The story you tell yourself when you’re balancing

Yesterday I did fitness in the park. I love exercising outside. It’s a class I’ve been doing for years, with a special group of women, not too strenuous, mostly about strength and stretching. You breathe fresh air into your lungs. When you do press ups, your hands are on the grass, whatever the weather. At the end of the class, we do a bit of mindfulness, and you can hear the birds singing. It’s a space for me in the middle of the week, and I look forward to it.

This class has been going for years and it’s been led over that time by a number of people. While I’ve been there I’ve seen two different trainers run the class, and experienced two very different styles. Tom currently leads us. He is serious, incredibly well informed and with flashes of very dry humour. He also teaches EFT, which is a way of learning to manage your emotions, and I’ve had some sessions with him doing this. I’ve also worked with Tom outside the class running storytelling workshops and focus groups for Mental Snapp, our app for managing mental health with private video diaries. I like Tom, I’ve seen him at work and experienced his care myself. He’s really good with people.

It was the other teacher that I was thinking about yesterday, Enni. Enni was energetic, leading the class with great joy and a laser focus. She played music and worked out a different routine each week. There was a lot of laughter. I remember Enni with fondness, and I was thinking of her as I was balancing on one foot yesterday. I was balancing badly, with a wobble, and I remembered something Enni used to say and it straightened me.

Enni used to say “It’s about the story that you tell yourself when you’re balancing”. She used to make us balance for stretches of time, in impossible poses, ones that I could only aspire to do as gracefully as she could. But it would feel incredible as I learnt to tell myself the story that would keep me balancing.

It’s not a bad metaphor that. At the moment I’m balancing a whole load of differently weighted things in my life, my mental health, running Mental Snapp, finances both personal and business, family life, plans for the future that I keep making and that keep unmaking themselves. The wonderful thing about balancing is that you have to be in the moment. There is no way to be outside that second, no drifting off into your normal ruminations or the thoughts you distract yourself with. As you balance you are authentically yourself. And what you do with your mind is at that point both revealing of where you are right now and highly directable to a more positive direction for the future. Try it. Try your hardest balance and note what you tell yourself.

The story that you tell yourself when you’re balancing – the one that works for me – is one of quiet confidence, of not thinking of the future or the past, of low stakes, of mindfulness. It is of groundedness, both in the ground physically, and in that moment. It is of gratitude for the bits of my body that work – joy as I discover more working than I expect – and self acceptance.

If you are feeling off kilter with your mental health today, remember that you are balancing. Try some physical balancing. The story that you tell yourself when you are balancing – when you are living – is what it is all about. Next time you are outside, in a park, in the fresh air, breathe deep. This is the moment. Grab it. Be kind to yourself. Tell yourself a good story.

Also published on Medium.

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