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Feeling Out of Balance in Life in Sobriety

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March 16, 2022
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Feeling Out of Balance in Life in Sobriety

While most of us can instantly relate to the feeling of being “out of balance,” it can be a sensation that’s difficult to describe. From person to person, “out of balance” can mean something entirely different, but it’s never a positive experience. Something is off… but you can’t put your finger on what it is.

For example, for many of us, losing a grasp on our work-life balance can lead to a highly out-of-balance feeling. This can be easy to recognize for some people, although others may struggle to identify when they’re feeling out of balance until after the fact.

As someone recovering from substance dependency, I’ve encountered this out-of-balance feeling on a number of occasions. During the earliest stages of my recovery, in particular, I was trying to relearn what balance even was. After all, I’d spent so long in a constant “out of balance” state. Addiction can throw your entire life off-center, whether it’s emotionally, physically, or psychologically and or all of the above!

When you feel out of balance during recovery, however, it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re doing something wrong. This can be incredibly unmotivating, which can make you even more susceptible to a relapse. Drugs or alcohol are far from the best solutions to feeling out of balance – if anything, they’re the most counterintuitive solutions there are.

Even if you believe, in the heat of the moment, that using a substance will restore balance (or at least distract from that out-of-balance sensation), this isn’t true. There’s nothing balanced about drugs or alcohol taking control of your life at the expense of your health, wellbeing, and happiness.

Feeling out of balance in life for me is just that feeling of being overwhelmed can be a challenge, but it doesn’t mean that you’re failing at recovery. In fact, it can often lead to better things once you’ve come closer to overcoming it.

Is It Normal to Feel Off-Balance?

The simple answer is this: Yes, it’s completely normal to feel off-balance at various points in your life. When you’re recovering from a substance dependency, the frequency of these feelings may increase – again, this is normal and should never reflect poorly on your will to recover. LIfe is not perfect and we are not perfect “doing life”.

Why Do I Always Feel Out of Balance?

Many people start to feel off-balance when they’re dealing with too many worries or responsibilities. Again, let’s consider the example from earlier; it’s relatively common for someone to lose control over their work-life balance.

They’re spending too many of their day-to-day hours on work without giving themselves adequate time to relax and wind down. This cycle can trap anyone in a near-constant state of tension and disarray. They might even begin neglecting their own health.

But work is far from the only responsibility that can lead a person’s life to feel out of balance. Most of us are also dealing with family, social lives, activities or groups, and more. The more priorities you have on your plate, the more likely you are to feel off balance.

In recovery, it’s easy for your responsibilities and priorities to pile up and become overwhelming. Recovery is a difficult part of someone’s life, and it’s rarely a straightforward experience. Not only do you have your standard responsibilities to keep track of (like work or family life), but you also need to juggle treatment, support groups, discovering and learning to use coping strategies, and more. Actually, recovery can find its way into most other areas of your life. This is a lot for anyone to manage.

Instead, the next time that you feel off-balance, take a quick step back. Examine what you’re feeling, how it’s currently impacting your life, and what might be causing these negative feelings. Meanwhile, don’t judge yourself for what you’re experiencing. Because, at the end of the day, deciding to recover is one of the biggest displays of strength there is – and recovery is one of the most challenging experiences. You’re not failing simply because you’ve started to feel overwhelmed. Talk to someone like a close friend or your sponsor.

Signs Your Life Is Out of Balance

Signs Your Life Is Out of Balance

Of course, the first step to fighting an out-of-balance state is to identify that it’s happening. Do you currently suspect that your negative feelings are because your life is out of balance but aren’t sure whether this is the case? If so, take a moment to reflect.

Consider whether you’re experiencing any of the four signs that your life is off-balance:

  • Your “to do” list has started to fill up.
  • You feel like you’re constantly busy or working but also struggle to determine if you’ve actually accomplished anything.
  • You’re experiencing burnout. Some of the most common signs of burnout are headaches, constantly feeling tired, or other signs of stress (whether they’re physical or emotional).
  • You feel like you’ve lost your sense of direction and that your entire life revolves around a schedule that’s out of your control.

When a person feels like they’re in an out-of-balance place, they may start to feel as if they don’t have any choices of their own – that everything that happens is decided on their behalf, whether they like it or not. They may feel like they’ve lost their sense of purpose or that they no longer have the freedom to pursue the goals and priorities that are most important to themselves.

Maybe you’ve noticed that there’s an area (or more than one area) of your life that you’ve been neglecting. You could be living your life to its fullest potential, but instead, it feels like all of your valuable time is spent focusing on a limited number of areas. And oftentimes, these aren’t going to be the areas of life that bring you happiness or a sense of long-term fulfillment.

How Do I Start Feeling Balanced in Life?

So, you might already know that you’re feeling out of balance. You feel overwhelmed by your tasks and responsibilities, and you’re struggling to cope with these feelings. As someone in recovery, you may even find yourself on the verge of a relapse.

I’m sure most of us have heard “poor me, poor me, pour me a drink”.  

But what can you do to start feeling balanced and get your recovery back on track?

Here are a few important tips to keep in mind if you’re looking to restore balance:

1. Instead of “Time Management,” Focus on Self-Management

Although we hear so much about the values of time management, this isn’t always the best approach to take. Technically speaking, we can’t exactly manage our time. After all, every person has the same number of hours in the day – this isn’t exactly flexible.

Instead, try changing your perspective a bit. Concentrate on managing your tasks and activities rather than the time you spend doing them. You can’t add a few more hours to the day just because you need to complete a project. Rather than focusing on time, focus on your tasks and what you’re feasibly able to get done. Don’t forget about the power of choice and trying to concentrate on what you actually do have control over — yourself.

2. Accept That You Can’t Always Do Everything

If you’re out of balance, you’re probably putting far too much pressure on yourself. When you set expectations that are unreasonably high (and then fall short of these expectations), this can be extremely demoralizing.

Don’t forget that you only have limited resources, whether we’re talking about energy, time, or money. You might want to accomplish a lot to please yourself or the people in your life, but keep in mind that you’re only one person. It isn’t always possible to do everything that you want to do.

The next time you find yourself trying to achieve unrealistic standards or expectations, stop and regroup for a minute. Realize that “all you can do” is enough and that you shouldn’t pressure yourself into doing an unreasonable amount. You don’t need to be perfect, and you don’t need to solve every problem that someone around you faces.

It’s okay that you can’t always do everything that needs to be done.

3. Start Adding and Subtracting

When you add a new activity to your schedule, you’ll need to start doing less of another, and vice versa. Consider what activities you can give up (especially if they’re activities that are causing you distress) to make time for another task that you’ve been neglecting. What do you need to subtract to achieve something more important?

You can start by planning out your week, making a list of everything that you’d like to get done. Then, review this list and pick out the tasks that can wait. Once you’ve determined these less urgent to-dos, you can subtract them from your list. When you see your weekly to-do list start shrinking, you’ll start to feel instantly less overwhelmed.

4. Include Time for Yourself in Your Schedule

If you’re not scheduling time for yourself, then who else is going to do it for you? Many of us want to devote all of our time to helping or working with other people, or even just dedicating time to our friends. While this is important, it’s also a good idea to prioritize the time that’s just for you.

Sit down and determine what brings you joy or comfort. What personal activities allow you to grow and become a healthier, more satisfied individual? For instance, you could devote a small chunk of your day to reading a book, going on a walk, meditating, or even just taking a short nap. Again, whatever it is, this “you time” should be a priority – just like all the other tasks on your daily schedule.

Stay Positive, Sometimes Feeling Out of Balance is Normal

Stay Positive, Sometimes Feeling Out of Balance is Normal Quote

With a little awareness and a good dose of self-compassion, you can hopefully avoid unnecessary stress in your sobriety. And while these behaviors and attitudes may be more obvious later in sobriety, they can pop up at any point. So if you feel out of balance in life—or even just second guess yourself from time to time—remember that it’s totally normal.

Even when you’re doing everything right in life, you can still feel like something is off or not quite right. Just remind yourself that this is part of the process, and try to maintain a positive mindset. Because, ultimately, the best thing you can do for your recovery is to stay positive about where your life is headed and what it has to offer.

Stay strong,

Jim


Sources:

  1. Kola L, Kohrt BA, Hanlon C, Naslund JA, Sikander S, Balaji M, et al. COVID-19 mental health impact and responses in low-income and middle-income countries: reimagining global mental health. Lancet Psychiatry. (2021). doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(21)00025-0
  2. Galderisi, S., Heinz, A., Kastrup, M., Beezhold, J., & Sartorius, N. (2015). Toward a new definition of mental health. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 14(2), 231–233. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20231
  3. Sierk, A., Travers, E., Economides, M., Loe, B. S., Sun, L., & Bolton, H. (2022). A New Digital Assessment of Mental Health and Well-being in the Workplace: Development and Validation of the Unmind Index. JMIR mental health, 9(1), e34103. https://doi.org/10.2196/34103
  4. Burns, M. E., & Wolfe, B. L. (2016). The Effects of the Affordable Care Act Adult Dependent Coverage Expansion on Mental Health. The journal of mental health policy and economics, 19(1), 3–20.
  5. Kelly, J. F., Greene, M. C., Bergman, B. G., White, W. L., & Hoeppner, B. B. (2019). How Many Recovery Attempts Does it Take to Successfully Resolve an Alcohol or Drug Problem? Estimates and Correlates From a National Study of Recovering U.S. Adults. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research, 43(7), 1533–1544. https://doi.org/10.1111/acer.14067
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James Haggerty
JAMES HAGGERTY

Welcome to my ongoing journey… Join me as we continue our path to sobriety and balance. Thanks for reading. Stay strong.

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