Life Balance Check-in

One of the most empowering experiences we can undertake in our mental health journey is to reflect on the state of our lives. This can be an utterly daunting, overwhelming, confronting task, yet it is essential for moving ourselves forward. Reflection is a powerful tool for cultivating gratitude, identifying patterns, exploring our journeys, and analysing areas for improvement – and so, it is important that we dedicate focused time to the practise. See a broad approach below to add to your self-help repertoire or refresh a familiar practice, and find some prompts for assessing which areas of our lives may be causing us to feel out-of-whack or unbalanced.

Since it can surely be confusing and overwhelming to sit back and analyse our lives in their vast complex state, the place to start is to compartmentalise each major area of our lives through a personal inventory. The way in which the areas of our lives are segregated and organised varies – you may have heard of ‘pillars of life’, ‘the life inventory’, the ‘hierarchy of needs’ or ‘the seven domains’ – and there is no single way that is right for every person. Do your own research and shop around for ways to do an ‘inventory’ of your life, and consider how to use the knowledge moving forward.

  1. Identify: Get a pen and paper and list the different areas based on the format you’ve chosen. I’ve listed some examples and ideas in the next section.
  2. Analyse: Consider how you are going in these areas – some question prompts may be ‘What is going well?’, ‘What challenges am I facing?’, ‘What would I like to improve?’, ‘What could I do differently?’, ‘What help do I need to seek?’
  3. Investigate: Research advice and solutions, whether online, via a relevant personal development book, self-improvement podcast, or with a professional. Have your friends faced similar challenges? Who inspires you to make these changes?
  4. Plan: Prioritise, set goals, craft a plan, and start small. Most of us have heard of the power of habits, and there are myriad sources of information of how to build them; building these is a great place to start. Backward map from your goal – a goal which, by the way, should be connected to the feeling and energy attached to it, not an arbitrary figure that you measure and are bound to get frustrated with -, figure out some steps and milestones, then consider which habits will help you get to this.
  5. Act, Monitor, Repeat: This exercise and the whole self-improvement journey is futile without action! Track your progress, set a review date, and find different means of motivation and accountability, eg. a gym buddy, a habit tracker (there are loads of free habit trackers online!), or keep a journal. Worth mentioning is that we shouldn’t rush into anything we can’t commit to right away; start small and work your way up, for example by social media to 15 minutes a day when you usually average an hour instead of immediately quitting altogether (check out your phone’s digital wellbeing settings and apps!), walking around the block each day to build up to your 1km-run goal, setting an alarm to call your previously close friend once per week, or reading a page before bed each night to work up to finishing a book per fortnight, for example.
Let this beautiful inventory illustration inspire you, particularly as suggested for a new year by its creator here!

Life Inventory Prompts

Mind: Growth mindset, habits of thinking, emotional stability, therapies, overall sense of wellness, brain health
Physical: Exercise, energy, health, injuries, prevention, appearance, fitness, rest, stress management
Spiritual: Connection, life vision, conviction, freedom and habits of practices, quality of life, experiencing joy and contentment
Personal development: Growth goals and habits, education, skills and knowledge, intellectual life, reflective practices, creativity
Family: Relationships with partner / children / parents / siblings / extended family / chosen family, belonging, effort
Social: Friendships, sense of belonging, acts of kindness, community involvement, group activities, how others influence your life
Career: Ambitions, job progression, autonomy, responsibility, hopes, dreams, sense of belonging and fulfilment, positive impact
Financial: Income, savings, investments, freedom and security, money mindset, awareness of consuming habits
Home: Environment, security, general sense of belonging and contentment, hygiene, alignment with life vision, belongings

This can be an interesting and productive activity, but keep in mind to practice this with grace, understanding, self-compassion and forgiveness – we all go through different phases and seasons of our lives, and it is normal that we shift focus between different life domains. No one is perfect, no life is perfect (no matter what their socials project!), and all any of us can do is the best we can with what we have to find that holistic balance… To finish up – remember to celebrate what is going well in your life, big or small; you’ll miss all the good that is happening if you are always focused on what’s next or what’s wrong!


January – Part One

I place my fingertips on the keyboard and instantly, coincidentally, the rain begins its downpour. The ferns, trees, hillsides begin to fade beyond the sleet of rain, a rogue trio of birds glide across the grey sky through the shower. I can still hear the chirrups over the pattering on over the patio roof, and enjoy the lightly fluttering curtains in the fan’s breeze echo the ferns that gently, joyfully shake across my window with each of the millions of drops hitting their leaves.


It has been weeks since I began my exploration of water-forms, days since my decision to share my exploration as a muse, a stimulus to drive my writing habit. I have developed a habit of swimming laps at the local pool at least three days per week – I have so far reached my maximum at five within seven -, visited and frequented alone and with dear company three separate cascading waterfall locations ranging from 5 minutes to 30 minutes from my home, and increased my daily water intake. A visiting friend days ago queried my eight bottles and jugs of water in the fridge; to encourage a habit, enough water for my partner and I to stay adequately hydrated and energised. We went two days within rain this week – two of the only approximate seven this summer -, and my garden noticed. I noticed, and felt it. The tropical heat, humidity, dehydration miserably contrasted the usual chilled air alive and with musical, energetic rainfall, the cool that follows and relieves. Despite the damp air and grey skies, rainy days enliven and revive.

The birds still play, dive, fly, higher into the sky, above the trees, amid the rain, embracing the earth’s gift without agenda nor destination.


My mind has grown clearer; it is challenging to keep a hold of spiralling worries and resentments when trekking through a rainforest in search of waterfalls. Melodically trickling rivers intermingled with rustling leaves, chirping birds and faraway notes of wildlife fill the mind, and distract. The present takes over – this, is the greatest gift. My mind alive with sounds of nature, my body calming, recovering, healing, releasing. This is the value of spending time in healing fresh waters, of forest bathing, of immersion therapy. How frequently could this practice be intentionally, sustainably interwoven with day-to-day life? How greatly could my mind quieten, body heal, and how could this be carried into the rest of my life?

The rain has quietened, birds’ chatter growing louder over the subsiding sound of the rain. The grey sky glows a little brighter, the clouds and mist separating into discernible forms. The ferns host a few iridescent raindrops, and are now still.

Heal, Grow, Nourish

The symbolic ‘new beginning’ that January presents us is an opportunity for new commitments, fresh mindsets, broadening horizons, endless possibilities. As someone who enjoys these symbolic clean slates, in 2023 I commit to healing my mind and body, to forgiving grievances and resentments of the past, growing into a greater version of myself – physically and spiritually – and nourishing my whole being. This year, I will explore. I will explore and rediscover my inner strength, the adventurous parts of myself which are brave and unruled by fear, the love and kindness I know I can offer, the energy I have supressed through neglect and misguidance, the zest for life I once held. I will uncover pieces of myself that I once cherished, and become a greater version of myself.

My currently goal and mindset is to approach the year with intentional curiosity – there have been many significant changes in my life recently, a series of shifts which I will detail in future posts -, my hopes being that this will support my progress toward goals, intentions, and opportunities. And so, as an experiment, something new: I will explore the healing effects of water. I hold optimism and belief in the power of water to energise and rejuvenate, and feel a deep shift in energy on occasions on which I can immerse. This year, I will experience water as part of my lifestyle and daily habits, from meditating in the rain and “chasing waterfalls” – a fun and nostalgic cliché – in my new tropical Queensland home, to going beyond the prescribed 2L of standard H20 per day and committing to a favourite past-time I’d for years been unable to indulge in: early-morning laps in the pool. As part of managing a plethora of ailments including musculoskeletal, inflammatory and mental afflictions, I set the intention for water therapy to become part of my lifestyle as a conduit for healing and growth, and I’m curious and excited for the experiences ahead.

5 Tips for Managing Mental Health

5 mental health tips to help you tackle 2022 - Los Angeles Times
The state of our minds is a key driver in our lives; how can we intentionally strengthen our mental health?

The mind is like a muscle. It needs to be tended to, exercised, cared for with the same intention with which we must care for our physical forms: eat healthy, exercise daily, brush our teeth, drink plenty of water, rest. The essentials. We monitor our bodies for its quirks and ailments, and take appropriate measures to address them: moisturise our dry skin, change shampoos, reduce sugar intake, take the right vitamins. Sometimes we need more triaging, from daily stretches for overworked muscles, to surgery to mend an injury. It is so plainly obvious that we must apply this to our mind, our spiritual selves; how could we possibly think otherwise and opt to neglect our mental health?

Regular reflection upon my mental health journey is a necessity, a non-negotiable. What has been benefitting me? Which of my practices have improved my mental state? What challenges have I been coming up against? What is having an impact, and where do I go from here? Even through phases of weeks and months that I don’t feel the everyday impacts and struggles of mental illness, I recognise the need to maintain certain habits that uphold my mental strength. From the everyday habits to weekly routines, from the daily upkeep to triage intervention.

Here, I have considered 5 of the most significant practices that have improved my mental health over the years:


It feels almost like a cliche at this point given how commonly recommended mindfulness is these days, but journalling has made all the difference in strengthening my mind. Journalling is an outlet, a way of privately exploring our internalised dialogue, beliefs, insecurites, dreams, experiences and so on in an honest way free of fear of judgement. Re-reading journal entries can also be very enlightening, particularly when you start to identify patterns in your thinking that may be impacting your mental state. For example, for me, it was a pattern of believing that I was ‘not good enough’ for a long time, which helped me identify that I need to work on my self-worth.

What’s more is that I noticed that for the first few months I would only write when I was feeling low and depressed; this wasn’t conducive to improving my mental state. One day, I grew tired of reading entries back and seeing so many negative emotions and thoughts scrawled on the pages, so I committed to writing about positive emotions and experiences too. I made it a regular practise, writing 4-5 times a week, and I could feel my mind shifting. This was one of the best decisions that I still maintain years later.

Tracking my habits

No matter how much we think we keep up with our healthy habits, it’s almost always skewed. Do I really drink that healthy smoothie every day? Have I been exercising all or most days? Am I embedding environmentally conscious practices into my daily routine? Probably not.

A habit tracker helps us to use evidence to track and inform our progress in many areas of our lives, and keep on top of practices we may otherwise forget to do. It’s a great way of keeping on the path of mental strength, by integrating practises such as journalling, meditation, personal development (listening to podcasts, watching a lecture, reading a book that will support your growth), different types of exercise, drinking 2L of water, consuming less sugar, eating enough fruit and vegetables, getting an appropriate number of hours of sleep, taking at least 15,000 steps, and so on. The habits depend on your own goals and would ideally be informed by research and advice – perhaps you want to eat more vegetarian meals, build your physical strength, read a chapter a day or fast a few times a week. There are countless podcasts, blog posts, books and research articles that attest to the power of habits – some that stand out include The Compound Effect and Atomic Habits, both bestsellers.

Personally, I use Loop Habit Tracker, which is a digital method which lets me colour-code, change my goals, edit the measurement (time, steps, litres etc), but there are plenty of habit tracking options – including different (and very affordable) digital apps and software, diaries, wellbeing journals – to suit different people’s styles and habits.

Reflecting on my values

This practise informs much of how I live my life, what I choose to feel good about and how I can manage negative feelings – such as guilt, anger, frustration – and convert them into positive experiences and emotions including security, internal validation, a sense of strong self-worth, purpose and conviction. It is a great way of deciding which habits I will commit to, which people I will spend time with (and who I will avoid), how I will conduct myself. If I feel remorseful or conflicted over an incident earlier in the day or about a decision I’ve been committing to, I consider how it aligns with my core values, which I’ve worked out include:

  • Treating others with kindness and compassion.
  • Living an adventurous, energetic life.
  • Caring for the environment and natural world.
  • Nurturing my mental strength and wellbeing.

Of course there are other things that I value – the process by which I arrived at these was by listing all the things that were important to me, then narrowing them down to the top 4-6 -, but by focusing on these few values, I can have a sharper and narrower line of sight for how my daily actions align with my core values and goals. They help me to define the identity I want to believe about myself. If I feel I’m off-track or unsure of a decision, I need only identify how I can make sure my behaviours and choices are reflecting my values, regardless of others’ opinions.

Making time for hobbies

My interests and hobbies are a limb of the identity I wish were a more definitive part of me. When I struggle with the enmeshment of my work identity (this is a big one for me) or social identity with my personal one, it does me well to remind myself of who I am through observing what I choose to spend my free time doing. I find great solace and authentic pleasure in reading, spending time in nature, swimming, listening to music, cooking, and working in the garden. Furthermore, outside of the everyday items, I like to travel, do volunteer work (with disadvantaged children, on environmental projects, or for community projects), go mountain-climbing and undertake design projects. I also like to write – which is why I have returned to this blog, to this to re-build my identity through regularly practising one of my hobbies.

Taking a break

Taking a moment to pause and allowing our minds some time to reset is a challenge in this busy, fast-paced, sometimes chaotic modern world. Whether ‘taking a break’ means interrupting my rumination with compassion or distraction, stepping outside for a change in scene and breath of fresh air, taking a walk to give my body a break from sitting and my eyes a break from the computer screen, or withdrawing from socialising for a few days to re-set and re-energise, I believe allowing ourselves a moment to step away is hugely important. It’s something I’ve had to learn to make a conscious effort to do – even by setting an alarm while I am at work and forcing myself to take a lunch break -, but makes all the difference by the end of the day, week or project in helping to prevent burnout.

Taking a break can also often lead to connection, such as when I happen across someone else who’s in need of a chat to mentally detach from their projects too, and to moments of gratitude, such as if when I stumble across a secluded setting on a walk or open my eyes to the natural world outside of the office. Our minds are not designed to be rushing, running, ruminating all the time.

The Better Life

Seven years.

I’ve tried to write blogs before. I have tried different platforms to create different websites for different audiences, to showcase each of the different brands of ‘me’ and ‘my story’. My words would drive me forward, align me to a purpose, guide me on a journey and take others with me, I’d believed. And yet, my journey brings me back to the same place, each time.

Seven years ago I published my first post with the intention of overcoming (not managing, not beating) depression. I have crawled forward, sprinted ahead, leapt over obstacles and slugged through mud, to reach this present moment. Now, today, in this moment, I remain depressed. I am still in the same place, but in a different time, a different phase, a different future.

My sincerest apologies to you, my past self: depression is not to be beat, nor overcome, nor defeated. It is managed, lived with, walked alongside. But in all truth and honesty, we were right to carry on. We have had so many good things to live for, despite having had to enjoy them through a sleet of rain dampening our view at times, despite a fog clouding our ability to appreciate the moment, despite at times having wanted to be swept away into quiet ocean depths to rest safely beneath a relentless, tiring storm.

We have, and continue to, live a truly good and fortunate life. We have loved (others more than we have loved ourself, I’m sorry again to say – we are still learning), lost, discovered new parts of ourself, journeyed to new places, and found ourself living stories we’d never have imagined.

My mid-twenties self, you went back to university for a post-graduate course, and you became a teacher. Through adversity, you gained the strength to leave the hollow man you fell in love with in your early twenties. You learned to value yourself more than any fictional narrative you convinced yourself of back then. You moved throughout the region, with friends, lovers and strangers, before settling on an island in the tropical north. You have learned about the human condition and societal relations. You still loathe politics and haven’t grasped the ambition you admire in others, but you have uncovered your deepest values and married them with the choices you make in love, life, work and friendships. You recovered from your debts, and your life is more plentiful than you’d ever have thought would be in your reach. You’ve travelled to new countries, earned a promotion, settled into a relationship that is everything you were searching for. You have been successful – because you can be successful even when you are depressed.

You have loved your life, deeply. You have experienced awe, joy, beauty, gratitude, wonder. You have found peace and purpose. You were right to carry on, even when you came so close to giving up. And you need to continue carrying on.

The Beginning of A Better Life

Living with depression sucks.

You tend to see everything through a lense of hopelessness, pessimism and disheartening realism. Your mind is guided by your fears and anxieties. You constantly have to fight away the worst of your thoughts and battle with the part of you that actively searches for those that will make you feel at your lowest. Your mind is vague and your head feels heavy, and focusing on anything is exhausting and short-lived. Smiling can be painful. Getting out of bed can seem pointless. Being alone can ruin you and nights can be hard, to say the least. All of your worst emotions – guilt, regret, loneliness – are amplified and can consume you if you let them. Your future can seem hopeless and you don’t need a valid reason to dislike yourself.

It’s exhausting and it’s constant. And it is ruining my life.

Starting right now, I need to make changes. I need to overcome my depression – not manage, not subside, overcome.

I want you gone, depression. Forever.

From now on,

  • I need to love myself.
  • I need to surround myself with loving, happy people.
  • I need to STOP letting depression affect my life.
  • I need to let go of what is bad for me.
  • I think to STOP ruminating over negative thoughts. Just STOP.
  • I need to enjoy the small things.
  • I need to truly appreciate what I have.
  • I need to have a brighter outlook on life.