A Little Bit of Balance

You may have noticed the phrase in this website’s address: happy medium. You’ve probably heard the term before, and know more or less what it means. It’s about balance: The phrase is usually employed as a goal, something to strive for and hopefully reach.

Find a happy medium.

I hear this phrase most used in casual conversation in order to illustrate something without thinking too hard. Yes, yes, find a happy medium between one thing and another, but why? and how?

It isn’t stressed enough just how important having a balanced life is. Of course, balance isn’t a one-size-fits-all prescription. A student might need to spend most of her time studying, with only intermittent (but just as necessary) breaks to hang out with friends or watch a movie. A father might feel that spending quality time with his family is more important than working overtime. A retired professor may realize that his most fulfilling moments are those he spends writing his book and those he spends with his wife. Everyone finds their balance differently.

Balance comes in many forms, the two most general being internal and external. Internal balance is what we all learned about in science class – the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. In this state, all systems in the body are working properly; maybe not at their maximum capacity (for example, your heart is hopefully not beating as fast as it could), but functioning at the perfect point of not too little, not too much.

This is the “rest and digest” phase. It’s what your body comes back to after you’ve finished sprinting for the bus or speaking in public or freaking out over missing car keys. In those situations, your body tenses up and your mind focuses on a single mission. Heart rate goes up, blood pressure goes up. Non-essential systems (digestive, immune) take the backseat. But once the situation passes, you need your body to relax and come back to normal.

Massage has a very clear benefit in these situations. A relaxation massage helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system so that, internally, you can find a sustainable balance.

But what about external balance? That’s the kind of stuff that people have direct control over. Work, exercise, friends, family, personal challenges, self-care, emotional connections, creating things (art, music, movies, food, drink, etc), enjoying things (likewise). Each category may hold different weight in your life, but they all help keep you in balance. Too much time at work and you might neglect the importance of social connections. Too much time out late with friends and your job performance may start to suffer.

Massage can’t address all possible balance problems, but it is a good solution for one of the most overlooked categories: self-care.

Self-care can come in all different forms. It can be an hour of unwinding after a particularly stressful week. It can be taking care of the muscles you overuse, whether at work or at the gym. It can mean finding a spot, mentally, where you can have time for reflection or reconnect with your body.

Massage shouldn’t be a rare treat or a vacation-only experience. Rather, it should be a basic form of self-care. Getting regular massages can promote both internal and external balance, and can help you find your happy medium.

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