By TMoM Team Member, Ashley Quinn Kibby

Four buckets every person can fill every day to fuel their body, mind, soul, and feel fabulous!

As we move into autumn and our children adjust to their new school routines, many of us are inspired or required to set a fresh rhythm to our days. Whether we are driven by personal development, health and wellness, or productivity at work or home, we strive to create balance and feel good doing it.

For many, our time management tools can take the form of rigid rules, which may look like: waking and sleeping at set times, working out for XX minutes or XX days, or saying no to fast food. But when we live by the clock or an all-or-nothing mindset, we often set ourselves up for stress, strain, or failure. And if there’s anything the last two years have taught us, it’s that adaptability is essential for survival. Am I right?

Personally, my ability to stay within the boundaries I set for myself has decreased with motherhood. As my emotional, physical, and mental load has increased, so has my tendency to take short-cuts and make exceptions to my goals. I’ve also learned the hard way that depriving myself of something often leads to overcompensating for it down the road. Then, I’m left feeling discouraged, upset, and unsuccessful — the exact opposite mindset I’m striving to foster through my lifestyle choices.

For the past month, I’ve tried out a different approach, using three guiding principles informed by positive psychology: 1) Focus on what I want to do, not what I don’t, 2) Allow for flexibility and variety, 3) Measure my success by how I feel instead of external metrics. I’m happy to report I’m feeling more steady, strong, and accomplished than ever!

Because I’m an astrology and ancient traditions geek, I built a Balance Framework based upon the four life-sustaining elements (earth, air, water, fire) and what they represent. My goal has been to fill each one of these buckets daily, with the caveat that how, and how much, is completely up to me and may vary day by day. So, how the heck do we modern-day mommas use this system in practical terms?

The four elements can generally be considered as: Movement, Thought, Nature, and Stillness. These elemental classifications have been used for many millennia as a recipe for sustaining balance, with the basic premise that Movement and Thought fuel expansion while Nature and Stillness offer opportunities to ground.  Check out this nifty graphic I made for reference as I slyly check off my Thought bucket for the day!

Movement is exactly what it sounds like: physical activity to fuel metabolism. Thought refers to the mental process of drawing inspiration from information. Nature is about the life-sustaining energies of the Earth — fresh air, good food, and connecting to flora and fauna. Stillness includes opportunities to rest and recharge, such as sleep or meditation.

If you can agree that each of these energies fulfills a unique requirement for holistic health, this framework may be for you! The key is to stay fluid with it. For example, if you fill your Thought bucket with a mentally stimulated workday, you may choose to play relaxing music on your drive home instead of calling a friend. Or, even if you’ve had a restful day due to illness or fatigue, you may still encourage yourself to take a short walk outside to fill your Movement and Nature buckets.

I love this framework because it allows for all the unexpected interruptions that inevitably happen in the day and empowers you to dial up or down your energetic commitments based on how you feel. That said, you haven’t totally escaped the checklist! This step is excellent not only for accountability but for taking inventory of your patterns to understand what aspects need more attention.

Toward the end of each day, I reflect upon my activities and ask myself if I feel each energy has been satisfied. If I didn’t have many moments for Stillness, I might choose to go to sleep early. Or, if Movement wasn’t satisfied, I might do a few sets of crunches or have a quick dance party with my kids. Speaking of those little buggers — this framework totally works for them, too. Just ask anyone who homeschools!

The body naturally wants to create equilibrium, but its signals often get confused under pressure, making it easy to fall into old routines and habits that offer temporary comfort. I know we have all fallen victim to excess, whether that be non-stop activities, late-night technology scrolls, overeating, or sluggishness. It’s okay. There’s no better time than the recent Autumn Equinox — when most of the world experiences equal parts day and night — to recalibrate and recover your balance!


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