Find the thing that helps refocus, refresh and reset you for a better day afterwards.
I’m back from the vortex of ‘doing’ instead of ‘being’. I haven’t posted much the past few weeks because I entered one of those time-periods where the demands of everyday living trump our best intentions to take care of our inner selves. We all encounter them and no matter how far into the journey of self-awareness I go, I still stray from what I know to be good. I falter. I forget. Self-care requires not only good intentions, but continual, mindful effort to make it real.
I have many good excuses why I lost my way—and they are just that: excuses. The program at the university which I direct lost its federal funding and the university and its affiliated hospital isn’t stepping up as I had hoped to fill the void. So I find myself in full-tilt do-whatever-it-takes-to-survive mode. If I stop digging, people will not receive what I believe to be life-saving and life-changing educational information. So out of deep love for this program, I’m doing more tasks with fewer financial resources and no staff . My job is demanding and leaves little time for anything else.
In an effort to stay balanced, I decided to make time for something else. I decided to take the coursework necessary to become a certified health coach. It is something I wanted to do for myself—I thought I would enjoy it and I did. I thought it would help me better be able to help others, and it does. I’m pleased to say I passed my certification exam yesterday, but the process of adding this one more thing on top of an already busy schedule was nearly too much.
I forgot to take into consideration that unexpected things always arise. There is the ‘stuff’ of life that crops up–expensive dental work, home internet going out (for days!), child breaking his band instrument, medical appointments—well, you get the idea. There are those everyday stressors which arise that on any given day might not seem so bad when taken by themselves, but added to the backdrop of other responsibilities can become the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. It happens to all of us at one time or another. It is in those moments of feeling overwhelmed when it is easy to forget about ourselves. We prioritized everything and everyone else and put ourselves last.
So what to do when things start spiraling out of control and you lose your sense of self?
- The first thing is to recognize it. Just being able to take a half-step back to notice that ‘yes, I’m feeling tense and I’m tenser today than yesterday and I don’t like this path’ is a good start. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. Being mindful enough of your own self to notice when things are out of kilter and you don’t feel ‘normal’ is a big part of becoming self-aware. Taking some time during the day—even if only for a moment—to notice how you are feeling and truly be fully aware and accepting of those feelings is crucial.
- Next, if you recognize that you’re on a path to a bad place, get off of it! Make a conscious decision to not go there. Some events during the course of a day, we have no control over. But many things in our day we do have power over. We also have the choice in how we respond to those things we cannot control. We can choose to go to bed early to get extra rest and carry over a task to another day. We can choose to ask for help..from a coworker, spouse or friend. We can choose to not carry our burden alone, but connect with other people. When you really start looking at what is bothering you, you’ll discover we have more control over our lives than at first is perceived.
- Find what refreshes you. For myself, I find it helpful to reconnect with nature. The past week was a long and difficult one. Crazy things happening at work, at home and trying to study on top of it. After I finished my exam yesterday, I intentionally had lunch by a nearby lake. While at the lake, I could simply sit and be. I then noticed eagles hunting and felt the wind on my face and smelled the fresh air. It was a meal for the senses. (I took the photo above during my time yesterday) It was exactly what I needed. For me, a short time alone in nature is an inoculation against stress. And it doesn’t have to be at a formal park or ‘nature area’. It can just as easily be having coffee sitting outside in the sunlight or getting out of my windowless office and going for a walk outside during lunch. A bit of the natural world is what helps me in times of stress. It may be something very different for you. Experiment and find whatever works for you…but find that thing that helps refocus, refresh and reset you for a better day afterwards.
- Above all, be kind to yourself. We are not perfect. We are human. We will occasionally fail. It is to be expected. Try again. Don’t give up. Endure. Accept. Love. Thrive.