Restoring and Maintaining Balance with These 4 Pillars
Regardless of the different life scenarios any of us might be experiencing right now; it only takes a few minutes of Insta-scrolling to realize that many people (including myself) are struggling to find our own versions of balance.
And creating that type of harmonic stability—the mind, body and soul kind—depends on the mix of habits you’ve cultivated, the whereabouts of your attention, and the extent of your self-awareness.
Read along to find out how I manage to keep some balance when the juggling act that is life has me riding the unicycle and attempting to catch all balls mid-air. Inevitably something will fall. This is how I try to avoid that ‘something,’ to be me (keyword: try).
It took me living at the edge of burnout to consciously choose change. Because no matter what anyone tells me, I believe change doesn’t happen unless you make it happen. Unless you need it to happen. Or, when you’re forced into it. For example, when life yells: “Plot Twist!”...and that’s that.
I was working over 12 hours a day, traveling—on average—once a month, I was losing my hair, and losing the regularity of my period while being on the pill, which was an alarming red flag (yes, pun intended). And for the first time in my career of almost ten years at that point, I dreaded going to work.
At this moment I realized something had to change. Since I didn’t know exactly what or how to start, I decided to pay attention to all the signs (and online ads) leading me to this thing called Health Coaching. Training to become a Health Coach, to be precise.
If you knew me, you’d know I’m a sucker for certifications—so, without thinking I’d ever put any of this to practice on other people—I enrolled in the one-year program. I read the reviews, checked out the curriculum, and devoured the success stories of people who were living a kind of life I never knew existed.
On one hand, I didn’t picture myself setting up a health coaching practice and leaving behind the blessed corporate path I was clearly meant for (let’s take a moment to appreciate the sarcastic tone). On the other one, this program seemed promising enough to get me started in prioritizing my overall well-being. And, bonus! I’d end up with another diploma for the collection.
Understanding Primary Foods
If I had to sum up my experience in four words, I’d say: Health Coaching healed me.
I credit this training for awakening my self-awareness and for giving me the tools (and inner motivation) to find my way to wellness—mind, body and soul.
Early in the program I learned about two key pillars rooted in the Health Coaching philosophy as taught by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN)—the concepts of Primary Food and Secondary Food. To be honest, I thought primary foods meant macronutrients (you know, your carbs, proteins, fats) and secondary foods meant micronutrients (your vitamins and minerals). Maybe you’re thinking that too, which is absolutely fine. In this context, secondary foods refer to all that with which we nourish our bodies. And primary foods refer to everything that feeds our soul.
Today, I’m rolling out the red carpet for Primary Foods.
As usual, let me grab my imaginary brush and paint you a picture: Imagine you know someone who eats kale by the pound, who has a mix of blood and green juice running through her veins, and who never misses a HIIT class. In fact, if you Google “healthy person”, her picture shows up.
However, what you see on the outside doesn’t match the inside. She feels miserable most of the time, is a human magnet for toxic relationships and deeply dislikes her job. And with stress keeping her up at night, her mind is foggy and scattered. She’s at that unfortunate place where the negative self-talk is loud and the self-compassion is low.
Turning to Self-Awareness
Nurturing the soul is just as important as feeding the body (fingers crossed you’re thinking to yourself: “Yas it is!”). Primary foods can look different for everyone, and can entail the likes of: creativity, personal finance, career, continuing education, physical activity, relationships, social life, joy, spirituality, rest & recovery, and so on. This said, and dismissing the obvious—one size fits none. You might consider other areas that are key to your life which aren’t listed here, or maybe you relate to all of the above.
When discussing primary foods and their impact in an individual’s overall wellbeing, there are four priority pillars to keep in mind. I tend to prioritize these, and then I move on to other areas I need to take care of. Think of them as paintings on the wall of a hallway you walk by every day. It’s only when you stop and stare that you realize one of them is crooked and needs some straightening up.
RELATIONSHIPS Life is based on the relationships that we keep; with our loved ones (our partner, family, friends), with our work besties (colleagues, leaders, clients) and the most important one: the relationship you keep with yourself. Take some time to evaluate which relationships are nurturing, which are not, and which require extra attention or even a few boundaries.
CAREER AND WORK Generally speaking, we spend half of our lives, or more, working. If we love what we do, be it as entrepreneurs, or being part of a company that inspires us, and where we do meaningful work that fills our lives with purpose—amazing! We’re all set. But what if that’s not the case? If we don’t find a way to love what we’re currently doing, and to motivate ourselves to do it every day until we find our ‘dream job’ or change careers, how do you think this would feel? Turn off the autopilot and try to explore if there’s any part of your work that’s causing an increased discomfort threatening to disrupt your version of balance.
MOVEMENT AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY Considering the myriad of research-backed benefits attributed to physical activity, and movement in general, it makes sense (to me, at least) that this is one of the four priority pillars attributed to Primary Foods. Think about it: do you notice the difference in your mood, your mind and your energy before and after your yoga practice or spinning class, or HIIT workout? I do—and it’s remarkable. How often are you moving lately? In my experience, even a five-minute walk outside helps clear my mind and add some perspective. Especially when I’ve been glued to my desk for hours. Currently, movement holds an exceptional place in my self-care toolbox.
SPIRITUALITY Spirituality can be perceived differently by everyone. It can be special and deeply personal, or it can be awkward or distant depending on the person. For some folks, spirituality is the connection they feel with themselves. For others, it’s more connected to their faith, or it’s going to church or to the temple they consider sacred according to their beliefs. And for others, it can be meditation, prayer, mindful breath and so on. For me, it’s a mix of the above. When I lose the connection with myself, I start to live on autopilot—so, I turn to meditation. When I start making decisions out of fear, I know it’s time to fortify my faith. And when I’m feeling all over the place I turn to mindful breath, and so on.
Identifying What Works for You
I encourage you to explore what feeds your soul.
To find your own version of balance by keeping these four pillars in check; to ask yourself the hard questions and to pay attention to other areas of your life you consider fundamental for your integrated health.
Being mindful of how you feel when these are out of balance—and deciding to take (positive) action to restore the equilibrium—has the potential to change. your. life.
This piece was written and contributed by:
Jit is a PR & marketing person trained in journalism, health coaching and yoga—writing about most things wellness. She helps entrepreneurs PR the ef out of their superpowers, specializing in content strategy, copy makeovers and spotting PR-able angles.
She finds joy in a cup of coffee, in a nourishing read or an inspiring podcast, and in rediscovering paradise in her native Panama—where she lives with her husband, his son and their Shih Tzu, Valentina.