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  • Dr. Amanda Cressman, N.D.

Finding Balance

This past season I have found it very difficult to find balance...something that I strive for and value deeply.  I can struggle with the cold weather, particularly if that cold weather makes it difficult to be outside and definitely if it involves a lack of sun.  It’s been a hard and long winter season for a variety of personal reasons too and with that comes thoughts and reflections about behaviours and patterns that I often do throughout the winter season that don’t always do a great job of creating balance.

If you’ve spoken with me before, you know I speak about the stool analogy when it comes to balance….the four legged wooden kind of stool, not to be confused with speaking about bowel movements, although that is an important and helpful discussion, as well.  I love this analogy, as many people understand it and often connect well to it. I often say, if you and your well being are the seat of the stool, you are held up by 4 legs - the mental leg, the emotional leg, the physical leg and the spiritual leg. Sometimes we make the stool a tripod, if that last leg is not a match for the individual.  And my job, as a Naturopath is to figure out why the stool is toppling. In this analogy, maybe one stool leg is extra long, making it topple over, or maybe one leg is incredibly short and thin. For some, the mental leg takes the brunt, for others it’s the physical leg. Regardless of what it is, I find it fascinating to see how we all work at doing our best to create balance amongst adversity and stress.

Many people come to see me for physical reasons and as we begin dialog, the focus is on the physical leg of the stool, but as we dive in deeper to the root cause of the problem, we often uncover other legs of the stool to be at the root of the problem.  Let’s use me for an example. In previous years I have created a wonderful habit of running almost each morning. I wake up early and run with my dog to clear my head, feel nature and get some physical exercise. I work at eating a clean diet...clean meaning no gluten and dairy for me with my specific health concerns and limiting sweets, even fruit as I love sweet food, but can struggle with insulin regulation.  Everything in my world feels and works better if I maintain exercise and clean eating. I physically feel great, emotionally am more stable and mentally am sharp....I love this place, as it’s me feeling something I adore, balance. But, at the end of January someone very close to me passed away when I had a few other stressful things happening at the same time, it felt like the emotional leg of the stool got yanked out from under me and I was flustering to achieve balance in the other legs.  The mental, spiritual and physical legs of the stool were doing their best to compensate to ensure I stayed upright but life changed. I stopped running as I didn’t have time/ability to do so daily, my clean eating went out the window as I physically couldn’t grocery shop easily or have energy to food prep and I started getting into old patterns of behaviour to compensate for my heart feeling broken.

As a culture, we are notorious for avoiding being present with difficult situations/pain.  We distract and numb ourselves through television, food, social media, etc. and all the while our emotional leg of the stool is not actually being nurtured while the other legs of the stool are suffering, desperately working at creating balance for the whole.  These distractions and changes in behaviour can have a time and a place, but the tricky thing is catching when the compensation becomes a pattern and then a habit. For me, this past winter, I started watching tv shows at night - positive, lovely shows but it was distraction from feeling what was real for me.  I stopped journaling regularly, as it was hard to be real with the hurt and I started baking often as this is a comfort for me. Even if my baking choices are raw vegan desserts and technically “healthy”, they are still desserts and connecting to a pattern I developed as a child, that when I was sad, food would numb the hurt.

The body is an amazing thing, always striving for balance or homeostasis, a medical term for essentially the same thing. I see many people in my practice where the physical leg of the stool is in rough shape - but if that’s happening for you, consider thinking about the stool analogy and what events got you to where you are today.  Yes, that physical leg of the stool will need care and support but as that leg gets stronger, the other legs can be nurtured and are often the real reason we are off balance in the first place.

For me, I know the warmth and sun of next week will help.  I have supported my adrenals the past few weeks which have helped give energy and motivation to consider cleaning up my diet and food patterns.  I have good supports that I have used to help sort out the past events and I have once again, run daily. My runs are slow and not super long, my diet could be even cleaner with better prep work, but I’m feeling more balanced and stronger again with an improved inner resilience.

This past season has been hard for many and this culture we live in, particularly, the culture of Kitchener-Waterloo is unbalanced.  We are driven, busy and stressed out people. See which leg of the stool in this analog needs nurturing for yourself and seek out that balance.  Whether it's doing more social events, improving your physical exercise regime, taking up a creative hobby, clean eating, meditating, having alone time...work at creating the specific balance you need.  The journey is much easier when the stool is not toppling.

Hoping that you are able to feel supported and balanced into the coming season.

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