Recently I was working with a high school student on his homework assignment. It was all about homeostasis. We had an interesting conversation about it, he defined it in his own words and conceptualized his project. But I was left pondering the word all night. Homeostasis: the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.
I contemplated how I achieve homeostasis in my life. What skills or strategies are in my toolkit that help me maintain a relatively stable equilibrium, regardless of the “elements?” What events impact my homeostasis and throw it off kilter?
Triggers to past pain or trauma certainly have a negative impact, just as exciting news or invitations certainly have a positive impact. But what I notice in each case is that as I get older and “do the work,” I spend less time in the highs or lows and more on an even keel.
The work involves these practices: detachment, boundaries, non-judgment, self care. When I can lovingly detach from the people around me, I am open to hearing their problems, pain, and enthusiasm without taking those things on myself. I let them have what’s theirs. When I am able to detach, I can set healthy boundaries that protect me by defining what is and is not acceptable to me. Then there’s non-judgement. When I can recognize that everyone is on their own journey, a journey that began with their very personal and particular childhoods, and that their actions today are often reflective of those experiences, I can honor the unique set of feelings, thoughts and responses that only they know. My perspective comes from my experiences and therefore cannot be applied to their choices, attitudes and actions. I am better off trying to see things from their point of view, thought not necessarily condoning it, than I am to cast judgment upon them. In the end, that throws my equilibrium off. Finally, self care is my daily commitment to self. It is the small promises I make and keep. I spend time alone. I do something for me every day, from reading to exercising to talking with a friend. I think about how I can help others. I collect samples of gratitude all day long.
Homeostasis is balance, steadiness, dependability, feeling unflappable. Homeostasis is showing up for myself every day and making decisions that align with my core values so that I really don’t have to do much thinking about the “right” choice at all.
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