Balance is elusive. As soon as I think I have a hold of it, it slips through my fingers. I used to be so busy that things would fall through the cracks all the time. But I’ve had to assess my life and differentiate between being busy and being productive.
Most of my week days are the same. I head to work a bit early so I can savour some alone time before everyone else arrives. I’ll sit quietly at my desk with a steaming mug of coffee while I peruse emails and start on paperwork. After work is finished, I’ll head to the gym for a workout, to dance class, or I’ll run any errands that come up. Then I’ll drive back home to heat up some leftovers for dinner and take a quick shower. If I have the time, I’ll go for a short walk to unwind and process the day’s events. My evenings are usually spent in my room with the door closed so I can get some quiet reading in. Then it’s time for bed. I won’t attend social events on a week night but will instead schedule them on the weekend. I find this system works well for me. Having a set schedule keeps me sane.
But in order for this to work, I’ve had to plan out my days and stick to the schedule. I write out a list of things that must get done. Work, workouts, dance class, grocery shopping , meal prep, laundry, cleaning, and quiet time. I use the passion planner but there are lots of options out there. I write in my “wake up” and “go to bed” times then slot in all the must-do tasks. Any open spaces are free time that I can fill with hobbies, walks, or keep them open. It ensures the important things get done and reduces my stress.
How do you find balance?
I apologize for the lack of activity this past couple of weeks. Things have been stressful and busy schedules and personal conflicts have been uppermost in my mind. It finally feels like I’ve surfaced and come up for air. Getting back on top of my stress management (workouts, dance, mindfulness and going for walks) has helped a lot too. One of the things I’ve learned is how unrealistic expectations cause a lot of problems.
I hold myself to very unrealistic expectations. I expect perfection and get frustrated when I inevitably can’t live up to those standards. Even if I’ve never done it before. Even if it doesn’t make sense. Taking dance classes as a beginner has helped remind me that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to say “I don’t know”. Any skill develops with instruction and practice. Life itself is a process and attitude really is everything.
I also hold others to high expectations. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t expect great things from people. But there’s a huge difference between expecting perfection and being realistic. By discarding unrealistic expectations you can start viewing yourself and others as human beings. Flawed human beings who have issues, problems, and baggage. But also human beings who are engaging, bright, and have incredible futures ahead of them. We’re all in the same boat. So I’m learning to be more patient with myself and more understanding towards others.
We’ve been down a person at work this week. As a result, everyone has been a lot busier and I’ve been answering far more phone calls than I’d like. Monday was the worst. After a hectic day of dealing with clients, I went home to do some much-needed food prep.
Now I love making food. It’s relaxing and a great way to unwind. Not so when your roommate camps out in the kitchen for the entire three hours you’re cooking. She didn’t have anything that required the kitchen. She just wanted to be social. By the end of it, my half-hearted replies weren’t even coherent and I wanted to curl up in a ball. I made my escape as soon as I finished up the dishes.
When I’m overwhelmed my brain doesn’t function. I can’t explain how I’m feeling. I can’t think or analyze. Emotions, feelings, irritability, and frustration ebb and flow in my mind. I can’t piece out in words replies to normal questions or comments. And unfortunately, telling my roommate I’ve had a busy day and am feeling dead isn’t enough for her to lay off.
To counteract the overwhelm, I went full anti-social on Tuesday and Wednesday after work. It was a success! I felt so much better. I did have a Tango class on Wednesday night. But I love dance class, so it’s not something that’s too draining.
But it was a good reminder of how delicate the balance is between quiet and noise. With a busy spring and summer coming up I need to be more aware and proactive about taking the quiet time I need.
How’s your week going?
I recently read this post discussing the challenge of finding the balance between accepting your introversion while still remaining friendly and approachable. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about for the last few months. Scratch that, probably for the last few years to be perfectly honest.
When I explain introversion to others (often awkwardly and with strange hand gestures) I like to approach it from the perspective of energy. In her book, The Introvert Advantage, Marti Olsen Laney describes introverts as rechargeable batteries while extroverts are like solar panels. I think it makes a lot of sense. Introverts start with a certain amount of energy at the start of each day. As we interact with people, our energy is drained. When we get the opportunity for alone time, that’s when we recharge. Extroverts on the other hand gain energy from being around people and will seek out socialization.
Introversion is not a negative behaviour that needs to be corrected. It is perfectly normal and comes with many gifts, even if they aren’t evident on the outside. Just think about it, what kind of apartment listing actively seeks out noisy tenants? None that I’ve seen. That’s one area where we can shine. Another misconception is that all introverts are shy, asocial, or have social anxiety. Introverts can definitely struggle with these things but extroverts do too. I love identifying as an introvert because it gives me a place to call home. A place I can grow from. Knowing that others share similar struggles makes me feel less alone.
But I’ve also caught myself over-simplifying things based on personality differences. I’ve thought to myself, “she did that because she’s extroverted” or “I don’t want to go because I’m an introvert”. Too often I’ve used my introversion as an excuse to not do things or to justify myself. But both introversion and extroversion are merely two different points along the same spectrum. No one is 100% introverted or extroverted. We’ve all got differing levels of both.
I’ve also come to the realization that introversion is merely one facet of personality. Yes, introversion affects how we view the world, but we also have our experiences, memories, upbringings, relationships, and passions that make us who we are too. The same goes for every other person in this world. And chances are, they’re dealing with a lot of their own problems and struggles. Theirs may not stem from existing in a society that devalues them for who they are. But they have their own burdens to bear.
So how do you find a balance? I know I need to take care of myself and I’ve been getting better at doing this. But I still feel as if I need to be more social. Is that my need for people kicking in? Or is it society’s view (ingrained in my mind) that being alone is a bad thing? Sometimes its difficult to tell. I really love spending time with people but it’s very easy to become burned out and miserable if I’m not careful.
Scheduling quiet time into my schedule has helped. Giving myself time to think about invitations before making a decision has helped. Explaining introversion to my close friends and family has helped. But I want to do more. I want to become more comfortable with myself while still pushing outside my comfort zone and growing as a person.
Do you have any suggestions or realizations of your own?
A lot of things have changed over the past couple of years and I’ve gained a lot of self acceptance. But even though I’ve started to see my introversion as a strength, there are still times when I struggle with wanting to be different. This past weekend triggered this feeling a few times.
I went on a weekend camping trip with a few friends and acquaintances. During the trip, I was able to reconnect with an old friend I hadn’t seen in about a year. We spent a few hours catching up. During our conversation, she updated me on some of our mutual friends. One of my friends had just gotten engaged. Another had moved to Australia for work. I wasn’t aware any of this had happened and I started to wonder if I should be doing more texting/emailing in order to stay current. Some of my friends are constantly texting, which is probably why they know so much about everyone.
On the last day, a small group of people went kayaking. My friend was invited but I wasn’t. I would have loved to go kayaking, but because they didn’t invite me, nor did they give an open invitation to everyone, I didn’t say anything. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me. But it does hurt when I’m overlooked for an event I’ve already expressed interest in. Sometimes I will invite myself, but most of the time I’ll let it slide.
Finding the balance between being social and getting the necessary alone time is hard. I want to do things with people, just not all the time. In a perfect world, I’d have invitations to everything, then get to choose which activities to show up for. In real life, things are different. If I decline an invitation, I get invited to things less often, even after I’ve explained myself. Or I’ll be invited at the last minute when I already have plans for the day.
I know I need to speak up more and be more open with people. But at the same time, I refuse to be that pushy person who invites themselves to everything. I’m still working to find a balance.
Have you had similar experiences? Do you have any tips or insight?
When I was a little girl, my parents would often take our family on walks by the river. Most of the time, they would come up to me and tell me to get my jacket, because we were going for a walk. And I didn’t want to go. Once we got there, I was fine, but I didn’t like the unplanned nature of our trips. If they had given me warning, and told me that we were going in an hour, it would have given me the time needed to process the information and get excited.
Imagine my happiness when I learned that this is a pretty normal thing for an introvert.
I’m a very methodical person, I love having things planned out. Even when I have plans to spend time with people, but no schedule hashed out, I still have ideas of what we could do. And I always have a time frame in my mind. This past weekend, I went out with a couple of good friends. We were meeting up at noon, going to see a movie at 1 pm and hanging out for a bit longer if we all felt like it. In my mind, I was planning on what we could do after the movie, what things were nearby, and what time I wanted to head for home. I feel more comfortable when I know what’s going to happen, or what could happen. I like keeping my options open.
My extroverted roommate is the complete opposite. She’ll invite me to do things with her without giving me any warning. She’ll say things like, “hey I’m going to the gym right now, want to come?” or “want to grab a coffee?”. Typically I’ll already have planned out my schedule, and I’ll have to refuse. If she gives me a lot of warning, I’ll usually say yes. I have impulsively gone out for coffee with her, and really enjoyed it. I’ve also impulsively agreed to do things, and ended up completely exhausted. Now, I try to take my own vehicle when possible.
Growing up, I thought that something was wrong with me. Knowing that I was normal completely changed my perspective.
What are some of your experiences?
Since I need so much alone time to stay refreshed and rejuvenated, its hard to force myself to go out with people. But I’m learning that I can’t base my life on someone else’s opinion. When you stay at home by yourself, people might think that you’re reclusive or anti-social. This definitely isn’t true. But if you take the opposite approach and fill your social calendar, you get burned out. And when that happens, you can’t even properly contribute to anything anyway.
For me, after a few hours of socialization, I usually need several hours to recharge. If I’ve gotten overwhelmed and burned out, it takes a lot longer. I’m still working to balance taking care of myself and spending time with others.
There are a few posts I’ve read that have some good ideas on balancing your time. Some suggest giving yourself a certain number of social engagements a week/month, then sticking to that number. If anything additional comes up, you don’t have to feel guilty about refusing an invitation. And you can definitely prioritize certain events over others. That way, you won’t feel bad for taking a rain check on that coffee date, when you know you don’t have the energy. And in a lot of cases, things can be rescheduled.
How do you balance your alone time with your social life?
I’m trying to find that perfect balance in my life, one that leaves me content most of the time. Its not to say that I’m planning on staying home all the time, and never spending time with people. But I still have the opposite problem. I work for eight hours a day with people, so by the end of the day I’m pretty drained. I’m working on that by taking breaks when I need them, but I’m still struggling.
After work, things aren’t too bad, I’ll usually go for a workout or do some reading on my own after dinner. On the weekend, I usually have a pile of stuff to get done, and I don’t get quiet time as much as I’d like. I think part of my problem is that I have a hard time saying ‘no’. Even if its something I really don’t want to do. Or if I do say ‘no’, I feel guilty about it.
Does anyone else have the same problem? Or any ideas/advice on how I could make my life a little more balanced?