Now that I’m finally getting my sea legs in another semester, I’ve been thinking a lot about balance.

Like most American professionals, I have my toes in many ponds. The ability to balance is needed when the ponds start getting all riled up. For example, my teaching pond has been swirling wildly for the past two weeks. When this happens, I find myself particularly unsettled because I’ve been focused on self-development or home-improvement projects all summer, and no matter how I try to prepare for it, the start of the fall semester always shakes me. I guess it’s a bit like a hurricane. The forecasters tell us the hurricane is coming for days or weeks as it gathers strength over the ocean, but we can’t really imagine the force of the winds until they are upon us.

When one of my ponds — work, study, service, house, family, creative expression, fitness, spirituality — is involved with a hurricane, I seek calm in the other ponds. That means not pushing myself all out in all the things I do all at once. With hurricane winds in the work pond, I moved into maintenance mode in my yoga practice. A few times through sun salutation each morning and some gentle stretching at other times of the day. Gaps of a couple of days between sitting meditation sessions, but not so long that I get drawn too deep into the maelstrom in my mind. Drawing simple pictures. Caring for the cats. Listening to a favorite novel read by a favorite reader for about 10 minutes before I fall into sleep.

All of these gentle practices in areas that I can, and do, generally push myself to do better become calming respites while I deal with the storm on campus. I choose to let them support me while I stretch in another area.

Although I can’t always push my fitness practice, having it serves me well when other areas are super busy or chaotic. About 15 years ago, I figured out that strength in the core muscles is incredibly important. I had dropped dancing, yoga and all other fitness activities while I was working out a rough patch and had started back into exercise with sit-ups. Whatever the specialists say about the efficacy of sit-ups, the changes in my core muscles helped me stand up straighter and feel more confident that I could face the uncertainties of my present and future. I even concluded that core strength is the key to happiness.

While I’m no longer certain that happiness is a direct result of strong abs, I know that keeping up the core strength helps me negotiate conflict, lead tough meetings, paint my ceilings, wrangle cats and keep my balance whether I’m rightside up or upside down.