Emotional and physical well-being depend on the metaphysical balance between giving and receiving. Thomas Aquinas' "virtue in the middle," the Jewish mystical work, the Kabbalah, and the Dalai Lama's Book of Transformations assert the same principle: Each one of us needs to establish a balance between giving and receiving.

Easier said than done for women who throughout the ages have been ascribed the role of caretaker and nurturer. The balance has always been tipped towards the word yes. Many women literally become sick and tired before they can say no.

When we do not honor our true feelings, or when we suppress them, we become ill. Our disease usually symbolizes the underlying emotional condition that we are blocking out. That is why chronic fatigue syndrome occurs predominantly among women. Worthy to note: If it is a blessing to give, let someone else be blessed too!

Then why do women say yes when they mean no? The "good little girl" syndrome, the accommodating woman, the need to be perfect, indicate that a woman needs validation and is afraid that she won't be liked by her significant other, her boss, her children and her friends. However, it is a healthy sign of self-esteem, creativity and accomplishment to say no! In order to regain her balance, the good little girl needs to live more on the edge. No great contribution was ever made through conformity.

If we intuit that something is wrong, or that we are too busy to attend to everything except in a superficial way, we must not suppress our feelings, the inner voice that changes our wording from "I should" to "I really cannot." If your schedule becomes overwhelming and burdensome, saying no helps you to prioritize and select the duties, projects and activities that you will focus on and accomplish with profundity.

When you are distracted by too many tasks, the first question you need to ask yourself is, "What am I distracting myself from facing? What am I running away from?" Carl Jung explained that the hardest person to confront-and to have compassion for-is the self. In fact, we show more compassion to our pets than we do to ourselves!

I would like to share a story revealed during one of my stress-reduction workshops that illustrates this issue. Carol was the oldest daughter in a large family in Trinidad, whose mother suffered from kidney disease and diabetes. Carol gave up her job and accompanied her mother from hospital to hospital for medical treatment. When, despite these efforts, her mother passed away, Carol remained strong; in fact, she didn't even cry.

Her father turned the household over to her-she cooked, cleaned and took care of him and her brothers and sisters. Her life was on hold again. The family all clung to Carol yet went on with their own lives. Two years later, Carol became dangerously anemic and no doctor could figure out why, until one hematologist suggested, "It could be stress. Blood symbolizes family, and your family is stressing you out!"

That night Carol packed a bag and moved into her aunt's house. She just wanted to disappear. She cried and cried until she had no more tears left, for the first time openly mourning for her mother and her own lost opportunities. The man she was dating had asked her to marry him, but until then she had refused. The next day she called him up and said, "Yes, I will marry you, but we have to leave the country!" Carol got married, and the couple left Trinidad and immigrated to New York. Nevertheless, she still had a serious problem with anemia.

The other members of our group candidly told Carol that she needed to stop feeling guilty about leaving her family who were literally draining her blood. She needed to let go and live her own life-joyfully. She had been a caregiver, and now she had to take care of herself. As of today Carol has had four months of a good hemoglobin count. She speaks to her father, sisters and brothers regularly, but has a life of her own.

When we don't establish our boundaries, we become overworked, anxious, numb and tired. People who depend on us suffer, and soon everything seems to fall apart in our lives. Let us insist on doing things at our own pace and speaking on our own behalf. We can delegate much more than we think we can. We can be assertive, without being aggressive, in revealing our true inner selves.

To help restore balance in your life, try to distance and objectify difficult situations by using humor. Perceive the conflict as though it were happening to someone else in a sit-com-surely you would be laughing at this. Try not to take yourself so seriously. Humor boosts the immune system. Smiling, even just turning the corners of your mouth up, raises your serotonin levels. Smiling is contagious; your smile will undoubtedly be returned to you. You generate joy in others and in so doing you expand your soul.

On a physical level, exercise restores balance both physically and emotionally. Exercise releases endorphins, mood elevators, as it rids you of cortisol, a stress hormone that courses throughout the body doing physical and emotional damage when it has no outlet.

When you exercise, you lower blood pressure, strengthen your heart, bones, muscles, reverse the aging process, activate your immune system, and oxygenate your brain. Exercise increases focus for the mind/muscle connection which transfers to daily life, increasing your power of concentration. Even when you think you are too tired to exercise, working out for even just ten minutes will increase your energy level. Also, exercise helps you organize your day in a healthy way, which will cause you to pay more attention to your diet.

Each day find a balance between earth practicality and spirituality. When you find your personal balance, you are ready to express love in a way that does not deplete you-to express your personal creativity, which is actually a love for the Divine, through writing, painting, gardening, reading, or cooking. Be kind to yourself first-then you will have the energy and spiritual resources to give to others.

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