Before you call a chiropractor, read this.

A good friend of mine is out of alignment. It’s not a spinal issue. If she had a chiropractic problem, she’d make an appointment and get it fixed. My pal’s misalignment is more complicated — and, potentially, more debilitating. Seems she’s currently out of spiritual alignment. Creative alignment. Professional, physical and emotional alignment, too.

The girl is out of whack.

In the past few weeks, she’s been chewed out by a colleague for (uncharacteristically) making a tone-deaf comment on a conference call. She’s attended a business meeting with red, puffy eyes after weeping uncontrollably during her commute. She’s repeatedly forgotten to pick her kids up at school and has regularly been gorging late-night on cookies. She’s skipped out on daily exercise to cram in a few extra minutes of work time instead, and she hasn’t had a solid night’s sleep in weeks.

No wonder she feels like crap.

Can you relate? I sure can. I’ve been out of alignment countless times, usually because I’ve spent my dreamtime agonizing over a decision or pondering a dilemma rather than sleeping. Of course, this is the perfect set-up for prolonged mental, physical and emotional misalignment. I end up too tired to drag myself to the gym, which could help clear my fogged-in head. I’m too tired to resist the rush of caffeine and sugar, which later leaves me shaking. And I’m way too tired to think straight about whatever issue created this vicious cycle in the first place.

Here’s the burning question. We all know how darn good it feels when our mind, body, work and creative juices are happily aligned. When all systems are firing in perfect synchronicity, the feeling is more than just sweet. It’s energizing, exhilarating and exciting. When we’re in that delicious zone, we’re calm, productive and deeply focused. Given this incredible upside, why is it so easy to drift off course? Why does it take so little for a beautifully smooth ride to suddenly become rough, bumpy and pocked with potholes?

Here’s a recent example of my own alignment derailment. A while back, I was meditating daily. I loved my quiet, focused time, and it really was helping me shift my perspective on certain challenging situations. But at some point, I just stopped doing it. Sure, I was traveling. Yes, my schedule was shifting into high gear. And yeah, I was on deadline overdrive. I had explanations — excuses — to spare. The bottom line is, I quit doing something that simply required parking my posterior for ten minutes a day. I ditched a practice that made me feel calmer, happier and better able to handle what was piled on my plate.

Why? Well, like anything that leads to holistic alignment, daily meditation takes discipline. Discipline demands commitment. Commitment calls for determination. Determination requires will power. Will power requires … you get the picture. Even when the payoff is tremendous — professional productivity! Personal creativity! Emotional well-being! — it’s not always enough.

Intellectually, I know it feels awesome to get to the gym when it opens so I can start my workday early, with tired muscles and a clear mind. I know I feel better when I have a nutritious lunch and skip afternoon caffeine. I’m happier when I read in bed instead of watching trashy TV. But guess what else is true? I hate getting up in the dark. I love chocolate chip cookies. And sometimes, all I want to do is binge watch The Real Housewives of New York.

Maybe hard-edged determination and unwavering will power isn’t the key to sustained (and sustainable) alignment after all. I’m certain the unrelenting guilt we, especially us gals, inflict upon ourselves if we fail to live up to our own high standards doesn’t help one whit. I’m thinking the answer is something a little softer. Kinder. Gentler. A little blurrier around the edges. I guess I’d just call it finding balance.

Ideally, I’ll drag myself out of bed in the dark so I can kick-start my day as soon as my kids are out the door. But if I’ve been up all night worrying, for example, about the future of our nation, I’m going to forgive myself for skipping the gym and hitting snooze a few extra times the next morning. If I’m craving cookies and chips instead of a nutritious, protein-packed lunch, heck, I’ll load up on sugar and salt and ditch the Recommended Dietary Allowance of guilt. Later on, I might head to bed early to read the latest intellectually stimulating Man Booker Prize winner. Or maybe I’ll watch an episode or two of RHONY instead.

With a little bit of luck, it won’t be too long before I regain my balance. I’m confident my friend will, too.

One day, I’m sure, we’ll both be back in whack.

Willow Older is a nationally and internationally published writer and a long-time professional editor. She lives in Northern California where she runs her own editorial services business and publishes a weekly newsletter called Newsy!.

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