balance

PT Corner with Friends

Getting Off Center to Find Balance

By Guest Author

Jul 21, 2022

by Thalia Wynne, PT, DPT, AT

@thalialovee

 

The dictionary defines balance as the ability to stay upright and steady. Physiologically, balance is an intricate dance of three different systems of the body: the vestibular system, the somatosensory system (sensation of touch, pain, pressure, temperature), and the visual system. The vestibular system uses signals from the inner ear, position sensations “proprioception”, visual signals, and intended movement “motor commands” to analyze motion. It is in constant communication with the eyes, body, and brain to maintain accuracy. If one of these three balance systems is inhibited it will impact your ability to find and maintain balance. 

 

Why do we care about balance? Having balance keeps us safe as we interact with the world. When someone has poor balance, they are more prone to falls and life-threatening injuries. For example, imagine you are standing on a moving bus that made frequent stops. How would that turn out if you had poor balance? We want to maintain good balance to avoid injury and trauma, especially as we age. 

 

One way to maintain good balance is to ensure that we are not over-relying on one system to give us our balance information. Often, we over-rely on vision to tell us where we are in space. Simple things you can do to reduce over-reliance on vision for balance are: 

 

  1. During your yoga practice, close your eyes while moving on the mat to take away visual information. Pay attention to other signals to tell you where you are in space. 
  2. Train your vestibular system by finding a target to focus on with your eyes. Move your head side-to-side for 15 to 30 seconds. This may make you feel dizzy so best try it sitting down first. Rest and repeat 2-3 times. 
  3. During your yoga practice, confuse your visual system. Try looking up and down or side to side while holding a pose. This forces you to rely on other systems to find your balance. 
  4. Lastly, train for optimal posture every day. Read this article by Lara Heimann to learn more about training posture to find your balance. (link article here). 

 

Let’s talk about balance in another way. Life balance. Cue Circle of Life music. Ask yourself these questions: 

  1. Do you feel satisfied with your life as it is? Why or why not? 
  2. What does it mean to you to have work-life balance? 
  3. Do you feel you are doing your best? 

 

circle of lifeFig 1

 

These are not easy questions to answer. To help you, I’d like to introduce you to the 8 dimensions of wellness. 

 

  1. Physical wellness: Your energy, gut health, sleep, hormonal health, absence of injury/illness, dietary habits, exercise habits, etc. 
  2. Emotional wellness: How well you know and embody your authentic being, self-worth, emotional regulation, experiencing the full spectrum of your emotions without judgment, how well you resource yourself with grounding tools, trust without co-dependency
  3. Spiritual: Connection with a greater meaning, higher power, sense of and pursuit of purpose, aligned action with your authentic code and beliefs, co-creating with the universe, implementation of practices to connect to God, Source, Higher-Self, etc. 
  4. Social: Sense of belonging, community, connection with others, quality time with loved ones, awareness of others and your social determinants of health and how they impact interaction, awareness of your implicit biases and using strategies to mitigate implicit bias, actively participating in groups, recognizing, and mitigating people-pleasing behavior, ability to set boundaries 
  5. Environmental: Curation of a safe space for you and your family, acting in ways that honor and respect your physical world, cleanliness and order of your home and workspaces, access to resources
  6. Vocational: Meaningful work that aligns with your authentic values and beliefs, recognizing tendencies to overwork or underwork, satisfaction with performance
  7. Intellectual: Fueling your mind with brain-healthy food, consuming uplifting content, learning, critical-thinking, self-analysis, and self-reflection, doing creative activities that light you up, trying new things
  8. Financial: healthy money mindset, financial literacy, goal setting, and planning, debt management, allocation of resources 

 

Below is an exercise that will help you analyze your overall balance in these areas. You will rank these dimensions from 0 to 5. 0 = unsatisfied/unhappy 5 = most satisfied/happy. I’d like to point out that BALANCE DOES NOT EQUAL PERFECT FIVES across all dimensions. If you are unsatisfied by not getting a “perfect score” you may be suffering from perfectionism tendencies. I’ve been there, honey. Nothing sabotages the balance of wellness like trying to be perfect in all these areas. It is only human to have less than a 5. Matter of fact, a low score can drive us to keep trying, to grow, to change and be better. There is nothing wrong with having a low score. You are still wonderful, just the way you are. I mean it! Say it out loud to yourself. “I am wonderful, just the way I am.” Does the title make sense now? Get off center to find balance. Your scores will constantly shift through the week, month, and your lifetime because your priorities shift all the time. Balance does not mean be exactly in the middle of a scale and ‘perfect in every way’ as Mary Poppins would put it. Balance is your ability to sway with the waves that rock your lifeboat. It requires you to get off center, reassess priorities often, and adjust accordingly. 

 

wellness wheel

 

Sources: 

  1. 8 Dimensions of Wellness – Online Test and Worksheet – J. Flowers Health. J. Flowers Health Institute. https://jflowershealth.com/8-dimensions-of-wellness/. Published 2022. Accessed July 20, 2022.
  2. Herdman. Vestibular Rehabilitation. F.A. Davis Company; 2014.

 

Fig 1: 

  1. 8 Dimensions of Wellness. Live Well @ UMD. https://umwellness.wordpress.com/8-dimensions-of-wellness/. Published 2022. Accessed July 20, 2022.

 

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