Balancing Act: Connecting with Others and Time for Yourself

The new year is upon us and for many that means setting goals or selecting a word that represents our hopes and aspirations for the year.  For some it is a chance to start over, get unstuck, and find new motivations.  One common question I often hear from others is how can I connect and engage with others in meaningful ways?  We live in a constantly moving world.  Families juggle work, school, and transporting children to sporting or other extra-curricular events.  Adults feel pressure from work and struggle to have a work-life balance. Although it may seem impossible to find a life balance that includes space to connect with intentionality and some creativity, we can connect and engage with others in new and meaningful ways.

Creating Balance/Space for Others

     One may ask “how do we find time for others, much less ourselves, when we are constantly moving, taking care of work and family responsibilities?”  Just thinking about adding more to the “to do list” is overwhelming.   Take a deep breath and pause for a minute.  Think about how you are spending time.  In your regular activities do you have time set aside for yourself?  If not, think about ways you can spend at least 10 -15 minutes for some self-care.  This could mean sitting outside enjoying a cup of tea or coffee, exercising, writing in a journal, reading a book, or just spending a few minutes alone to recharge.  When our cup is empty we have nothing left to give others.  

What boundaries can we set with work?  If you typically work through lunch try to take a break and go for a walk, read, or eat with coworkers.  Once you are home perhaps you can turn off notifications from work to focus on friends, family, hobbies, and self.  Resist the temptation to check work emails until your workday starts.  If you are a morning person, set the alarm and start your day earlier, allowing yourself time for a nature walk, journaling, time to self before the children wake up and the demands of the day start.  If you are a night owl, you can take that time in the evening.  Allowing time for self can relieve stress and anxiety and help you to be more productive in your daily life and available to connect with others, adding a little more balance to your day.

Connecting with Others

     There are many benefits for connecting with others.  Spending quality time together as a family increases connection, sense of safety, and can lead to better communication. Spending time with others outside of family can increase a sense of community and decrease feelings of isolation.  Knowing there are others who you can trust, who understand you, and encourage and support you, can increase resilience and provide support during difficult times.  So how do we add time with others to our busy schedules?  What can we do to connect in meaningful ways? 

This may require planning and intentionality.  Connecting can happen in large or small moments of time.  We can spend time with others and never connect, the key is to be creative and use the time allotted to engage in meaningful ways.  Parents who are transporting children to activities can use the time to learn about the highs and lows of the day, play a game such as I spy or create a story, or just talk about their favorite things. Make mealtime a no-technology zone and use that time to connect and check in with the family.  Try to schedule a weekly or daily time, but if that is difficult, start with a monthly event or just a one-time gathering. 

Ways to Connect

     Schedule a family or friends game night.  Card and board games are a great way to connect, model regulation, build self-esteem, and have fun while doing it!  Game nights are great for people of all ages.  There are many types of games: cooperative games, role playing games, and games of strategy to name a few.  For families with young children game night not only serves as a means to improve attachment but can also help children learn how to manage frustrations and disappointment as the adults model self-regulation.  Parents can even support learning social and emotional skills by adding rules to the game.  For example, wild cards require identifying coping strategies used to help when experiencing anger, sadness, etc.  Color cards require talking about a time you experienced an emotion.  For example, blue represents a time you experienced sadness.

    Perhaps games are not your idea of fun.   Is there a favorite or undiscovered place you’d like to explore?  Schedule times with your family or friends throughout the year to try new things or visit new places.   If you enjoy being outdoors, plan a hike or another outdoor adventure.  Maybe you like challenges and puzzles.  A fun and challenging activity is an escape room.  Everyone works together to find a way out of the room.  What a great way to connect with others while accomplishing a goal.  Other possibilities include a trip to the nail salon, a game of pickleball, or trying new foods at restaurants.  These are only a few ideas.  Talk with your friends and family to learn about their interests and then plan something.  Time together doesn’t have to cost money.  Eating a meal together at home, spending time in a local park, or volunteering together are all exceptional ways to connect.  Whatever you do, the goal is to be fully present and actively engaged.

     Finding balance in our daily life requires action.  If we truly want to have a work life balance that includes time for self-care and healthy relationships, we need to examine our schedule to creatively incorporate time for self and time for others.  As we connect in meaningful ways and take time to re-energize we may feel less isolated, less stressed, and better equipped to manage our days. If you are experiencing challenges with creating balance in your many roles, we can help at Milestones Counseling (443)574-4295. 

Submitted by: Rebecca Guy, LCPC

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