Here is the first part in a series of 3 reflections I wrote for Turquoise Compass, an online community I follow.

As we embark on a discussion about Balance, I think it is valuable to try to define it first.  My best definition is probably a visual.  Think of a pie chart with segments representing parts of your life – work, education, exercise, sleep, outdoor activity, quiet time, relationships, family, add your own segments here…

Now imagine the segments are either full up to the edge of the pie circle or not as full depending on how these parts of your life are developed or fulfilling or given attention.  Hummm, do you see how balance could be defined as all the segments being reasonably even, although they may not all be filling their allotted space?  So in order to achieve balance, you would strive to make the segments all pretty similar in size. You might even look at this visual and decide you have far too many segments and some could just go and allow you to focus on the really important aspects in your life.

Chart borrowed from

I suppose I should have remembered that visual in the year when my son was about to enter grade 1.  I had a daughter in grade 3, a new permanent full-time job as a teacher and a husband who depended on me to run all the administrative parts of his failing business.  In my rush to increase my pay scale (to secure a better income for our family), I took night courses to upgrade my teacher qualifications. Of course that wasn’t enough, I found a way to teach a night class as well, seeing how I was so good at it and it brought in a bit more income.  The final piece of the messed up life balance was the increasing pressures from an aging and ill mother to give her more of my attention.

Well, I am not sure how I managed that balancing act, but I did, and quite successfully, until it all came crashing down around 8 months into the school year. Within a few days, I found myself in a serotonin overdose (caused by improper use of an anti-depressant), unable to stop debilitating panic attacks, absolutely reliant on a husband and children who didn’t know what hit them. A good day was me sleeping at a sunny window holding our poor cat who was recovering from being hit by a car. When things go wrong, they really go wrong!

But this is not about all that went wrong or what I did or didn’t do to precipitate these events. This is about how I re-established the balance in my life and went on to a very successful career and a more balanced life.

There were sessions with the psychologist, chats with the Employee Assistance person, long walks, a need to know I could call someone 24/7 if I had even one symptom of anxiety, being open with my friends and colleagues about my panic attacks and making contingency plans in case I had to make a quick escape from my classroom (that never happened by the way).  Mostly, it was the realization that it takes a village and an arsenal of tools to get your life back in balance when you tilt too far to one side.

That village was establishing relationships that had been neglected due to all the busy-ness going on in my life. Those tools were getting outside, learning to say no, setting boundaries, and being open with myself and others about my limits and needs. I can’t deny meditation or listening to a relaxation tape was a huge help when the world just wouldn’t let me catch my breath.

So, after more than a year, I was finally able to re-establish my balance and continue on my career growth. The demands on my life had not lessened. The business was completely failed by now, mother was getting older and sicker, and children were not doing as well in school as I was hoping. But now I had the energy to handle it. And I had my village and my tools.

Have you come to a point where you felt your life was completely out of balance?  What helped you to re-establish your equilibrium? What does a balanced life look like for you?