that bring us enjoyment. It does not require anything to be produced. It does not need to be practical. Leisure is what we do when we are enjoying a hobby, pursuing our own interests, or are participating in social events. A mix of social and personal leisure activities is most beneficial.
Some times it can be hard to come up with an idea for a leisure activity when you are depressed. For me, it was hard to even consider leisure when all my laundry was piled up and I had called in sick to work because my depression was overwhelming. If you are having a hard time thinking of some leisure activities, try here for a list of recreational activity ideas.
What is productivity?
Productivity is “work”. It does not have to be paid work, all the hard effort put into caring for family, maintaining your home, or volunteering at an organization counts as productivity. For a more scholarly definition of productivity, read this article on Occupational Therapy – Productivity.
I have often overloaded myself with productivity, or beaten myself up if my level of productivity was not up to my exacting standards. Balance is just as key with productivity. It is possible to do too much. Ever felt burnt out? You probably were overloaded with productivity!
What is self care?
Self care is everything you do to take care of yourself. Like I mentioned before, going to the gym is an act of self care for me because I am doing it for my health. I also take care of myself by showering regularly, eating suitable meals, tidying my living space and spending time on mental health activities. Self care some times feels invisible to me because the activities on their own don’t usually take up much time. However, not making time or skipping self care can quickly derail my sense of balance.
Putting it Together: Balance
Every one is shaped different, so their physical center of balance is slightly different. In the same way, every one has a different life and their balance in leisure, productivity and self care will be different too.
It is also possible for the areas to overlap. As much as the gym may be self care for me, there are some parts that I find more leisurely. When I am depressed just brushing my teeth can fulfill my productivity needs along with self care.
Finding the right balance is personal. It will change on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. Spontaneity, and growth will affect your balance. Illness or relapse will too. Just remember to include all the areas!