The Art of Balance

I remember watching the 1996 Olympics in amazement as Dominique Dawes completed her balance beam routine. It seemed impossible to me that someone would be able to walk backwards, jump, and flip in the air all while gracefully maintaining her balance on a four-inch beam. Seeing Gabby Douglas perform on the balance beam during the Olympic Games this past summer reminded me of the immense skill required to master this magnificent talent–patience, poise, self-awareness, and an ability to regain equilibrium before losing one’s footing. Of course, these qualities are valuable to have for all life domains; however, their importance became even more significant for me with the start of the MSW/PhD continuum program last month.

Using the imagery of a balance beam, for my first year in the MSW program, I considered myself proficient in walking toe-to-heel across the beam, maybe adding in a few toe dips here and there. I was able to maintain balance between coursework, leadership positions, employment and my social life outside of school. I even made time to participate in a few volunteer projects throughout the year. However, now that my coursework has become more difficult and I am dedicating more time to my SoWoSO leadership position, at times, I’m finding myself teetering. In other words, I haven’t quite lost my footing yet but I definitely need to find ways to regain equilibrium. This is when self-care matters the most.

There are so many things you can do to take care of yourself. Here are a few activities I have done to ‘de-stress’ and regain my footing:

  • Have lunch, dinner, or coffee with family or friends–stepping away from writing papers to have light-hearted conversations with loved ones allowed me to return to the work refreshed
  • Exercise–taking a walk around the block or going to the student gym facilities gave me the jump-start I needed to begin long readings and tedious homework assignments
  • Try something new–Groupons, Living Social Deals and Meetup groups were great, cost-efficient ways for me to try new things like paintball, belly-dancing and hot yoga. They also offer relatively cheap prices for more relaxing activities like massages.
  • Do something you love–for me, this includes listening to music, playing with my dog, or watching a movie or my favorite show
  • Get some rest–I truly think that sleep is underrated! Getting eight hours of sleep versus four hours makes a world of difference for me. By waking up feeling rested, I can start the day on the right foot.

Hope these tips can help you master the art of balance!

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About Charity S. Watkins

After earning my MSW in May 2013 and completing the MSW/PhD Continuum Program, I am now a third-year PhD student. I am originally from Rochester, New York but I have lived in the Durham/Chapel Hill area since graduating from UNC with my bachelor's degree in sociology. My areas of interest include family dynamics, educational resilience, racial and socioeconomic disparities, and school-based interventions. Aside from studying, I enjoy exercising, listening to music, going to Chicago Line Dancing classes, and spending time with my husband and two dogs.
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