So often we focus on what’s going wrong in our lives, how busy we are, or how little time we have for a personal life. We forget to rejuvenate our energy so we can be there for others and do the things that bring us joy. In the field of higher education (and specifically student activities), some might say, “Who has the time and energy to keep a healthy life balance?” I would argue that because our work is so demanding, and our daily schedule so often ends after 5pm, that it is even more important to live a healthy life balance. We all know how easy it is to put in extra hours at work, especially when we love what we do. However, it is just as important and necessary to put time into ourselves. In turn, our work and the people around us benefit.

Think about your cell phone for a minute. Maybe you are in a situation where you need to make an important call, use the GPS to navigate to a new destination, or check out the new funny cat video everyone is talking about. It doesn’t matter how much you need your phone, if it is not charged up enough, it won’t do you any good. I have also found that if I recharge my cell phone periodically, it charges back up much quicker than if I let it get down to 0%. The same thing happens with us. We all have an energy battery that needs to be recharged in order to give energy to others and the things we are doing. If we pause and slow down periodically to recharge, then it doesn’t take as long to get back to 100%. How often do we say we are too busy to slow down, take a vacation day, or even an afternoon off? It is during those times that we are allowing ourselves to become fully drained from energy. When we eventually hit 0%, we will have no choice but to stop and recharge. Just like our cell phones, it will take longer.

We all have different ways to recharge. Some of the ways that help me are keeping a positive attitude, taking “me days”, and finding joy. You’ve probably heard the saying, “what you focus on becomes your reality”, so try to choose each day to focus on the positive. A quote from Oprah Winfrey says, “Balance lives in the present. The surest way to lose your footing is to focus on what dreadful things might happen”. Having a positive attitude and living in the present moment helps us live a balanced life. Keeping a gratitude journal or simply saying out loud to yourself 5 things you are grateful for at the end of each day also helps refocus your energy to the positive. If we know that what we focus on becomes our reality, then focusing on the positive will breed positive energy in our lives.

Another way of keeping a balanced life are things that I call “Me Days”. These are days that are set aside just for me and the things that I want or need to do. Sometimes it is a whole day, or just a few hours, whatever I can fit into my life at the moment. I try and put them into my calendar so I can plan for them just like I do for any other important meeting or function. A perfect “Me Day” might be waking up without an alarm, going out for brunch, sitting quietly in nature, getting a massage, and enjoying time with friends or family. “Me Days” are whatever you want them to be.

Even if you don’t have time to take a full “Me Day”, you can take a “Me Hour” or even a “Me Moment”. It’s just about giving yourself the time to plug in and recharge so you are ready to do other things. “Me Days” and “Me Moments” are so important in keeping a healthy life balance. Finding joy goes right alongside “Me Days”. In those “Me Moments”, try filling yourself up with things that bring you joy. Make yourself a “Joy List” from simple things like taking a walk or swinging on the porch swing, or taking a week vacation to your favorite spot. Fill your list with things that are free and easy to do at any moment, to more elaborate things you might need to save or plan for. Having a “Joy List” at your fingertips makes it easier to add joy into your daily life.

I know on the days when I achieve a healthy life balance, I am a better employee, co-worker, advisor, mentor, friend, daughter, sister, aunt, and wife. I have a clearer understanding of the goals that I am reaching for. When I have taken time to recharge, I also have more energy to give to others. It has taken me many years to figure out that it is not only ok, but it is healthy and necessary to take time out for me. Putting myself first is not about being selfish, but about taking care of myself so I can be the best version of me for my family, friends, students, co-workers, and loved ones.