I’m delighted to welcome Jennifer Landis back to the blog today to talk about using mindfulness to eliminate distractions. Jennifer first joined me during the Week of Well-being and Inspiration with a wonderful post about mindfulness and writing. Jennifer now writes a regular column for the blog on mindfulness and related topics. I find Jennifer’s posts fantastically helpful and I hope you will too!

How I Personally Achieve Balance

I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials that make life as a mother look like a breeze. There’s a smiling woman with perfectly coifed hair directing her children — all of whom are wearing matching clothes, none of whom are fighting with one another — into a minivan. They click into their seatbelts without mom’s help. Everyone smiles as she pulls out of the driveway, presumably taking them to a museum or library or some other place that most children would whine about.

We can only imagine this woman has everything just as perfect as her Saturday plans with her cherubic children. Her husband is happy, her career prospects are robust and she takes impeccable care of herself, too.

Of course, this is just a 30-second advertisement for laundry detergent, and in no way a reflection of anyone’s real life.

I’m not going to be the first wife, mother and career woman to tell you how hard it is to find that level of balance. The one in the commercial is unattainable: my kid chooses her outfits and barely ever matches, first and foremost. My hair is usually in a bun, and it’s a struggle to get her out the door and into the backseat of car.

But these imperfections are minor — it’s still vital for me to have an overarching sense of balance, even if we can’t all agree on a radio station as we drive to grandma’s house or the ice cream shop — sorry, my kid eats sugar, too.

Here’s how I’ve managed to find a sense of balance in a world where women are expected to do it all.

1. Meditation

Achieve balance - meditationI know what you’re thinking: I can’t believe this woman is starting her list with the suggestion of meditation. I was anti-meditation, too, until a year ago, when a friend of mine gave me a book she read on the subject. It changed her life, she told me over lunch. She then whipped the book out of her purse and handed it over to me, seeing through my motherly exasperation that I could use the same power she had uncovered.

I read that book through rolling eyes and decided at the end to try it just to prove it was all a bunch of hooey. It’s very hard as a wife and mom to sit alone in silence for 15 minutes, pushing thoughts of diapers and dinner plans out of your head. But, once you get used to it, starting your day with meditation can strip you of so much stress. After a few weeks, I called my friend to wave my white flag of surrender, admitting that meditation was on its way to changing my life, too.

You don’t have to read a full-length book to begin your practice, though it’s not a bad idea. Plenty of online resources provide beginner’s plans for meditating, and you only need to set aside a few minutes in the morning or evening to clear your head and reduce your stress. Once you get in the habit, it will be the best addiction you’ve ever picked up — yes, it’s even better than Netflix after the family has gone to sleep, I swear.

2. Exercise

I not only train my mind each day, but I exercise my body, too. I must admit my foray into working out started vainly: after having my daughter, my body didn’t look the same anymore. Assuming I could be like Beyoncé, Megan Fox and every other Hollywood mom who bounces back in a few weeks after giving birth, I signed up for my neighborhood gym, assuming it’d be a quick fix for me, too.

Achieve balance - exerciseInstead, I found that exercise made me feel amazing, even if I didn’t end up with a rocking post-baby body two months after giving birth. It’s a well-documented fact that exercise boosts endorphins and makes us feel incredible. But I also enjoyed carving out time for me to achieve something of my own. As wives and moms, it’s sometimes hard to put our wants and needs on the table when we care for others, but exercise gives me a chance to focus on myself, even if only for a half an hour each day.

I promise, even if you hate the gym, finding some activity you like and dedicating even 30 minutes a day to it will make you feel much more harmonious and happy. If you choose a vigorous activity, you’ll feel healthier, too, which will make you even more balanced.

3. Prioritize

Achieve balance - prioritizeThe above are more physical activities in the quest for balance. Here’s something you can do without lifting a single weight or muttering a single “ohm.” Prioritizing your schedule will make you feel so much more balanced if you do it right.

As a professional, a mother, a wife and a friend, I have a lot on my plate. But I make things easier on myself by cutting out the things that aren’t as important to me as the well-being of my loved ones or the maintenance of my career.

It’s okay to say “no” to a work happy hour or dinner date with a friend if you’re feeling overwhelmed — alternatively, it’s okay to leave work early occasionally to catch your child’s baseball game or get a pedicure with your sister who’s in town for a visit. Sometimes, you need to take a good, hard look at what’s important to you and make sure you pursue that, instead of something that causes you stress because it’s just too much. Realizing that has revolutionized my sense of balance.

4. Indulge

Achieve balance - indulgeThe above suggestions might seem a bit “blah.” But here’s a fun one: give yourself the chance to indulge now and then. Choose indulgences that you love: a glass of wine in the bathtub, a bowl of dark chocolate almonds and a Lifetime movie, a trip to the movie theater to see a raunchy comedy — whatever you like. You don’t have to live your life by the book to achieve balance. In fact, I contend a little bit of rule-breaking every now and again is the key to attaining the balance between responsibility, self-care and fun.

My methods aren’t foolproof, and I do find myself feeling a bit stressed out from time to time. But laying down the groundwork for a more balanced existence is something that has changed my life. And, by improving myself and my outlook, I’m better to those I love, which makes it even sweeter. So, what are you waiting for? Find your balance and let me know what works for you — I can always add to my regimen if you find something even better than what I already do!