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THE BUSY PERSON'S GUIDE TO BALANCE AND BOUNDARIES
By Betty Hill Crowson
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Betty Hill Crowson
All rights reserved.
What are you Doing?
Before we begin, let's understand a few things:
Many of us have become so busy that we oft en feel little or no connection to our own lives.
To think that someday in the future we will "get our act together" is magical thinking. Now is the time to do this, not later, after, when, if ...
Nobody benefits by our being overextended, overwhelmed, exhausted, and/or emotionally off-kilter—nobody. (If we think this doesn't apply to us, we might ask somebody who lives or works with us!)
There are steps we can and must take in order to recover or create greater personal balance.
Obviously, we can't do much until we have a clear picture of what needs to change. So a good place to begin this process is by looking at what we are so busy doing. In other words, what currently consumes our time, energy, hours, days, weeks, and even months? What is on all of these plates we are spinning in the air?
We need to take an inventory; an assessment that looks at two things—what uses and drains our time and energy, and what refills and re-energizes us. This process is similar to determining one's financial condition. We all know that if we put more money into a bank account than we take out, we enjoy the freedom of having a surplus. This feels good. We are ready for an emergency. Our stress is greatly reduced from not only having enough, but having something to spare, a little extra—just in case.
On the other hand, when we withdraw more than we put in, our funds become exhausted. Our checkbook is out of balance, our checks may bounce, and in some cases, we become hopelessly broke.
This same banking principle can be easily applied to our physical expenditure of energy. Energy which consistently goes out without being replaced or replenished eventually runs out of steam. When we keep doing and giving, without benefit of refilling, we end up giving from the core, rather than any surplus. When this happens, our lives and our bodies become stressed and begin to break down on a daily basis. Rather than human beings, we become human "doings," and we suffer for it. We can have difficulty sleeping, live with excessive anxiety, and experience all types of physical disorders.
We really must change this dynamic. And we can—one baby step at a time. The following exercise (borrowed from this author's previous book, The Joy is in the Journey: A Woman's Guide through Crisis and Change), is a great place to begin. And although it may take a few minutes to complete, it will be time well spent. So even if you think you already know the answers, do the following the way it is laid out. As you do, more will absolutely be revealed.
Exercise 1: Make a List
This first exercise helps us look at what currently consumes our time and energy. Take your own personal inventory by writing down on the left side of the chart below (Outgoing Energy), what you typically do in a day; just a list of chores, obligations, and commitments. Don't worry about the right side of the chart right now; we will address that in another section.
As you make this list, be sure to include routine activities such as working, commuting, shopping, child or animal care, checking emails, car pooling, and/or family commitments. Also make note of things like reading, watching television, talking with friends, exercising, playing games on the computer, and so forth.
After compiling your initial list, pick one day to become an observer in your own life; a day dedicated to really paying attention to and keeping track of how much time you actually spend doing various things. Keep a notebook with you and write down the specifics. For instance:
Working outside of the home—8 hours
Doing household chores—2 hours
Watching television—3 hours
Talking with friends on the telephone—1 hour
Spending time on the computer/Internet—2 hours
At the end of the day, check this new list against the original list. Any surprises?
After doing this exercise, notice if any of the things on your list are new additions to your time/energy usage. For example, did you recently take on extra hours at work, enroll in a college course or two, bring home a new baby or pet, begin caring for an elderly or sick friend or relative, start a different job with a longer commute? Are you newly divorced or widowed with increased responsibilities? Have you received a recent diagnosis that requires additional appointments or tests? Or has something recently been removed from your life? Highlight any recent changes.
When you finish writing, try to step outside of yourself and do a quick assessment of your "outgoing energy." Be as objective as you can. We are only gathering information and there is no need to make any kind of negative judgment, which would only be a further waste of energy! You are encouraged to be "curious not critical," a phrase that will be repeated often throughout this book.
Now, looking at your list, honestly ask yourself the following:
Am I doing too much in general?
Am I doing way too much?
Are my expectations of what I should be able to accomplish in a day realistic or far from it? (Now, be honest!)
Do I typically take care of everyone else's needs before my own? Am I paying a price for this, physically or emotionally?
On a normal day, can I identify feeling any of the following: overwhelmed, resentful, exhausted, angry, anxious, overextended, and/or under-appreciated?
If I recently took on new chores or responsibilities, whether in the home, office, or community, have I given anything up in order to accommodate these?
If circumstances are such that I have been left with a huge void in a once-full life, am I going as fast as I can, trying to fill it just for the sake of filling it?
When we are over-extended, everything becomes a chore, even the pleasurable. We've all been there.
"Do I have to go to my book club?"
"I wish I hadn't told the guys I'd play poker tonight."
"I can't believe I said I would go to the play!"
Or perhaps we are one of those who is currently living with the opposite problem—too little to do because of a major loss. When this is the case, the tendency here can be to try to fill the empty spaces with just about anything in order to escape the accompanying feelings. While that is not necessarily a bad thing to do, especially in the beginning, it is not meant to become a way of life. This book's sequel on inner healing will address many of these issues. In the meantime, working on balance and boundaries is still the next right thing to do.
Exercise 2: Take One Thing Off of Your Plate
This next exercise, while extremely simple, will not be easy for most. It requires us to make a decision to stop doing SOMETHING; to remove at least one thing from our never-ending list of "what we typically do in any given day."
Some of us won't even know where to begin. Perhaps we've convinced ourselves that there is nothing we can change; no task we can eliminate or delegate. If this is your case, you may need to delve a little deeper. So take another look at your "outgoing energy" list in relationship to the following questions, and be willing to get really honest. Remember, you do have choices!
Are there things on this list that really don't need to be done now? Could they possibly be put off for another time, another week, month, or even another year? This is not to be confused with procrastination but refers to becoming "right-sized" with your self-expectations.
Is there anything on this list that somebody else in the family/ office/neighborhood/church could or should be doing? Can you ask them? Is the thought of doing that difficult? Has this been a lifelong issue?
Do you believe that just because you can do something well, that you're the one who is supposed to do it?
Do you believe that just because somebody asks you to do something, you need to say yes? Could this be related to ego, people-pleasing, or the need to be in control of things? (Not to worry: We will deal with all of these in following chapters.)
Is part of the reason you don't delegate because you're afraid other people won't do it the "right" way or at the right time? What would be the worst thing that could happen?
Do you tend to feel anxious if every moment of your life isn't filled with activity? Or do you feel guilty if you're not busy doing something? Do you know where these feelings come from?
Do you have unrealistic expectations of what you should be able to accomplish in a day? Do you oft en end up disappointed in yourself when you don't accomplish everything?
When was the last time you enjoyed guilt-free downtime?
Once again, as you answer these questions, there is no need to be self-critical. Be curious instead. In fact, as you move through this book, you will undoubtedly find that much of your tendency to be overly-busy is related to boundary issues which we will be addressing further on.
However, in the meantime, consider taking at least ONE thing off your daily "to do" list. Are you willing to do this? To either let a specific task or obligation or commitment go completely, or to delegate it to somebody else—without becoming overly-concerned with whether or not they are doing it "your way?"
If you're struggling with this, the following exercise should provide some greater clarity.
Exercise 3: Ask Yourself What Really Matters
Those first two exercises were intended to just get us moving in a different direction—towards balance. However, the extent to which we take the suggestions put forth will undoubtedly come down to how motivated we really are to change, or how awakened we become to our need to change. So, let's take a moment now to ask ourselves what are probably the most important questions we can ever ask: "What are my basic values and authentic priorities? In the larger scheme of things, what really matters to me?"
What are your priorities? What do you truly care about? Health, family, spirituality, career, creativity, travel, intellectual stimulation, church, networking, increasing your visibility in the larger world, being of service, having a partner, writing, completing a specific goal? What really matters?
Simply put, if you knew that your life was time-limited (which of course it is), what do you want to be doing with your time and energy? Take a few moments to list at least five things that you deem important. Write them down. Once again, think deeply and be honest with yourself.
Now comes the really important part. After completing this list of personal priorities, compare it to your list of what you are currently doing. Do the two resemble each other at all? Or is the daily "to do" list far removed from what really matters to you? If so, it should be very evident that something needs to change! And it doesn't have to be a huge change; just a small course correction will begin to shift the energy. Don't worry; more is going to be revealed as you go along. For right now, you're doing great!CHAPTER 2
Regroup, Refill, Recover
Now we need to find ways in which to increase our "incoming energy." We may have already determined that some of the same things that require our time and energy also energize us in return, such as exercise or time spent with friends or family. Writing our list may have also highlighted some task or commitment of time that we are willing to let go of, or delegate. We also took action by asking ourselves and writing down "what really matters." Comparing these priorities to our daily to-do list further increased our awareness.
It is now time to go one step further by learning, and eventually utilizing, practices that will help renew and re-energize us. This is how we begin filling in the right side of our Time Energy Awareness chart. This will prove a great deal more challenging than the left side did, primarily because it involves something with which many of us are not all that familiar—self-care. In fact, we may not even know what self-care implies. So let's keep this really simple by considering that self-care refers to developing and maintaining actions, attitudes, and habits which, rather than add or create stress, promote balance and well&-being instead. Self-care boosts energy levels, elevates moods, clears up confusion, and increases self-esteem. It involves giving ourselves the same time, kindness, respect, and nurturing that we so oft en give others.
Self-care is not about whipping ourselves into shape. After all, we've tried that with little or no long-term success. So why not take another approach? Instead of beating ourselves into conformity, how about nurturing ourselves into well-being?
The best time to begin self-care is always first thing in the morning. Before racing helter-skelter into action, or should we say "motion," we must make/take intentional time to pause, reflect, and think about what we are planning to do and why. Simply put, the way in which we begin our day will determine how well, or not, we will live it. Taking time to think prior to "doing" is the beginning of increased consciousness. It is one of the most powerful changes we can ever make.
This morning practice will not demand a huge block of time. We only need five, maybe ten minutes, to pause, consider the day ahead, mentally envision our obligations and commitments, and perhaps even review some of these previous questions:
Are there things I'm planning to squeeze in today that really don't need to be done now? Could they possibly be put off for another time, another week, month, or year?
Is there anything on this list I could ask somebody else to do? Can I delegate it?
Do I have unrealistic expectations on how much I "should" be able to accomplish today? Can I make a decision just for today, not to "should" all over myself?
If we can develop some discipline around this practice of becoming conscious—in other words, considering what we're planning to do and why before jumping into our day—we increase our chances tenfold for taking action rather than just getting caught up running in circles. At the same time, we increase our probability for acting like human beings rather than human doings. And we will begin to expend our time and energy on things that really matter, instead of simply taking care of business. This is the very beginning of healthy self-care, and when our own side of the street is in balance, the whole world benefits.
There are several other behaviors and actions which fall under the umbrella of healthy self-care. The following pages will look at some of these. Take time with the suggestions. Don't just read through them quickly, but really evaluate which ones you may currently be using, and which ones could use some additional attention.
Remember to breathe
It's amazing how many of us have actually forgotten how to breathe properly! Without being aware of it, our first reaction to any kind of stress, discord, or anxiety is almost universally the same: our shoulders start to hunch up, our hands begin to clench, and our breathing becomes shallow, at times to such an extent that we hyperventilate or even have an anxiety attack!
So easy does it. Take a deep breath right now. Breathe. Relax. Slow down. There is no rush. Don't make this book just another thing "to do." In fact, let's take a moment to practice the centering breath. It only takes two minutes and is a wonderful de-stressing tool which can be done anywhere, anytime. It not only stops the cycle of stress, but it also reduces anxiety, and curbs anger. It is certainly worth a couple of minutes!
Begin by placing your tongue behind your front teeth. Now breathe in sharply through your nose to the count of four. Hold your breath to the count of eight, and then slowly and thoroughly exhale through your mouth to a count of seven. Do this four times in a row. For those who border on the excessive side, please note that four times is all that is necessary for transforming results.
Take time to rest/sleep
When our schedules get overly-full, it seems like the first thing we let go of is sleep and/or rest. Even though we are told that the optimum adult requirement for sleep is seven to nine hours each night, how many of us come close to that on a good day, let alone when there is just too much to do? Instead of going to bed at a reasonable hour, what do we typically do? We throw in another load of laundry, balance the checkbook, finish the report, bake brownies for the next day, get on the computer, or numb out with mindless television. Our need for bed rest gets put on the back burner and the consequences are not only felt by us, but by those around us as well.
When we are overly-tired, everything feels like an effort. And because our bodies lack energy, we oft en look for some quick fix to re-energize us—sugar, caffeine, drugs, prescription and otherwise, even alcohol. Just look at the recent popularity of hyper-sugared, hyper-caffeinated, "energy" drinks! Their increase in sales is symptomatic of how exhausted we are as a society, and how frequently we look for something to get us through the day, event, program, or task. The problem is, most of these quick fixes ultimately back fire on us. The same things we use to keep us alert during the day, keep us up at night, thus compounding our problems the following day, and contributing to a downward spiral.
Excerpted from THE BUSY PERSON'S GUIDE TO BALANCE AND BOUNDARIES by Betty Hill Crowson. Copyright © 2013 Betty Hill Crowson. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part One: Create Personal Balance, 1,
Chapter One: What are you Doing?, 7,
Chapter Two: Regroup, Refill, Recover, 18,
Chapter Three: Stay Accountable, 36,
Part Two: Achieve Emotional Freedom, 53,
Chapter Four: Learn How to Let Go, 58,
Chapter Five: Not to Worry, 67,
Chapter Six: Release Resentment and Anger, 73,
Chapter Seven: Let Go and Let Be, 86,
Chapter Eight: Move into the Light, 95,
Part Three: Establish and Maintain Boundaries, 115,
Chapter Nine: Clarify Boundaries, 121,
Chapter Ten: Build a "Boundary Toolkit", 131,
Chapter Eleven: Stop Controlling!, 149,
Part Four: Connect with the Real, 171,
Chapter Twelve: Understand "Cosmic Unrest", 175,
Chapter Thirteen: Begin Spiritual Recovery, 180,
Chapter Fourteen: Access the Inner World, 188,
Chapter Fifteen: Expand Awareness, 198,
Chapter Sixteen: Move Beyond the Chatter, 207,
Epilogue: Now What?, 225,
About the Author, 229,