What is the Secret to a Balanced Life?

Even the acrobats in Cirque du Soleil don't juggle as much as you do (the family, the house, the job, the dog, the family, the house...). So how do you keep on keeping on? Real Simple readers offer their best tips for staying sane, every day.

Photo by Christopher Silas Neal

When I’m stuck working late, I sometimes obsess over not being home to cook dinner or to let my two dogs, Ruben and Lucy, outside. Then I think, What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe I’ll have to spend money on takeout, or there will be a mess to clean up. My anxiety dissipates when I see that my worst-case scenario is undesirable but not the end of the world.

Holly Malone

Washington, D.C.

You never know what’s coming next. But if you assume that unexpected events will occur, you’ll be in a better position to take pleasure in good surprises and be prepared for bad ones. For example, I try to leave some free time in my week. If a friend is in town unexpectedly, I can make time for coffee. And when I can, I leave a little extra money in my account so that an emergency won’t break the bank.

Virginia Hawkins

Beijing, China

Quitting. In 2011 my friends and my younger sister convinced me to sign up with them for a triathlon. I had done this kind of race before and enjoyed the challenge, but this time I wasn’t as motivated to train and became very unhappy. So after six weeks, I dropped out of the race, and my life went back to normal. People often view quitting as a failure, but it can be essential to maintaining your sanity and happiness.

Lucinda Anne Coffin

Oswego, New York

After my three kids were born, I was so caught up in being a stay-at-home mom that I neglected everything that fell outside that role. Last year I vowed to make time for my hobbies, not just my responsibilities, which prompted me to audition for a local theater production of Les Misérables. And guess what? I landed a part!

Mary Faulds

Galion, Ohio

It’s simple: Get a good night’s sleep. In this day and age, we forfeit shut-eye in favor of staying up late to get work accomplished. I believe that well-rested people are more productive and, honestly, a lot nicer to be around.

Shelby Chubb

Akwesasne, New York

Ask your family for help. My husband lends a hand with housework, my father is a fill-in babysitter when the nanny calls in sick, and my sister cooks for my kids if I’m exhausted. It truly takes a village to have any semblance of balance—well, a village and a smartphone.

Dena Liston

Chesapeake, Virginia

Incorporate some fun into dreaded tasks. For example, I used to hate dragging my 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son out of bed in the morning. So instead of getting frustrated, I've started playing “tickle monster” until they laugh themselves awake. It helps to find the joy in duties that otherwise would be draining.

Melanie Fee

Powell, Ohio