Along with so many others, I too have tried to up my workout game during these days of lockdown at home. Because I had already been doing online workouts from home for the last couple of years, you would think this would not be much of a transition. But with 3 kids home all the time and a traveling husband no longer traveling, all of my regular routines were completely upended. There seemed to be no more concept of time, with all of the hours of the day running fluidly into each other – kids on zoom lessons sometimes, people in the kitchen looking for food all the time, me hiding in my office trying to actually work but really mostly just reading the news and trying to distract myself with funny memes.
At some point during those first few weeks of lockdown, I signed up for a new program that I was excited to try – Barre Blend. Graceful and coordinated, I am not, despite taking ballet twice, once in college and once more as an adult just a few years ago. But I loved the idea of a low-impact but still intense workout. During one of the first couple of sessions, the instructor was talking about balance. Obviously her main point was that one needs to be able to find the balance to do some of the moves in the workout – lots of releves and balancing on one leg – but she also connected that to finding the balance in life.
Mental Balance: Lessons from Physical Balance
As I was desperately trying to maintain physical balance and not fall on my face while balancing on one leg, I was thinking about the importance of mental balance right now (and always, but especially right now) and the parallels between physical and mental balance.
When it comes to physical balance:
- When you try to balance on one foot, for example, you need to gather all the strength in your core so that your body can remain upright.
- If you feel like you’re going to lose balance, you can grab onto something (or someone) sturdy nearby.
- Somedays you may feel more balanced than others – there are times when I can balance yoga’s tree pose for what feels like forever and others where I can’t even lift my foot off the ground without tipping over.
- Practicing balance poses strengthens the muscles and it gets easier over time.
When there is so much uncertainty, fear and lack of stability and routine, it can be very hard to find any mental balance. Thoughts are constantly racing back and forth and up and down – kids, schoolwork, actual employment work, lack of work, cooking, cleaning, laundry, the entire mission involved in a simple trip to the supermarket, etc.
Take a look back at those bullet points above relating to physical balance – each can be applied to mental balance too:
- It can take a lot of effort, but it’s worth taking the time to take a few deep breaths and gather your strength and find some inner peace. I’ve started waking up earlier than everyone else in my house most mornings. I don’t necessarily get out of bed, but I enjoy the quiet and read my book. I make a plan in my head – I rarely write it down – for how I want the day to go. A very loose plan with very low expectations, but it gives me a “core” – something to refer back to if (when) I start to feel off-balance and out of control as the day goes on.
- Having someone or something to grab on to when you are losing your mental balance is key. This doesn’t have to be the same person all the time – I’m sure I’m not the only one who has different whatsapp groups of friends that serve different purposes. Do not be afraid to take advantage of your safety nets and speak up when you feel like you just need to vent or when you want actual concrete help. Your friends and family may not be physically close, but they can just as easily give you that mental support you need from afar.
- Some days are better than others. In regular life and in lockdown. But especially in lockdown. I made a “get dressed every other day” rule – if I stay in pajamas all day one day, the next day I must get dressed. It’s ok to have it all together some days and other days let it all go to pot. That’s a type of balance all on its own.
- Practice makes perfect. Or almost perfect. Who wants to be perfect anyway?? Find the things that make you feel balanced – that make you feel like the world is not tilting in crazy directions but that there is solid ground under your feet – and do more of them. Go for a run. Read a book. Bake a cake. Have a gin and tonic.
There are no rules in lockdown – do what you need to do to find the inner balance that you need to survive and even thrive in this time.