There’s a great deal written about work-life balance and balance in life overall, and I wanted to put a bit of thought into how to find balance living with mental illness and what that balance might actually look like. This builds on some of the things I talked about recently in a post on spoon theory in chronic illness.
One of the definitions Google provides for balance is: “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” I’m not sure that equality is really what we should be looking for when considering life balance. Correct proportions seems much more relevant.
Different aspects of our lives matter more to us than others, so that’s a big factor to take into account. It makes sense to devote more time and energy to those things that either give us pleasure or help us move forward somehow.
There will inevitably be things that we must do that feel draining, and that needs to be factored in. When I was well I was able to work full-time and still lead a very full and satisfying personal life. Now, work-life balance looks very different. I’m just not able to work anywhere close to full-time, and a small amount of work requires a larger recovery period.
Blogging and other writing-related activities take up a huge proportion of my time, and that works for me, because it’s stimulating rather than draining. My creative juices only flow so much, so my balance between writing and reading tends to lean more heavily towards reading.
My in-person social contact is pretty minimal, but I do try to structure my time somewhat so I’ve got a few different things planned for each week. That’s particularly important to do on weeks where I’m not working at all. I try to be deliberate about engaging in some self-care every day. Having the guinea pigs means I’m fitting in time caring for others every day.
My bullet journal is probably the most useful tool for making sure I’m staying on track with where I want to be in the different aspects of my life. I also have multiple lists on the go to help remind me of the various things I’m working on, since depression brain can make it easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. I use Apple’s Notes app for this, which works well because I spend so much time on my computer.
I’ve moved away from using a lot of smartphone apps, but there are some useful ones in terms of finding balance. The Liv app (only available on the Apple App Store) allows you to set goals in the areas of work, social, health, travel, and household, and analyze the amount of time you’re spending in each area.
The Remente app allows you to evaluate how you’re doing in the areas of career & education, love & relationships, finances, health & fitness, fun & recreation, family, personal development, and friends & social life. You can then set goals and monitor your progress. There are mini-lessons in each of these areas, with a mix of free and premium content.
If, like me, your childhood heyday was in the 80s, you may remember Pogo balls. You could hop around on them, or you could try to balance. But balance wasn’t so easy; lots of little adjustments were needed. Maintaining balance in life is kinda like that, but without the pogo ball and the 80s slouch socks (mine were hot pink). And any time you can close a post on an 80s note has to be a good thing.
The MH@H Store has a free how-to guide on creating a bullet journal to support your mental health. My approach isn’t about artistry; the key is functionality.