Life Balance Check: Introduction

August 13, 2019

by Peter Amsterdam

For the latter part of last year and the first months of this year, I struggled with ongoing back pain which made it difficult for me to work at my computer, and it also hindered my sleep and exercise. Within that time period I also had some faulty dental work done, resulting in significant pain in some of my teeth that made eating difficult and painful. I had to go to a different dentist, who had to redo all the work on my teeth. Throughout that time, I was falling further and further behind in my work and in other responsibilities, yet I kept pushing through despite the pain and lack of sleep. This ongoing pain, coupled with feeling pressure in my work and having a difficult time keeping up in other aspects of my life, put me under a great deal of stress. This was detrimental to my health, attitude, and spiritual life. This isn’t the only long period in my life in which I experienced high levels of stress, it’s just the most recent.

When I was thinking, praying, and reflecting on the stress I have allowed both in the past and very recently, the Lord highlighted two important points. First, a renewed sense of how important it is to take care of our bodies, minds, and spirits proactively rather than waiting until something happens that forces us to take reactive action. Of course, I already knew this, but I allowed myself to stay on the treadmill of stress, work, and obligations to the point that I contravened some of the basic rules of health. Over time I made what I thought were good, sacrificial, diligent choices; but in the end, I overworked and didn’t heed the Lord’s nudges that I was allowing myself to be under too much stress.

Second, I saw that I can make choices to bring more balance into my life, even in challenging, busy, and stressful times. If we consider life-balancing activities a luxury, then they will be the first thing to go when our work, family, or personal life enters a particularly taxing period. But if we view our life balance and overall well-being as the foundation upon which we can best care for our family and loved ones, do creative and quality work, be available for God’s purposes, and be present and engaged in life, then we will be more determined to find ways to build these key “balancers” into our daily lives. I came to the conclusion that I needed to view these choices toward life balance as part of my obedience to the Lord.

I took time to reflect on how my life, work, and other responsibilities had come to be so overwhelming. I took a personal life check of sorts, and in the process, wrote down seven major areas that are some of the keys to life balance. These are not new concepts; they are widely accepted as foundational building blocks for healthy, balanced living. (While the first point directly supports our faith as Christians, nonbelievers also find great value in meditating or taking some form of quiet time.)

Here are the major life-balance areas I have reflected on:

  1. Time with the Lord
  2. Health
  3. Exercise
  4. Managing stress
  5. Personal growth
  6. Relationships—family and friends
  7. Giving back and generosity

It was beneficial for me to think through each of these points and evaluate how I was doing. Where did I need improvement? What do I tend to let go of first in times of added stress? What did I need to change in my life to be strengthened in a given area? This “personal life check” exercise underscored the value of taking time to evaluate my life, not only when I have a health crisis or am nearing burnout, but rather as ongoing preventive care.

Each of us should seek the Lord and evaluate our life balance during the various seasons of our lives. We can’t assume that what was good in the past is still good. As our situations change, what we need changes. It’s wise to regularly check in and see how we’re faring in terms of life balance and adjust our priorities and schedules as needed.

In this series of articles, I will discuss the seven topics listed above in relation to cultivating and nurturing a healthy, balanced life. While these points aren’t the all-in-all, they are fairly universal to each person’s overall health—physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. Even if you are not pushing on all these fronts every week or every month, you should have an overall plan to invest in each of these areas, as they are important aspects of your life and will help you to live the plans of hope that God has for you. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”—Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

First, I’d like to make a couple of clarifications which are important to this series:

  • One size does not fit all. Each of us will find different ways to achieve and maintain improved life balance, and that’s how it should be. The Lord can help you to tailor solutions to your particular needs.
  • Get ahead of the game. Don’t wait until you are stressed out or have a health crisis to address these needs. Consider this a proactive challenge. And if you are already stressed or overwhelmed, well, it’s a great time to make a change. Don’t try to do everything at once. Start small, and work up to more.
  • Utilize routines and habits. It’s worthwhile to evaluate your routines as you consider these points. It can be helpful to build habits around some of these key points so that you are addressing these aspects of life regularly by making them part of your recurring schedule or activities.
  • Keep it simple. Start with something that doesn’t require a lot of planning. Share a cup of coffee or glass of wine with your spouse or a friend, or sit together for some prayer time; that may help to release stress. For someone else, taking a walk may help them to cast their burdens on the Lord. Another person might benefit from joining a volleyball or soccer league to help leave workday stress behind.
  • Be deliberate. You have to work to bring your life into better balance. We know that stress is a killer, and we generally have limited time, so we have to deliberately bring balance into our lives. Try to carve out a little time each day toward balance.
  • You can combine. While these seven points are listed individually for evaluation purposes, several of them can be combined and addressed in one time slot. For example, your needs for exercise and de-stressing and building relationships could all be met by one activity. Or you can go out with your family and have exercise and times of recreation together. These aren’t single tracks; if you can mesh and overlap them, all the better.

There is no specific blueprint for achieving a balanced life. My goal with this series is to bring renewed attention to this important topic. If we can each give some thought to these seven points and how we can incorporate them into our lives, we will benefit. How you apply these concepts and how that translates into your life and schedule is in your court. We are in different phases and seasons of life. If you have a family, children, or grandchildren who live with or near you and you’re very involved in their lives, the “family” pocket will probably take a bigger chunk of your time. If you live a more solitary life, you may have more time to invest in other activities. Each of us has to look at our own situation, circumstances, and needs, and discover what works best for us.

Whatever your personal situation and stress levels, you can hold on to this beautiful promise from Isaiah, in support of God’s desire for us to be led, guided, and strengthened by Him through our every challenge in life.

The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.—Isaiah 58:11 NLT